Is WordPress really the answer for all businesses?

The content management tool may not be a good fit for general purpose WCM services.

“Why can’t it be as easy to use as WordPress?” or, more pointedly, “Why can’t we just use WordPress?”

These are the questions asked by many digital marketers frustrated with their enterprise-sanctioned Web Content and Experience Management (WCM) system. They may have previously used WordPress for a personal site or blog, or had an external agency build a microsite for them on WordPress. In either case, publishing’s a snap in this simpler environment than their enterprisey WCM system.

WordPress is not for everyone. It’s becoming richer with each passing year, but still lies more on the product end of the product vs. platform spectrum, and — like all technologies — WordPress has at least as many weaknesses as strengths. So for many organizations, especially larger enterprises, WordPress may not offer a good fit for general purpose WCM services, even if it’s an exceptionally productive blogging and micro-site offering.

What they really mean

But you can’t criticize your colleagues for wanting to go the WordPress route. I believe that in many cases, it’s really a way of telling you something else. Probably something very important:

  • “Our repository is too big to navigate easily.”
  • “We have pointless workflow or approval processes.”
  • “Our rich text editor is buggy.”
  • “I can’t create microsites without IT intervention.”
  • “I can’t easily add or move widgets.”
  • “The site’s structure is too locked down.”
  • “Our page structures are too locked down.”
  • “Our content model is overly complex.”
  • “Our external marketing agencies can’t deploy sites on our platform.”

Maybe WordPress isn’t the answer

These symptoms often reflect less a deficiency in your enterprise WCM platform itself and more a failure to implement the solution in a way that empowers marketers. If so, then the lesson for you is not necessarily to license WordPress but to embrace simplicity and configuration-over-customization in your systems and processes.

Yet, this also means that digital marketers and developers need to embrace abstraction, for example, rather than creating fifty different widget types in your enterprisey Web CMS (because you can). I’ve seen costly WCM platforms deployed with separate content types for a particular page component where the image appears on the left versus the right. This is crazy!

Better to have five or 10 different widgets available, with the ability to easily set configurations for each instance to move the image around.  

The other reason some marketers like WordPress is that their external agencies like WordPress. Typically, an agency doesn’t want to deploy on a platform they don’t know very well.  So they ask their enterprise client: “Do you want to deploy quickly?” You know what the answer to that is!  

So expedience wins out and some new campaign site gets deployed outside your enterprise infrastructure. In many cases, you’ve abandoned personalization, analytics, e-commerce integration and other important features: short-term gain, long-term pain. 

And maybe it is

At RSG, we’ve helped some of our subscribers adopt a two-speed approach. They sanction both an enterprise-heavy WCM for certain core digital capabilities and adopt a hardened WordPress instance (ideally in the cloud) for things like perishable microsites or agency-driven campaign sites.

These symptoms often reflect less a deficiency in the WCM tool itself and more a failure to implement the solution in a way that empowers marketers. 

The key here is to create clear rules around when to use what. That one-time campaign site can morph into a complex, re-usable environment. You will want to carefully meter just how much bespoke development you want to invest in any WordPress estate (hint: as little as possible).

Having two sanctioned WCM platforms is not always ideal, and we only recommend it with caution. In some cases, though, the alternative is worse.

A final word

WordPress might have a place in the enterprise. But some of you will need something more powerful for your main enterprise WCM platform, particularly when it comes to advanced capabilities like back-end integration, content sharing, component content management, personalization, globalization and injecting content into transactional environments (aka “headless” mode).

Just remember that with power comes complexity. The savvy enterprise will prioritize implementing a platform in such a way that it empowers marketers and editors.

If you’d value the input of a neutral, third-party advisor on your digital technology decisions, drop me a line.

Real Story on MarTech is presented through a partnership between MarTech and Real Story Group, a vendor-agnostic research and advisory organization that helps enterprises make better marketing technology stack and platform selection decisions.

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About The Author

Tony Byrne is founder of Real Story Group, a technology analyst firm. RSG evaluates martech and CX technologies to assist enterprise tech stack owners. To maintain its strict independence, RSG only works with enterprise technology buyers and never advises vendors.