Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Results of CMS Webcast Part 1 - Active Content Delivery

The webcast from Forrester Research on August 24th at 2:00 PM EST wasn't bad. During the first 45 minutes, Kyle McNabb talked about active Content Delivery. The last 15 minutes were run by RedDot. I will post more about the last 15 minutes at another time.

Kyle talked about how content delivery normally is an IT controlled process and isn't very efficient when it comes to getting what the business needs done. This includes site personalization and targeting set up by IT. Normally by the time that IT will get around to setting up some kind of personalization or targeting, the marking need is over.

The proposed solution is active content delivery controlled by the business user. The idea is that the business user knows the user base of the site the best and should control the personalization set up. Active content delivery is based on a content management system that allows the business user to push the personalization rules to the site and then get metrics information back to analyze. Allowing this quick to site personalization will give the site users what they want faster which should make the site users happier and coming back to the site.

Some good side effects to active content delivery is that it frees up the IT developers to work on site enhancements and other bigger projects.

Kyle's overall recommendations:
  • Include content delivery requirements in your WCM evaluations - Don't assume that Web Content Management systems will handle your content delivery needs
  • Look for capabilities that run within your chosen application server environment - Look for content personalization inside your application server but don't exclude other options.
  • Make personalization a business function, not an IT tool - Allow business users to control personalization and leave IT to the big projects.
  • Expand the definition of content to include code - Allow business users to move around, configure, and deploy components on the site instead of requiring IT to get involved.
I agree with what Kyle said in the webcast. He does mention that there is IT reluctance to implement his suggestions but he doesn't go into it much. As an IT person I see how setting up a site to allow full personalization by the business user without IT involvement can be tough to reach and increase the amount of support required.

The key to setting up a business user to set up personalization is knowing what information set you want to personalize off of. This sounds like a no brainer but you would be surprised when a business user can't answer the question of "What do you want?" Then when you think you have covered everything that the business person wants, there are always cases that pop up that brings IT back into the picture.

Allowing the business user control also puts IT out of the loop. This can be a problem when a business user deploys some personalization at 7 pm and the site goes down. Your trusty operations person will get the alerts saying the site is down, but won't know what scheduled pushes to the site just went out and who to find to fix the problem. This could probably be avoided by making the content management pieces fool proof and/or keeping logs or webpages that keep track of who did what and at what time. This just adds to the complexity of the active content delivery system and the reluctance of IT to implement it.

In my experience, the more you allow a business user to modify and configure, the more complex your system has to be. The more complex your system has to be, the more likely your business user will not want to use the system.