Every industry seems to spawn a veritable forest of acronyms, but the IT industry seems to be more fond of them than many other industries. In recent years, the acronyms CMS, ECMS and WCMS have been cropping up in more and more conversations. The general consensus is that every organization needs one, but there is less agreement on what exactly each term means and how they differ. Perhaps beginning with a basic definition of each will be helpful.

The lines between a CMS, ECMS and WCMS have become increasingly blurred, but the fundamentals of each are listed below.

  • CMS: This stands for content management system. These systems were the ancestors of the ECMS. A CMS is defined as software that is used for creating, editing, managing and publishing content in a consistent and organized manner. A CMS works best with structured content, such as documents or database records, but it may also be used to manage content such as video and audio files.
  • ECMS: This acronym is shorthand for enterprise content management system. An ECMS combines tools, such as software, with a strategy for incorporating an organization’s business processes with its content. An ECMS can handle both structured and unstructured content.
  • WCMS: This stands for web content management system, which is considered by most industry professionals to be a subset of an ECMS. The line between an ECMS and a WCMS is extremely thin. The primary differentiating factor is that a WCMS is more focused on web content, while an ECMS is more integrated into the day-to-day business processes.

Based on the above definitions, the key differences between a CMS and an ECMS/WCMS are as follows.

  • Capture and/or Create: A CMS provides you with a built-in editor and MS Office integration. A WCMS offers both of those features but adds integrated imaging and/or scanning.
  • Management: Both systems offer library services, metadata management and editorial or approval workflows. With a WCMS, you also get the ability to set up records retention criteria and disposal of obsolete records as well as enterprise-wide workflows that encompass your business processes.
  • Storage: A CMS may store copies of identical content, such as files in work in progress, the “live” environment and the staging environment. Storage management in a WCMS is more sophisticated to eliminate duplicate content and to allow integration with storage hardware.
  • Preserve: With a CMS, you can preserve website snapshots and content. With a WCMS, you can also preserve or archive your digital assets.
  • Delivery: A CMS delivers content to the web or to a mobile device. A WCMS offers those delivery options as well as delivery to a desktop client, a printer, another system or a different software.

In the final analysis, you gain a great deal from choosing a WCMS over a CMS if any of the following are important to your business:

  • Ability to engage customers in context with personalized content.
  • Ability to maintain editorial control.
  • Ability to automate marketing efforts to the greatest extent possible.
  • Enhanced security to protect operations or meet regulatory requirements.
  • Ability to empower users to generate and publish content quickly and easily while retaining version control.

In a nutshell, the difference between a CMS and WCMS can be summed up as:

  • A CMS is a type of software.
  • A WCMS is a complete strategy that includes software but extends far beyond.

If you would like to learn more about selecting the best WCMS for your specific needs, download our free whitepaper, “A Marketer’s Guide to Selecting a Web Content Management System.” 

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