U.S. federal managers trying to heed President Barack Obama's call for more transparent and participatory Web sites face separate marketplaces for the supporting technologies -- Web Content Management ("CMS") and Social Software -- complicating efforts to align efficient Web publishing and citizen interaction, according to research released today by independent analyst and evaluation firm, CMS Watch.
In a January memorandum, Obama called for both greater transparency in making information available online as well as more citizen participation in federal Web sites. CMS Watch research suggests that different technology platforms will be required to meet those two objectives.
"Washington is abuzz about new possibilities for federal Web publishing, but actually executing on a strategy of greater transparency combined with public participation will be difficult," notes CMS Watch founder Tony Byrne. "Web CMS vendors and social software suppliers can talk a good game about offering a unified solution to this challenge, but their architectures have not caught up with their marketing here." Byrne adds, "In particular, agencies will find that their existing Web CMS infrastructures are not up to the challenge of public participation."
"Web CMS vendors have begun to incorporate community features, but in reality most CMS platforms are not built to ingest user-generated content -- they have more 'inside-out' architectures," said CMS Watch analyst Jarrod Gingras. CMS Watch found that user-participation functionality in Web CMS tools tends to get activated primarily behind the firewall. "In higher-profile public settings," Gingras points out, "enterprises
incorporating user-generated content have to pay more serious attention to security, scalability, usability and access control considerations -- where best-of-breed community suppliers have a much better track record."
Meanwhile, although community and social software vendors may effectively support user-generated content, CMS Watch found that these suppliers generally cannot provide the sorts of workflow and lifecycle services that a public agency needs for publishing official content beyond the firewall.
"There may be lessons to draw here from private-sector experience," noted Gingras, "where high-profile firms have tended to deploy separate platforms for Web publishing and customer interaction."
"Everyone wants a single environment where tightly-managed and lightly-managed/unmanaged content can co-exist effectively, but the industry isn't there yet," concludes Byrne. "Any agency seeking to improve transparency as well as participation needs to keep a critical eye on the limitations of present technologies in a public setting, and consider a multi-vendor strategy going forward."
These conclusions stem from the most recent releases of The Web CMS Report 2009, in which CMS Watch interviewed Web content management customers around the globe to evaluate 40 solutions in the marketplace, and the Enterprise Social Software Report 2009, which evaluates 24 social computing