Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Day: August 15, 2006

A Marriage between CMS and CRM?

I try keep up with the latest trends in IT strategy. (Some of my favorite sites are Darwin and IT Business Edge.) You know, the topics that are of interest to CIOs and other top-level business and technology minds. And I have to say that content management comes up sometimes in the trades, but when it comes to major headlines, all the rage these days is CRM—Customer Relationship Management.

It is interesting to me that CMS and CRM seem to have followed similar paths in terms of starting out as not-well-understood concepts and growing into fairly well defined systems with a prescribed set of functionality.

What I haven’t seen a lot of, though, to my surprise, is many people making a connection between CM and CRM—what to me would seem like a perfect marriage.

If you look at the many facets of CRM, you’ll find that it’s often very intricately interwoven (no product plug intended) with content. Take, for example, these aspects of CRM:

  • Sales & Marketing Automation. A key task in the sales and marketing side of CRM is educating the customer (the well-targeted customer) about your products. How do you do that? You arm your sales staff, your Web site, e-mails, you call center teams, and your advertising channels with great content.
  • Customer Care. The support piece of CRM relies heavily upon the discipline that we refer to as knowledge management. Especially in the area of post-sales support or tech support, where organizations are pushing for more self-service. This is a no-brainer. If you’re going to empower the customer to help themselves, how do you do it? With content.
  • Personalization. I’ve long touted the fact that personalized communications with customers is a fabulous idea, but don’t even think about personalization until you have a solid content management foundation. I mean, seriously, it’s one thing to say, hey we’ve been able to divide our customers into these tiny demographic groups so we can send them messages that are right on target. But, guess what? Those targeted messages are content. Where should they live if not in a CMS?.

So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that there’s a potential new wave on the technology horizon. Maybe not tsunami size, but definitely good for surfing. It’s the vendors who start to recognize the powerful link between CMS and CRM.

In my crystal ball, the lines between knowledge management, content management, and customer relationship management will start to blur. As some already have, more CRM vendors will include document management (for things like managing contracts) in their suites. The Web plays a huge role in CRM. Will we see mergers of WCM and CRM companies?

Ironically, it almost seems that we’ve come full-circle back to the birthplace of CM (circa 1996) when Broadvision and Vignette dominated the CM marketplace and it was all about one-to-one customer communications. That (broad) vision was apparently too hard to realize back then! Maybe it’s possible now.

P.S. I’d love to hear your comments if you’ve been involved with any CMS/CRM integrations! Please add a comment or e-mail me at

Big news indeed

Update: Promoted from comment to Frank’s one-liner.

Big news indeed, and in fact IBM’s fourth largest acquisition of any kind – ever – according to the AP. One of the more compelling takeaways from the analyst conference call is the effect on the market’s ability to deliver cohesive vertical and horizontal solutions in the ECM-BPM intersection. (blog archive)

FileNet and IBM reps repeatedly stressed their ability to “provide content-centric BPM in the context of business processes.” Not hard to envision. FileNet’s historical investment in its BPM modules is a large part of its competitive differentiation. On equal par from a SOA/BPEL-driven perspective, IBM’s v6 Websphere BPM products provide the STP/integration capabilities for the sibling requirements. The opportunity for a technology merge is intriguing. Fully preparing for the intersection is clearly a primary goal; as per the call, “the timing is good for a combination of forces.” I wouldn’t call it a smooth road however, despite the promises of “nothing but goodness for everyone.”

Although the two former partners and competitors stress the “preservation and enhancement” of both ECM platforms (the ECM divisions will become one), the holy grail of post-acquisition integration (culture, technology & strategy) could be quite significant in this case.

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