Content management systems - the heart of every website.

When should businesses update the CMS? (Image – Shutterstock)

When should businesses update their content management system?

  • Businesses want to update their content management system to remain competitive 
  • But updating the CMS needs to be on par with business outcomes. 
  • Overinvesting in CMS could end up costing businesses a lot more. 

The content management system (CMS) is the heart of almost every website today. Be it for business, news, education, or even government, the CMS lets content creators manage their websites without much-needed help from developers.

There are more than 10 million websites on the web today, each with their own unique purpose. Some websites get updated continuously with new features and products, while others update based on their needs and requirements. Either way, there is now increasing pressure on brands to create harmonious and integrated experiences across digital touchpoints.

However, this process is especially challenging for organizations using legacy CMS systems. Over the years, the technology in CMS has evolved to offer greater features and flexibility to users. WordPress remains the market leader when it comes to CMS. No other company has come close to WordPress’ popularity in the market. The main reason for that is that WordPress continues to innovate and improve its CMS experience.

For consumers, higher expectations and personalized experiences when using websites have created a need for businesses to modernize their legacy CMS applications. However, where do businesses actually start with this process? How do they know which areas they need to modernize? And how well do they really understand what their customers want?

To get a better understanding of this, Tech Wire Asia caught up with Jay Sanderson, senior manager for digital experience at Progress. Sanderson shared his insights on how organizations can level up their legacy content management system solutions to keep up with consumers’ digital experience expectations.

Most businesses today face a myriad of issues in delivering exceptional digital experiences. This includes security vulnerabilities, limited functionality, scalability, fragmented and poor user experience, as well as a lack of omnichannel experience and lack of support and upgrades.

Jay Sanderson, Senior Manager for Digital Experience at Progress

Jay Sanderson, Senior Manager for Digital Experience at Progress

Making the right decision on your content management system

According to Sanderson, each organization has its own particular circumstances when it comes to its content management system.

Some organizations have a low cadence of content change and do not need to change content too frequently. For example, a commerce website would only require the content from its commerce system to be regularly updated, rather than the main content.

However, other types of organizations, like governments, rely heavily on content applications. They need a CMS that lets them deal with high volumes of content, as well as the capacity to support a high number of content authors.

“The challenges come down to the buying decision. A lot of these businesses get flooded with messages from the market that are technology-specific or unique. You need to be using Mac technology or using headless. Or maybe you need to be using React or Angular. Whatever the technology is, the decisionmakers are not technologists, but are getting sold solutions,” said Sanderson.

Sanderson believes that a lot of these solutions are focused more on the technicalities, rather than the business outcome. A worrying outcome from this is that businesses could end up investing heavily in a behemoth of a system and find themselves being heavily dependent on developers for regular, costly updates.

“All sorts of different problems can arise from making the wrong kind of decisions when it comes to those technology investments. And most times, that’s caused by following the trends too closely, rather than looking at the change that it’s going to bring about and also looking at the requirements that need to be fulfilled. A lot of people tell me their CMS is going to be reactive and endless. They’re throwing all these technical terms at me, yet at the same time, they can’t actually articulate the link between the technical solution and the business outcome,” added Sanderson.

Sanderson also pointed out that a lot of times, businesses are getting content management system solutions that may actually slow them down. What they don’t realize is that the time it takes for them to get their product to market is now longer. Instead of announcing a new product immediately, it could now take them a week with the new system.

“If you’ve got to wait for the developer to be involved to spin up the right landing page design, or whatever it may be, you’ve really got to ask yourself: how much is that hurting your business? If you could get that announcement out tomorrow, as opposed to a week later? What’s the impact of that? I think we all kind of see that,” said Sanderson.

Content management systems like WordPress are incredibly common.

WordPress is the most popular CMS platform. (Image- Shutterstock)

Making the change

So how does a business know if its content management system is outdated and needs an upgrade?

According to Sanderson, the most obvious reason to make a switch is when a company realizes they are going to be out of support for their CMS. Depending on the platform they are using, they can go onto a supported version, but this can be quite an expensive investment.

“Even if you’re just staying within your current licensing costs, there is professional services work that’s required to update the version. And depending on what CMS platform you’re on, it can become quite costly.  For example, if you’re sitting on one CMS and you’ve just been quoted US$200,000 to get to the latest version, that’s going to most likely push you in the market. Maybe you should even consider re-platforming at that point in time,” he explained.

When asked if there should be concerns about the risks of using legacy CMS, Sanderson explained that as long as the CMS is supported and effective, it poses minimal risks. Instead, Sanderson felt the risks actually come from jumping into a completely new architectural concept and brand-new environments.

“If you’re introducing something that’s foreign, then that creates the risk. And a lot of the time I see it creates problems that people didn’t even know existed and think, ‘Oh, I’ve got to do that.’ A lot of the time people move to something that they think is going to be better, but actually get a downgraded experience.

“For example, I hear people talk about headless technology. They’ve got a brand new website, it’s running off headless. And it’s really fast. And everyone loves the fact that the page loads in under three seconds. Fantastic. But then on the flipside of that, you get your content editor that’s going, I can’t create pages as easily as I used to now. Now it’s taken me two or three days.”

Put simply, it comes down to exactly what a business wants to get out of its CMS. Is it just about making pages load faster? Or is it about having the most updated content available every moment?

And this is where Sanderson believes Progress comes in. Progress is able to facilitate the significant demands of working with large amounts of content and content editors, multi-language and multi-currency. Sanderson highlighted several large institutions with which Progress is already working with to enable this.

For example, a news organization may have a huge spike in traffic and huge amounts of content with multiple content editors sitting on the system. A typical content management system will not be able to scale to that kind of content delivery. They need a system that is easy and intuitive to use.

“In e-commerce, the page load speed is key. Let’s say I am shopping for a new pair of headphones. And if that page, like their product page, is taking too long to load, I might be an impatient consumer. I might click back and go to another site and see if that one loads quicker. But I think that when it comes to being a consumer, when you need a piece of information from a certain source, you have a little bit more tolerance when it comes to things like page load speed, because you want that content, you want it from that source,” he said.

Hybrid content management systems are currently popular.

A tweet on content management systems.

It’s not just about ROI

For Sanderson, the point at which businesses update their content management system is not just about updating legacy CMS. When a business decides to update, replace, or modernize its CMS, he said what’s most important to consider are the business opportunities that come with it. While return on investment (ROI) will always be on top of the list when making such changes, adhering to business perspectives should be the main concern.

Some organizations may consider updating their CMS to make it more mobile-responsive. But issues like these can be addressed without necessarily upgrading the CMS or getting a new one. It could just be a case of some extra development work needed.

“I would say that most of the time, the CMS itself isn’t going to be kind of out of date. Technically, I think there’s always going to be a path forward. But what you really need to look at is, what’s the ROI that you’re getting out of this investment? And that ROI might come from gaining capability like moving from something that’s less mature to something that’s more mature,” explained Sanderson.

Put simply, it’s not just about investing in new technologies for CMS, but doing it with an understanding of the technology. It makes no sense to invest heavily in a CMS without understanding how it can benefit the organization in the long run.

In the second part of Tech Wire Asia’s conversation with Sanderson, he discusses how AI and chatbots can play a role in CMS, as well as the future of CMS platforms.