Content management tools automate Web page production

By Suzanne Gaspar, Network World |  Software

A year after launching a business-to-business e-commerce site for the component manufacturing division of Sharp Microelectronics, product marketing managers were flooding the IT staff with requests to add information to the site.

Selling components online is a programming-intensive, error-prone process, says Don LaVallee, director of strategic business operations for Sharp in Camas, Wash. "Accurate information is extremely critical with our products because engineers won't buy the product if they don't find the detailed specifications they need."

With plans to increase the number of active pages from 400 to 2,000, and no new staff in sight, LaVallee started looking for content management software. He wanted tools to manage Web pages, to provide links into Sharp's databases, and to replace paper requests for changes to a Web page with an automated workflow system.

Today, Sharp's Web specialists spend time designing complex applications, while the product managers use the Eprise Participant Server software to add content and put pages in production. When a product manager makes a change, a version of the page goes through an automated workflow that notifies management, sales and support staff, and even customers. Eprise didn't offer everything LaVallee wanted, but it was simple and easy to install, and didn't require extensive in-house programming.

Vendors have been quick to respond to IT's growing need to get a handle on Web content. Pure-play Web content management vendors such as Interwoven and Vignette have been joined by e-commerce vendors BroadVision and Open Market, plus document management vendors Documentum and FileNet.

Products range from quick and dirty tools with limited functionality to full-blown frameworks with proprietary code and long lead times. There's no one product that does everything out of the box.

"It gets down to business drivers and what is actually in the enterprise and what you need," says CAP Ventures analyst Leonor Ciarlone. A company may want to buy everything from one vendor, or they may have already bought personalization software and an application server and just need to bolt in the content management piece, she says.

Paul Maidment, deputy managing editor for Financial Times, ft.com, a global financial news Web site, is using Open Market's Content Centre and Content Server as a central hub for managing and publishing content online.

OpenMarket's software was selected for its ad management, community and publication tools. However, it doesn't have industrial-strength editing tools, Maidment says. "One thing was very striking when we were looking around at what was available: There was no product that had everything that we wanted for ft.com," Maidment says.

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