Data review: Web content management systems in the Finnish public sector – analysis of over 500 websites

We did a research on which web content management systems are used in Finnish public sector organizations. We went through over 532 publicly owned organizations’ websites, including all government administration, municipalities, and educational institutions.

WordPress is the most used web content management system in the public sector. 30 % of these organizations use WordPress, 14 % use Drupal and 11 % use Liferay. Overall, the public sector organizations are using 64 different content management technologies.

North Patrol is a consulting firm specialized in the design of digital services and information systems. We shape ideas into a vision and service concept, find the best architectural and technological solutions, design a functional user experience, and compete to find the ideal partner for implementation work. We do not sell implementation projects, nor do we sell licenses; we are genuinely on the side of the customer.

24 September 2020

Anna Availa

The data in this review comes from a database created by North Patrol. The database includes data mainly from two commercial technology radars. These radars were able to detect some of the systems that the organizations use, but the rest needed to be manually checked by North Patrol consultants.

Top three: WordPress, Drupal and Liferay

It is obvious which web content management systems are the top three in the public sector. Every third public sector organization uses WordPress. In total, it means that 162 organizations use WordPress as their web content management system. WordPress is particularly popular in municipalities and educational institutions.

14 % of the organizations in the public sector use Drupal. It means that, in total, 75 organizations use Drupal as their system. This web content management system is popular, especially among big municipalities and educational institutions like universities. 

11 % of the organizations in the public sector use Liferay as their publishing platform. In total, it is used by 58 organizations. Liferay is especially popular among governmental organizations, and around 20 municipalities use Liferay as well. Liferay is not that popular among educational institutions, as only a few Finnish educational institutions use Liferay as their web content management system.

Municipalities prefer WordPress

WordPress takes the lead being the number one web content management system used in municipalities. WordPress’ share of the systems used by municipalities is 31 %, Drupal comes second with a 16 % share, and Liferay is third with a 5 % share. In municipalities, the 5 most used systems rule the list with a share of 50 %. In total, there are 47 different types of web content management systems used by municipalities. Typically, the municipality websites are used for communication, and you can’t find that many integrations on the website itself. For example, digital self service tasks are usually provided by an external application or website.

The market share of WordPress among municipalities has grown in the past few years. In 2019 and in 2020 over 30 municipalities have changed their web content management system to WordPress. A few municipality websites have been published with Drupal and Liferay during last year.

In recent years, the use of common site templates with certain technology has become more and more common. In the most popular web content management systems, you can see common solutions the municipalities have made together. Examples of such cooperation are municipality websites based on common Drupal templates and municipality website products built on WordPress or Liferay.

Municipalities rely strongly on open source products for their websites. Websites made with open source are mainly divided into two: big municipalities’ sites are usually made with Drupal and small municipalities’ sites with WordPress.

Even though many municipalities have changed their web content management systems during the past year, there are still more renewers to come, especially among the smaller municipalities. The directive on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies has forced many municipalities to renew their websites.

Big educational institutions prefer Drupal

The most common web content management system used by educational institutions is WordPress with 40 % share, second is Drupal with 16 % share and third is Tietotalo Infoweb with 5 % share. WordPress and Drupal take the lead with a 57 % share of the total among educational institutions. The remaining share was divided between 26 different web content management systems.

WordPress, the most common system, is used by every other vocational school. In total it means that around 40 vocational schools use WordPress. Drupal dominates especially among the universities. Only a few educational institutions are using Liferay websites.

In the past few years, over half of the Finnish universities have changed to Drupal. Drupal has been a good web content management system when the site needs to include a lot of different user IDs, integrations, layouts and content types. Drupal is mainly used when implementing larger website entities which also have a larger budget.

When it comes to size and study possibilities, universities of applied sciences position themselves between universities and vocational schools. The maintenance of web content management systems is more centrally administered in the universities of applied sciences than in universities. This enables the use of a lighter website solution. 28 % of the universities of applied sciences use WordPress and 16 % use Drupal.

Vocational schools are very different when it comes to size and study possibilities. WordPress rules the online service technology field in smaller sized educational institutions. We reviewed 89 vocational schools and 81% of them use WordPress as their web content management system. The second most popular one was Drupal with a 10 % share.

