On August 15, 2006 another Gilbane blogger, Rita Warren, queried whether a marriage between CMS and CRM made sense. “Circa 1996… 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.”

Well, circa 2006 it’s still all about one-to-one, but I think we understand what that means a lot better. One-to-one customer communications are not only possible, but they are happening in many small and large businesses. In most cases they are not coming from major CRM implementations ala Siebel – they are coming from composition tools. Many composition tool vendors now refer to themselves as personalization or customer communications management products. If you look at some of the case studies from the composition vendors included in my last entry you will find case studies for communications such as statements, enrollment books, and invoices that tailor messaging, educational content, product content, document format and delivery channel based on customer data or stated preferences.

Okay – so as a CMS professional why should you care about composition tools? Several reasons:

  • Personalization is a beast that feeds on content. Lots and lots of content. Many composition experts have never even heard of taxonomy – CMS architects needed!
  • Many composition tools have rudimentary content capabilities – but integration with “real” content management tools is necessary to feed the beast – CMS integrators needed!
  • High volume composition tools are getting to the point where they can serve printed and electronic transactional channels equally well and are starting to move upstream into driving personalized web content. CMS and composition tools are not on the same path – visionaries needed!

It’s only a matter of time before some of the composition vendors decide that they should be in the CMS business. Personally, I think that trying to tightly couple those capabilities with composition would be a bad idea. Composition tools are complicated enough as it is. CMS vendors who have been trying to deliver the holy grail of print and web content management across document types are still not there yet. I find it hard to believe that a composition solution would leapfrog over the current CMS vendors. I suppose this is one instance where it would be nice to be proved wrong.

Meanwhile, an easier path to integrating current CMS technology for managing web and print content with leading high-volume composition tools would be welcome. Document Sciences has worked with Documentum and a few others. GMC Software has partnered with Interwoven a couple of times and Exstream and Metavante have both partnered with IBM OnDemand. I have also seen a number of Exstream – Vignette combos. Few vendors have broad and established content management partnerships and the market is ripe for this kind of collaboration.