It’s been a busy few weeks since we published “The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management for Digital Customer Experience, Q2 2013,” in which we assess the technical capabilities and strategic direction of 10 WCM solutions.

A question I hear frequently from Forrester clients:  “Which WCM is the best for our organization?” My nearly universal response: “Tell me your priorities.”

Rarely is there one “best WCM” that meets all of a firm’s objectives for web content management and digital experience, so let’s dispel that myth right now. Instead, it’s a trade-off where your specific requirements should influence your investigation, direct you to a shortlist, and help you make an informed choice.

The WCM Wave Report (and the accompanying Excel with detailed product capabilities) is a powerful tool to help enterprise buyers compare solutions. It’s helpful only if you have some idea of the problems you’re trying to solve and the strategic opportunities you need to focus on.

Priorities matter. Or, more accurately, your priorities matter. Your priorities are different than those of the company across the street. It’s a big and confusing market, too. Although we cover 10 WCM solutions in the Wave, there are many additional viable solutions.

WCM selections can hinge on any number of facets. (You’d be surprised at how often WCM buyers, after doing deep product comparisons, vendor demos, proofs-of-concept and other research, tell me they picked their WCM “because it had the easiest interface for our marketing team to use.”)

Fact: WCM providers have mastered the art of selling you a menu of capabilities — even if you’re not sure what or when you’ll do something with them. It’s a fool’s errand to go into this morass looking only at technical capabilities of competing WCM solutions.

Instead, I insist that clients think critically about several key things when seeking a new WCM system. Some thought-starter questions I ask:

1.       Can you describe your company’s strategic digital plan and define success for web content management and digital customer experience at your company? If not, go back and get some answers before you go big-game hunting for WCM. Try assembling a cross-silo team to help get the answers.

2.       Can you define what your customers and prospects (i.e. B2C, B2B, business partners) want and need via digital channels to have optimal digital experiences and engage with your business or brand? If not, start by asking them. A simple website survey is one of many ways to get smarter about this stuff.

3.       What pains and perils must internal staff (i.e. marketers, business/brand, IT pros, web developers, technical architects) and agency partners suffer through today to keep your websites, mobile sites, mobile applications and other multichannel customer experiences running? At what cost to the enterprise? At what cost to marketing? At what cost to your customers’ digital experiences? Understand this, and you’ll understand at least some of what a new WCM must deliver by way of capabilities, ease of use, and specific functionality.

To be blunt, WCM initiatives frequently fail not because of technology but because buyers don’t start by answering some fundamental questions around challenges, opportunities and needs. WCM software and the application ecosystem that surrounds digital experience delivery is complex. Simply throwing software at the problem isn’t the answer.

So let me ask a different question than the one we started with: What has worked for your organization in selecting a new WCM solution?

What steps did you take to do it right?

Or what didn’t you do that caused you trouble? We’d all love to hear your comments below.