27th August 2019

How to choose the right CMS for your organisation

Simon Wakeman
Managing Director
The Shard atSunrise

The content management system is a vital piece of infrastructure in the modern organisation, enabling multiple business functions to attract, engage and serve their key audiences with timely content across a range of channels. But choosing the next CMS for your organisation  is becoming an ever more difficult task, as the market evolves and fragments into a number of very different approaches.

Join the team from Deeson at The Shard on Wednesday 25th September for a breakfast briefing on how to navigate the current trends in content management and make the right CMS decision for your organisation.

Date: Wednesday 25 September 2019

Time: 8.30am breakfast; briefing runs 9-10.30am

Venue: The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, SE1 9SG

Spaces are limited so please RSVP to [email protected] to secure your spot.

The changing face of the content management system

Once upon a time, selecting a CMS for your business was a fairly straightforward task. Content management systems were an integrated piece of software which managed both the creation and organisation of content, as well as the presentation of that content via a website. And the only people in your organisation using them were probably webmasters or similarly tech-savvy people. So the buying process consisted mainly of taking the few options available and ticking off the desired features to see which came out as the best option for your needs.

These days, things are a lot more complicated in CMS world. There are probably people in your organisation from every business function who need to publish content via digital channels, your in-house development team probably has a mix of fragmented, specialised skills, and the number of options available to you when it comes to CMSs (or CaaS platforms, or content hubs, or ECMs etc etc) can be bewildering.

Open source or licensed software?

It used to be a fairly simple question - should we go for an open-source solution, based on technologies and skills widely available in the market, or a proprietary option which comes with more out-of-the-box functionality and vendor support? But the waters are getting muddier. The oft-repeated upside of open source CMSs was that they were free. But as their complexity has increased, the zero up-front cost can quickly be eclipsed by the ongoing costs of maintaining in-house capability, expertise and support. Meanwhile, the most commonly-cited benefit of closed source systems, that they were much more friendly to non-technical people, has become less distinct as open source products like Drupal have put more emphasis on improving usability.

All-in-one or decoupled CMS?

Content management systems have traditionally been comprised of three software layers: a database, in which the content and relationships were stored; a graphical user interface, for composing and organising content, and tweaking settings; and a presentation layer, typically the website. But the proliferation of digital channels via which the modern organisation finds itself needing to publish content means that a CMS which is entirely geared towards publishing to the web makes less and less sense.

Hence the emergence of a new breed of ‘headless’ CMSs, which remove the presentation layer from the package altogether, so that you can use whatever front-end system you like on whatever channel you like - website, app, digital signage etc - to determine how content is displayed (the content is retrieved from the CMS via built-in APIs). Decoupled CMSs sit between the two extremes, with a headless approach to serving content but with a built-in web presentation layer for your websites.

Hosted software or Content-as-a-Service?

Heading even further down the path of decoupling brings us to the current apogee of the content management market. The team behind Contentful eschews the label ‘CMS’ altogether, preferring to describe their product as ‘content infrastructure’, while Prismic say that they’ve produced a ‘calm, non-intrusive CMS’. Both products consist of a headless CMS, as described above (i.e. no presentation layer), but with the additional feature of being hosted and maintained by the proprietors. So as well as having the freedom to use whatever technologies you like to present content, you’re also free from having to setup and maintain the software and free from having to host your content on your own server.

This Content-as-a-Service approach can help organisations well-versed in agile software development significantly reduce the time it takes to get from release to release, as the technical debt associated with your previous CMS instantly disappears. But adopting the CaaS method requires a radical reimagining of content governance within large organisations, and whether these platforms come with an increased risk of vendor lock in (i.e. dependency on a particular product that increases over time) is yet to be seen.

Book your place at our CMS breakfast briefing

In our event at The Shard on Wednesday 25th September, we'll be talking about making the choice between open source and licensed software, looking at new SaaS solutions such as Prismic and Contentful, and sharing a tried-and-tested method for determining your CMS needs and evaluating the options.

This will be an interactive session with plenty of opportunities to ask questions and share your CMS experiences. To book your place, drop an email to [email protected] as soon as possible (spaces are limited).