Digital Experience Platforms for the C-Suite: Evaluating web CMS in 2020

30 Jul 2020
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2020 has seen the digitization of marketing and sales engagements rapidly accelerated, as global disruption has made online the only reliable channel for business and consumers. Developing a robust digital ecosystem for brands is critical, and analysts from Gartner to Forrester agree that the basis for these digital experiences is your content. Web content management systems (CMS) sit at the heart of the digital experience platforms organizations need to manage content, develop experiences and deploy them to the channels where your customers want to engage.

CMS solutions have been available since the beginning of the web, but not all have kept pace with modern technology and processes. As vendors have shifted to providing comprehensive DXP solutions, many of the approaches that made sense in 1995 are antiquated today.

As your enterprise begins evaluating options for the next steps in its digital evolution, your functional leadership will all have differing needs and requirements that a CMS can address. In many cases, it can be hard to understand how these choices impact the different owners in an organization.

Here are some of the things that C-suite members should be thinking about as you select your next DXP and CMS:


Agility. Perhaps the most critical role of the CMO is getting marketing to market. Aligning the brand, content, demand, field and operations together to deliver the right messages to the right audiences throughout their customer journeys. There’s no substitute for selecting a marketing technology that allows the marketing team to rapidly execute and pivot. When selecting a DXP and CMS, CMOs should look carefully at how the marketing team will be able to create sites, campaigns, pages and content updates across channels. Can they act independently? Do they need IT to launch that new experience? Or can they move as fast as they need to without technology getting in their way?

Spend budget on marketing. Marketing never seems to have enough budget, and it can be extremely painful to lose budget to technology. CMOs need to manage their budget carefully, investing funds directly in those activities that yield results. Technology is no different. Throughout the martech stack, they need to look for solutions that are true SaaS – that is, with no need for servers, maintenance, upgrades, managed services or other fees that drain budget, time and resources away from project execution.

Integrations. CMOs have been making big investments in their technology stacks to improve performance, collect analytics, and drive great experiences. It’s critical that your next CMS integrate seamlessly with that stack. Extracting maximum value from that investment will require the CMS to support RESTful APIs, be built for modern integrations, and play well with the newest development environments.

Move to the front end. Due to their last-century, on-premises architectures, most enterprise DXP and CMS vendors are locked in to a back-end world where even simple updates to a page or site can require the involvement of C#, Java, PHP or other kinds of developers. Make sure that new presentation, designs and ideas can be implemented by your marketing team, their designers and agencies, all in the front-end.


Get out of the infrastructure game. While the steady march across almost all technology segments has been in the direction of true SaaS applications, traditional CMS and DXP vendors have stayed stubbornly anchored in the past. While many are offering Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions wrapped in managed services, the infrastructure, maintenance and upgrade headaches remain - frequently with large server deployments required to make the system work correctly, leading to large and expanding vectors for network communication breakdowns and security vulnerabilities. The CIO needs to find solutions that remove this dead weight from their remit so they can focus on building applications that truly add value to the business.

Modern APIs and SDKs. The web and digital technology continue to evolve at a rapid rate. Modern APIs, SDKs and development languages take in to account the current environment. They are built for web integrations, for speed, for agility – and are the platforms that developers want to be building on. Look for solutions that allow development teams to harness the modern tech stack the way it’s designed, with freedom to compose a platform made from the right technologies to deliver on strategic goals.

Headless and futureproof. In the past, DXPs and CMSs were focused on delivering HTML pages on the web. Today’s brands need to deliver web, mobile, social, voice, POS and many more experiences, all hosted from a single content repository. CIOs should look for full headless support to engage customers flexibly across these channels, and the channels that haven’t even been thought of yet. But don’t forget the needs of the marketers that will be building the applications. Robust no-code/low-code support, WYSIWYG previews and in-line editing, and multi-language/multi-site capabilities are all tools that should be delivered out-of-the-box.

Security. Because it governs the flow of information and data and is the repository for the corporation’s content, the DXP/CMS needs to be highly secure. CIOs will look for solutions that carry their own security certifications, such as SOC2 and FISMA. Many vendors tout the certifications of the underlying cloud platform their PaaS software is installed on, but that’s not enough. Looks for full certification by the vendor themselves for their own software.


Carrying costs. In DXP and CMS, the license fee is just the beginning. There are costs for servers, infrastructure, administration, maintenance, upgrades, implementation and more. When evaluating the costs and ultimate ROI, the CFO needs to look at not just the initial fees, but what the overall package of costs will look like for the next several years (you can use our CMS Carrying Costs Calculator to model and estimate these costs). Although most vendors have moved to subscription-based pricing, they have not eliminated the other costs. These will frequently be additional managed services costs that try to hide the inherent complexity and cost risk. CFOs will prefer true SaaS applications where there are no additional fees beyond the cost of the annual fee.

Simple, single vendor pricing. Similarly, CFOs will want to avoid solutions with many vendors involved. For example, it’s not uncommon to discover that, at the end of the day, you’ll need contracts with the CMS vendor, a cloud hosting provider, a managed services provider, and a solutions integrator – all just to keep the lights on, even after implementation is complete. True SaaS vendors can provision all the above, simplifying purchasing.

Tags: Web Content Management Digital Experience Management CMS

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