Just got back from the Lotusphere conference in Orlando (which sure beats Boston these days in the weather department – thanks, IBM!). At one of the sessions, IBM execs gave their take on the Web content management (WCM) and portal markets. Or should that be market? IBM is betting that the WCM and portal markets will converge and cease to be separate markets, with vendors offering combined WCM/portals suites that have one administrative tool set, one presentation management structure, one repository, and so on. From a road map standpoint, IBM is also making it clear that they don’t have a “portal plan” or a “WCM plan”, but rather an “experience” plan that includes both portal and WCM.

Will it really happen? Certainly, many intranets and extranets rely on content/experience delivery via portals. Also, many companies utilize public-facing Web sites for customer self service – a good fit for portal delivery. Already, SharePoint has made some noise with WCM and portal functionality within a single product. And given many firms’ clunky customized WCM/portal integrations, IBM can look attractive with its combination of Websphere portal and Lotus WCM.

So what are the obstacles to total WCM / portal convergence?

  • A good chunk of customer experience sites that still don’t necessarily need the user-customization and application consumption capabilities of a portal.
  • None of the vendors named as leaders in our WCM Wave evaluationfrom 2009 also offer portals. So currently, WCM buyers are faced with either giving up some functionality for a (semi-) integrated portal from the same vendor, or have to do the integration themselves. IBM, to its credit, recognizes that it will have to invest in its WCM product to better compete with top tier products in the market.
  • Some portal-less WCM vendors without an associated portal will claim that they can accomplish some portal-like functionality through widgets (FatWire is making a big push in the widget area).

From our inquiries, there is some demand for a WCM product suite that includes a truly integrated – but optional – portal delivery. Vendors offering both don’t necessarily have to license them together (many already have a la carte options in their WCM suites), but they could be part of the same product suite with truly integrated environments and user experiences. In addition to IBM, Oracle and Open Text could possibly compete in this area as well, as both have portals.

What do you think?