Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why WCM/Portal convergence is a good thing

Stephen Powers' blogpost on convergence between WCM and Portal sparked a nice little controversy about the alleged trade-off between integration and separation of concerns. It ain't necessarily so: If integration is done right, the trade-off does not need to be there at all.

Convergence is a two way street. From the WCM perspective we like to think of Portals as a way to offer 'self service', personalization, security and integration with other applications / widgets / iframes and the like. From the Portal perspective we need WCM to provide tools to work with our portal content that does not reside in other applications.

Both are, of course, nothing new. Neither is the fact that vendors (Hippo with Hippo CMS and Apache Jetspeed Portal is the open source example) have been offering integrated portal offerings for a number of years. Given the challenges and costs involved in true integration, it clearly makes sense to offer integrated solutions as to keep such projects manageable. And who can better ensure integration is done right than the vendor itself?

New in Stephen's post is the fact that he, or rather IBM, sees the package of WCM & Portal becoming such a common combination that distinguishing the two markets would no longer be meaningful. This does not mean that WCM and Portals will become an undistinguishable mesh (or mess?) with the risk of losing all we gained from separating content from the presentation layer in the first place.

It does mean, just like before, that buyers should be careful not to select a package that restricts their choice in where and how to manage and publish their content. It also means that buyers should be critical when making decisions about such things as collaboration platforms. Collaboration systems put in place today, may be with us for many years to come. Where does the content reside? Can it be accessed, altered, integrated in other applications? What about the source code? Remember Lotus Notes?

For maximum flexibility and future readiness in purchasing an integrated WCM & Portal, there are four basic questions to ask:
1. Can the WCM system stand on its own? Would you buy it for its WCM functionality?
2. Can the Portal stand on its own? Would you buy it for its Portal functionality?
3. Are the two really integrated? Integrated user management, security, administration, URL mapping, ease of development etc.
4. Is it Open Source (eg, are you free to use and change the software as you wish)?