We need an enterprise CMS. Should we implement WordPress or an expensive proprietary platform like Sitecore, Kentico, or Adobe?

WordPress or Drupal vs Sitecore, Kentico, Adobe. CMS vs. CEM. It’s a bigger issue now than ever before, and awareness of the differences is growing. There’s a chasm between ‘open source platforms and making the decision to jump up to five-to-six-figure proprietary platforms’...what’s in that chasm?This question was posed recently among an accomplished group of agency owners. Here was my answer:

WordPress is a totally-scalable, highly functional, and flexibly customizable CMS. It’s supported well, and has a huge ecosystem of solutions and starters built onto it. But sometimes clients are actually needing more than a CMS. Be sure to figure out what the organization is needing to accomplish.

Running an integrator that architects and builds entirely on ‘enterprise’ Sitecore, Kentico, and other such platforms, I’m a big fan of proprietary stack content management platforms. It’s what we do all day, everyday. Yes the proprietary platforms are expensive, but when you know what they do, the prices makes sense for an enterprise with a bunch of content and customer types.

The key realization is that the CMS, that trusty tool for managing websites, has changed completely over the last five years or so.

Many platforms are no longer a web CMS in the traditional sense.

They are “customer experience management” platforms nowadays, differentiated by the following:

1) Integrated email, marketing automation, commerce, analytics: marketers can orchestrate multi-step marketing workflows between digital destinations (the website, the mobile app), commerce and email. So, sign up for a free download, get a response via email, track that response back through repeated interactions with the website, manage commerce transactions on platform, score sessions based on actions, review engagement data by named user if they are identified, or by session if anonymous. CEM moves marketers far beyond “a database for content” and into understanding and influencing individual user experiences.

2) Targeted content based on session analytics: We can personalize content based on user origin, activity onsite, repeated visits, or other anonymous behavior. We can only do this because the platform allows us (without a lot of custom hacking) to respond to session data on a discrete level. E.g. If user comes from x geography, searches y phrase, and visits z pages, the next time they come back I show them an xyz related content set.

3) Built for multichannel and integration: The new platforms are built for structured content reuse, customized author experiences, metadata, and taxonomy. Most CMS platforms handle structured content types well, but enterprise CEM platforms make content reuse as easy and modular as it can be, making building content APIs and content syndication easier and reducing steps involved in getting single-sourced content out to various publication destinations including dozens or hundreds of enterprise-managed domains and apps. With so many marketing technology vendors, integration deeply matters. The APIs make it far more straightforward to integrate with martech, but also along other data sources such as DAM, CRM, ERP, or LMS systems. When you want to align content among many systems, CEM platforms provide all the handles and levers.

There’s a lot more the CEM platforms can do but those are the big themes.

Some clients really do need a traditional CMS. Others need to do more. They need CEM. But CMS and CEM are ultimately different things.

Regarding coding it from the ground up: nowadays it does not make sense to custom hack even a simple CMS implementation. The era where custom go-it-alone, roll-your-own CMS made sense ended in 2005. We did it back in the day too, before adopting Ektron many years ago. Now there are endless open and proprietary platforms, frameworks, and toolsets that provide massive efficiency gains.

If a client simply needs a true database for content (input / output of content, management of publishing workflow, multilingual, core content management), WordPress is plenty enterprise-ready and scales well, as does Drupal and other open platforms. WordPress has tons of enterprise infrastructure and support (WPEngine, VIP) to go as big as needed pushing content to massive audiences. But they are true CMS approaches to publishing.

Enterprise CEM offers different kind of platforms for marketers who need a unified way to organize deep, discrete data and customer interactions across channels. And we’re seeing these being used fairly far beyond marketing too, which more parts of the enterprise using corporate CEM as the interaction point for their digital presence. HR, support, operations, partner relations, intranets, are all aligning towards delivery of content experiences via the CEM platform. HOW they do that is another story for another day, but it does involve a lot of orchestration.

By the way, if you’re googling or twittering around: customer experience management gets called CEM, CX, or CXM. It’s also called “digital experience management” (DXM or DX). Same concepts communicated with different catchphrase bingo.

So my answer to “Is WordPress enterprise?” is “It depends on what the enterprise needs to accomplish”. Understand whether you’re shopping for a content management system or a customer experience management system, and go from there.

I love talking about this stuff, and am glad to discuss or show implementations behind the scenes.


Founder of [A] (simplea.com), content engineering author & speaker. Topics: content systems, customer experience, strategy, digital transformation, AI

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