The Case for Killing “WCM”

As if the gaudy Christmas lights, crass inflatable Santas and disturbing illuminated mechanical deer weren’t enough, CMS Watch have loudly proclaimed the start of the silly season with their annual prognostication on the state of CMS for the coming year.

This has generated a range of responses from the usual suspects, but the response that really caught my eye was Jon Marks’ “Visions of Jon: WCM is for losers”.

Considering myself a “WCM guy”, I took some umbrage at being called a loser (even by someone of Jon’s pedigree!), but after digesting his proposal (along with a “venti” serving of pre-season, 100-proof egg nog to help calm the nerves) the idea is beginning to grow on me. That’s the idea that WCM is a nonsense term – the jury is still out on whether I’m a loser or not!

From one of Jon’s comments:

I think the VCM and Drupal are fundamentally different, and neither are an ECM system.

This is a specific example of a general pattern I’ve observed for a while now. Jon continues:

The problem we have at the moment is that both of them are called WCM systems. … The fact that we have to put them both into the same WCM bucket kills me.

This really struck a chord with me, and had me rethinking my previous stance that WCM is a single product category with 2 major subdivisions. Perhaps the problem is deeper than that, and CPS’ and PMS’ are so different that there’s little justification for grouping them together into a single “WCM” bucket? If so we’ve arrived at the same conclusion as Jon: WCM is a meaningless term and deserves to be deprecated.

To start undoing the 15 years of mind share that the term “WCM” has enjoyed, it’s time to start thinking about new terminology that better describes these two functional categories. For several years I’ve been throwing around the terms “Content Production System” (CPS) and “Presentation Management System” (PMS), and in their COPE strategy NPR uses the terms “Content Management System” (CMS) and “Web Publishing Tool” (WPT).

What terms do you use (or think could / should be used) to describe these two product categories?

  • http://www.sydneyclimbing.com/ Peter Monks

    And before anyone asks, yes I am a direct descendant of Ebenezer Scrooge. BAH HUMBUG!

  • http://www.netsight.co.uk Matt Hamilton

    I just love the tags to your article: “…kill, mcboof, …” ;)

    On are more serious note, I really can’t see how these two can be sanely separated. OK, so maybe I’m blinded by the fact the CMS I spend all day working with (Plone) does both the CPS and the PMS as you describe above.

    Let me describe a couple of use-cases and see if you can explain to me which parts would handle which, and how the two halfs could be decoupled to any meaningful level:

    1) A visitor to a public website logs in to a ‘members only’ section and searches for some content. The search results displayed are filtered by that users access rights, groups, etc.

    2) An intranet allows employees to create articles to be published on the site. They click on the ‘add article button’ on the intranet and add content and save it. It is reviewed and published by another member of staff. Other users of the intranet see that article and want to comment on it, they click the comment button below the article and type their comment and hit submit.

    -Matt

  • http://www.sydneyclimbing.com/ Peter Monks

    Yeah “Jon Marks kill McBoof” has a rather self destructive ring to it. ;-)

    You’re right that both CPS and PMS are necessary (in some form) for the vast majority of sites, which would suggest that they should be bundled as is done in Plone (and is done to a greater or lesser extent by Autonomy, OpenText, Day and others). That said I regularly see cases where having production separated from delivery is valuable – the most common example being organisations that want to add content management to an existing website, without throwing out their investment in a specific delivery platform.

    It also allows organisations to leverage best of breed in both camps – I’m particularly excited to hear of integrations between Alfresco and Drupal (for example), since I think those implementations (when well executed) can result in a whole that’s greater than the sum of the parts. That said there are downsides, which I touched on in my earlier post.

    As for your specific questions:

    1) A visitor to a public website logs in to a ‘members only’ section and searches for some content. The search results displayed are filtered by that users access rights, groups, etc.

    ACLs can be managed as content on the production side, then interpreted as ACLs by the presentation technology (which would also include the authentication mechanism etc.). Ensuring principals line up between the production and presentation tiers can be a little complex, but there are numerous solutions to that challenge (such as managing presentation-side principals as part of the content model too).

    2) An intranet allows employees to create articles to be published on the site. They click on the ‘add article button’ on the intranet and add content and save it. It is reviewed and published by another member of staff. Other users of the intranet see that article and want to comment on it, they click the comment button below the article and type their comment and hit submit.

    To me this use case is best handled by a pure-play PMS, perhaps integrated with a generic ECM platform if the intranet is document-centric. The production process in this case is typically much simpler than the ‘enterprise-wide authoring / publish to public internet’ production process, so I don’t think a fully fledged CPS is normally justified in this case.

    We see this use case regularly at Alfresco, and the standard implementation pattern tends to evolve towards Alfresco DM managing documents behind the intranet UI, which itself is implemented using a dedicated PMS (Drupal and LifeRay being common examples).

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  • http://www.sydneyclimbing.com/ Peter Monks

    Karl Martino has posted a great followup on this same topic – well worth a read!

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