June 18, 2004, 12:00 AM

In content management software, buy, don’t build, analyst says

Although many web site operators are leaning toward open-source software to build their own content management systems, commercial software—including a move toward built-in web services—provides more flexibility for less trouble, Doculabs says.

Although many web site operators are leaning toward open-source software to build or expand their content management systems, commercial software-including a move toward built-in web services-provides more flexibility for less trouble, Doculabs senior analyst Jeff Phillips tells InternetRetailer.com.

“We’ve seen few instances in the past two years that made sense for an organization to build content management software from scratch,” Phillips says. “Because of the complexity of content management, those who build with open-source software get only 30% of what they need.”

Phillips adds that it has become more important to combine content management for web pages with enterprise content management on a central server, so that access to the same content can be shared among site managers, merchandise buyers, call center agents and others that need access to current and accurate product information as it`s being developed for display on web pages.

Moreover, he says that content management systems work best when they let business managers, without the assistance of technical staff, create content in whatever application they’re comfortable using, such as Microsoft Word, then distribute it through the content management system to update web pages as well as databases available to other managers and call center agents.

While open-source technology will support the development of content management systems used to update and store content in a central repository, it requires extensive customization to support advanced content management functions-for example, distributing new content through a workflow system for approval by multiple managers, Phillips says. Such flexibility comes built into most commercial software these days, he adds.

Some content management vendors are taking this flexibility a step further by offering built-in web services, which allow retailers to set up customized and isolated data flows, Phillips says. For example, he adds, content management software from Stellent Inc. comes with built-in web services tools that let a retailer build a link from a call center agent’s desktop computer to a particular section of the content management system for only the product data the agent needs. “This lets the agent use a piece of the content management system without having to build a complete integration between the call center and the entire content management system,” Phillips says.

Although it would be possible to build the same kind of link for call center agents with open-source technology, it would be more difficult because open-source does not come with an outline or instructions, Phillips says. “With Stellent’s web services tool, you still need technical expertise, but it comes with a manual of how to make it work,” he adds. “Open-source is more of a Wild West kind of environment.”

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