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Commentary: Clear thinking on content management

IBM's purchase of Green Pasture is another sign of a consolidating market. Here's how buyers should evaluate rapidly evolving strategies and capabilities.

Commentary: Clear thinking on content management
By Forrester Research
Special to CNET
December 17, 2003, 9:30AM PT

By Nicholas Wilkoff, Senior Analyst

Companies continue to focus on content management as a high priority for IT spending.

Thirty-two percent of North American companies planned purchases of content management technologies in 2003. At the same time, the market has seen a mass of acquisitions and consolidation by the vendors, as evident from IBM's purchase of Green Pasture Software.

In response to this demand, Forrester evaluated enterprise content management (ECM) vendors--using the hands-on, scenario-based TechRankings methodology. While the market has seen significant change over the past few years, core content management requirements still apply, including:

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• ECM platform capabilities. Content management buyers highlight a range of content management requirements, including document management, Web content management (WCM) and collaboration. A top requirement for these platforms is repository integration. Why? Forty-three percent of the companies we surveyed claim to store content in more than five repositories.

• Web content management. Firms will find that market maturity is making it more difficult to differentiate the products on core WCM features like authoring, work flow and publishing. Instead, buyers should focus on the different ways that vendors approach features like template design, deployment architectures and multisite management. These remain important areas of differentiation.

• Vendor viability. Software giants like IBM and Microsoft and content specialists like Documentum have sparked consolidation in the content management market, but smaller vendors, with more limited resources, still exist. This means that buyers still need to weigh their risk tolerance for investing in vendors like Percussion Software and Stellent, which have survived the consolidation. Companies should consider install base, partnerships and revenue growth as indicators of vendor strength.

The features that matter
The strategies and capabilities of ECM vendors continue to rapidly evolve. When making a first-time purchase or revisiting their content management investments, buyers should focus on:

• Platform consistency. Vendors like Documentum, Interwoven and Vignette have followed aggressive acquisition strategies. While this approach helps broaden and strengthen their product offerings, it can also lead to inconsistencies in product architectures. Before being sold on a broad suite of functionality, content management buyers should look for consistent and unified repositories, work flow engines, interfaces, and operating system and application server support across these product suites.

• Collaboration. Twenty-seven percent of the content management buyers that we surveyed highlighted collaboration as a top priority. How do they define collaboration? Document sharing and work flow top their list of requirements. To support these requirements, content management buyers should focus on features like ad hoc work flow, project/team rooms and storage of collaborative content types like discussion threads.

• Portal integration. Companies deploying enterprise portals are dependent on content management to deliver users content that is relevant, accurate and easy to find. These companies should select content management products that can publish content to portals and expose core functionality like content check-in and check-out, task lists and search. Check for involvement in emerging portal standards like JSR 168 as proof of a vendor's long-term portal strategy.

© 2003, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.