The competition for students forces educational institutions to update their websites to support their marketing and student acquisition. Additionally, there have been mergers resulting in several institutions becoming one education provider. Many institutions are increasing the amount of online learning possibilities and selling educational video material. Requirements for e-commerce features have thus further added pressure for website renewal.

Reviewing the latest website tendering processes among educational institutions, it looks like WordPress and Drupal are strengthening their positions even more.

Liferay has a strong position among governmental organizations

When it comes to governmental organizations, the most common web content management system is Liferay (33 %), second common is WordPress (18 %) and third common is Abako Stato (12 %). Overall, governmental organizations are using 19 different web content management systems, but the three most common ones cover 60 % of the organizations.

The web content management systems are used quite differently when it comes to governmental organizations. On one hand, they are the base for complex web solutions combined with many software solutions. But on the other hand, those are small websites of relatively small organizations where communicational needs are emphasized. 

The dominance of Liferay is explained by the government's common web content management platform (YJA). Valtori (Government ICT Center) provides unified web content management systems and solutions to governmental organizations. For publishing the websites, there is YJA, which uses Liferay. Abako Stato is, surprisingly, the third most popular web content management system used by publishing websites of governmental organizations. It accounts for 12 %, which means in total 7 websites have been published with Abako Stato. As one organization owns 5 of these websites, it means an increase for Abako Stato´s position in the overall comparison.

The coming years will show the future of YJA and how open source systems will take their place in the market, especially among organizations with easier and lighter content management needs.

The special preferences of the public sector will remain in the future

The most commonly used web content management systems are used on every public sector website, but after that the technologies vary depending on the industry. For example, Tietotalo has gotten their InfoWeb solution into the municipalities and Abako has gotten their Stato solution into governmental organizations. From different sectors you can also find various systems not used elsewhere - for example, Cubescom is used among municipalities. In total there are around 300 municipalities, many of them quite small ones, so the diversity will remain among that sector for sure.

YJA has pushed governmental organizations towards Liferay, whereas budget pressure has pushed municipalities towards WordPress. Additionally, the municipalities’ websites often have an emphasis on communication, whereas the governmental organizations’ online services often emphasize both communication and administrative errands.

When it comes to educational institutions, universities and vocational schools function in different ways, which means they use different solutions and technologies to fulfil their needs and reach their goals. Universities collaborate a lot with each other, so it is logical that the solutions are getting more and more convergent. Educational institutions are facing a lot of changes as education is moving more and more online and the websites’ role in marketing continues to grow.

Governmental organizations have often made their technology decisions after extensive tendering processes. The goal has been to find one web content management system for numerous very different websites. Governmental organizations often make big organization wide decisions and competitive tendering, which often reflects on the system choices. The technology that will be used is selected by whoever wins the competitive tendering or based on the technology provided by Valtori. If the YJA use expands, and competitive tendering stays the same, we will continue to see differences in results between governmental organizations and other public sectors.

Big trends are clear: open source and tighter collaboration

All these three sectors share the same trend of an increasing amount of open source software. This trend has been growing for the past 10 years. There are no other competing trends on the horizon at the moment. Instead, more and more websites are published with open source platforms.

Every sector collaborates tighter with each other, which increases the amount of converging technology solutions in the sector: municipalities end up with WordPress and universities with Drupal. Both of these sectors collaborate actively, but they don’t choose to make a joint platform. This is different from the governmental administration, where Liferay has been chosen as the common solution.

Even though experiences are shared and collaboration is more and more active, the ways of collaborating are not totally clear. For example, the experiences in sharing the source code are not completely positive. In many areas, technology solutions have been unified, and experience sharing has been narrowed down.

Anna Availa

Anna Availa is a digital communications advisor and her expertise is in an internal and external digital services.

Anna consults with customers on project preparation and definition of requirements and supports the customers in digital concept design.

Anna has worked on the digital communication in several organizations in the public and private sectors. As a communication manager for companies and a Finnish city organization, she has strongly developed digital communication and created organizations whole e-communication system which includes for example online magazines, online annual reports, intranets, extranets, websites and external social media.

For over twenty years Anna has worked with numerous communication systems, technologies and IT vendors. Working in executive teams in several organizations has given an insight into how digital communication supports business.

Earlier in her career Anna has responded for whole communication systems and has worked in many different roles in developing and maintaining as a project leader, content producer and editor.


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