Next in my occasional series where I refer to a different to letter to the one in a TLA (after discussing the R in ECM) – I wondering if it’s time we took the W out of CMS and thought about management and delivery as separate disciplines. I am not the first to think like this, obviously, but it’s something I wanted to explore in this blog.

To know me professionally, is to know that when it comes to the tribes of CMS folks, I am firmly in the WCM teepee.

I disagreed the first time this discussion rolled around, as the millennium clicked over – we were all going to use portal platforms and content management functionality would be in our application server infrastructure (we don’t and it didn’t).

The difference between the systems we are building for tomorrow and then – is that it was a web site centric world and in most applications the term CMS was interchangeable with WCM. Our digital engagement activities were single threaded in a website groove and the end was very much the driver for the means.

Also, mainstream requirement trends like dynamic delivery with the content editorial usability requirement for in-context editing mean’t a preference for management and delivery to be tightly coupled.

I am summarizing wildly – but the supposedly ‘niche’ WCM vendors then went on to rule the school.

Is it now time to unpick that? I think so, but why?

I think there are two pressures and they are content and delivery.

Starting with delivery, even if we are only concerned with web engagement, we are in the age of the ‘splinternet’ (in this context, a term coined by Josh Bierhoff)

Now with iPhones, Androids, Kindles, Tablets, and TVs connecting to the Web [..] our site may not work right on these devices, especially if it includes flash or assumes mouse-based navigation. Apps that work on the iPhone don’t work on the Android. Widgets for FiOS TV don’t work anywhere else.

But it’s not just devices, our websites are less the single and only web destination, folks consume information about our products and services from various places – Facebook and Twitter to name two.

Plus, of course the needs of customer, consumer and citizen engagement means that we can chuck in multiple touch points, in e-mail, call centres and real life.

So, we have a fragmented communication channel and across these we need to be consistent and if and when these folks do get to our websites, they are expecting a compelling, relevant web experience. Your brochure is not welcome here.

You quickly start to build a set of complex delivery requirements, that appear (I stress appear) to dwarf those of your content production.

Could we call this the engagement tier? Where we pull this stuff together, of understanding the context of the user, the device – finding the right content and delivering it. (No, no, not a portal, this could be an e-mail, a tweet or an iPad application)

So, that’s delivery – I talked about two pressures – what about content?

Content no longer forms an orderly queue out of our marketing and communication organisations to be fed to our cradled audience through a teat.

Content production is being equally fractured, with content to be marshalled from more internal sources as we find the voices that can respond across these channels and an ever increasing volume of external content being produced about our products and services.

To deliver these relevant, engagement experiences, we need to make it easy for our contributors, we need to know our content, where is it, what is it about and whether it’s fit for purpose? Sounds like getting back to some down home, good, honest content management?

If we are going to start talking about this tier, this could also make our ECM and CMIS discussions more interesting, if we start to figure out how we surface our enterprise (small e) content into that engagement tier.

I’m not sure we’ll buy these from different vendors, I’m confident we already have. I am also fairly sure an engagement tier is about as heterogeneous as they come, with specialist vendors both large and small playing a role.

I think we are going to have to start to watch this space, what do you think?