Technologie • 17.03.2023
26 januari 2021
For many, it's a huge dilemma. Companies that recognize the need to take their digital landscape in hand, are regularly held back by an outdated CMS. What to do? Upgrade anyway, or would you rather switch? It's a good time to reflect on the role that the CMS should play.
Those responding to changing customer needs, will need to choose the best technology for each 'touchpoint'. These channels can be given dynamic content via systems such as CMS, CRM or the APIs of other specialist software. In addition to the right customer experience, this creates a cohesive whole.
For many, the practice is now a lot more recalcitrant. Large content management suites were created in a time when web shops were still called innovations and the term 'omnichannel commerce' did not even exist. These enterprise CMSs, such as Sitecore, Adobe Experience Manager and Liferay, have grown into 'one stop shops', now better known as Digital Experience Platforms. With their total package for front-end technology, personalization, A/B testing, analytics, not to mention content management, it aims to be an all-in-one solution for any 'digital capability'.
Besides the fact that as a company, it doesn't give you full freedom to (technically) design channels yourself, upgrading after a 'major release' is expensive. Not infrequently, the software has become like a plate of spaghetti intertwined with the code of internal systems over the years, which makes the step complex. It raises the question whether the CMS is still future-proof.
In that respect, every major release is a good time to pause and re-consider whether the somewhat forced upgrade is the only way to move forward. And what the possible choice of re-platforming to a new CMS entails.
First of all, as long as the new version contains improvements that are in line with the key business needs, and an upgrade is cheap and fast, there is less reasons to refocus. However, the situation is different if support for the edition in use ends or upgrading proves technically complicated while the update brings little or no improvements to the user experience. In such situations, continuing on the same path is wasted energy. Because the upgrade does not directly help the company in its digital development, it feels more like a dead-end street: the costs, never the benefits.
Fortunately, there is such a thing as an escape route towards an alternative, towards what is called a best-of-breed architecture. The most important move is to take a step back and clearly formulate your own digital needs. And from this point, reasoning back to the 'requirements'. Chances are that the customer experience demands immediate attention and product owners, marketers and developers want to optimize the channels.
Such a best-of-breed architecture, unlike the aforementioned enterprise suites, does not consist of a ready-made set of solutions, but gives the company space to stack its own building blocks. Derived from key requirements, specialist solutions are selected in all disciplines and connected via APIs.
In the Touchtribes' eyes, a good CMS has one task and it should be fully dedicated to that: to enable editors to manage and publish content in a user-friendly way. And no more than that. If, for example, the need arises to take the next step and properly integrate content and commerce with each other, a software solution is linked that adds these functionalities. In this way the organization always reaps the benefits of someone else's speciality and remains flexible enough to expand or to exchange one of the solutions at a later stage. The architecture fits in better with application lifecycle management: the agility increases and so does the room to respond to changes.
Fortunately, the market has a growing number of players who are taking this route, of which Contentful, Contentstack, Storyblok and Kentico Kontent are the best known. Each of these CMSs opts for a headless setup where the content and how it will look are decoupled from each other. Developers are therefore no longer bound by the technical frameworks of a suite and finally have the space to choose what they consider to be the best programming language for each digital channel. Whether it's a webshop, Progressive Web App, native mobile app, chatbot or voice-app, every conceivable 'touchpoint' can be filled in from this centrale place.
An important feature of these specialist CMSs is that the vendors have developed them cloud native (SaaS) and API-first. This means that the software solutions are automatically updated with new features without the need for upgrades. And that they are naturally set up to exchange information with others. This makes them suitable for a larger technology stack. If there is a need for commercial tools e.g. BigCommerce, this is the way to go. If the customer experience calls for personalization, companies like Relay42 offer advanced functionalities.
All these solutions are cloud native, API-first and headless. By connecting them together, a stack is created step by step - and in fact a self-built DXP - that perfectly matches and grows with the digital maturity of the organization.
One of the similarities between companies that have succeeded in transforming their enterprise suite into a best-of-breed architecture, is that they have recognized the need to start small. For example, they chose to first replace the content management functionality of the website. At the same time, they worked on a redesign with the most important features, in order to link a next channel at a later stage. This keeps the re-platforming process manageable and reduces the fear of an all-encompassing migration.
What does this approach immediately lead to? Now that developers are no longer tied to the techniques that software suppliers choose, they create richer experiences. And while the website was previously a silo, now the channels are easier to populate from a single central point, bringing the omnichannel experience another step closer. The forward-thinking brands, for example, know how to fully merge content and commerce. Supported by a flexible architecture of headless SaaS tools that helps developing at a higher speed.
There's no denying that the choice to start small is also necessary to allow everyone to gradually involve, and get used to the new reality. Where traditional CMSs are very visual and give editors possibilities to adjust their content themselves, with drag & drop, a CMS like Contentful may feel a bit spartan.
It has everything to do with the new role that every CMS should take. That role is getting smaller, the role of the architecture as a whole is getting bigger. Of all the companies that are at the crossroads of upgrading or not, a growing number sees that they have to opt for this vision. One in which a 'silver bullet' and all-in-one solution does not exist. And the way in which content-driven work is done on customer convenience and value is leading. The form and the tools needed for this subsequently change, will change within time. This starting point requires tooling that facilitates this agility. Only our creativity is then a possible brake.