Why we Chose a Headless CMS Platform

agencyQ has launched a brand-new website. One of the more interesting elements of the new project is that we went with the Kentico Cloud platform. Kentico Cloud is the headless SaaS-based option provided by our partner Kentico, and quite frankly, we are impressed. But the question is obvious: Why would a Digital Marketing agency with substantial depth in traditional Enterprise Marketing Platforms go in such a radically different direction? The answer is complex, but worth analyzing.

In recent years, our website has gone through several iterations. The pace at which our industry is changing is unprecedented.

 

  • We are adapting to a move away from the traditional “design and build” mantras of the past and embracing more idea- and strategy-driven engagements. 
  • AI is forever changing the landscape of what we do, as data accessibility and processing power now make the promise of AI a true friend of the digital marketing team. 
  • The rise of cloud computing is fragmenting the traditional enterprise software space in favor of integrating more specialized slices, or microservices, of focused best-of-breed solutions.
  • Omni-channel has become a true reality, with the website becoming a destination, not a focal point. Your representation in social, voice, apps, external commerce platforms, etc. may matter more than your literal web presence today.
  • Speed to market is more important today than ever. In a world where everything is changing so fast, you simply can’t afford to spend the next 18 months launching your solution. You need to be ready to launch fast and iterate faster if you hope to keep up with the ever-changing landscape.

 

So, holding these five points to be our truth, we had some decisions to make. We started by evaluating our traditional Enterprise CMS options. Our expertise and partnerships gave us no shortage of exceptional options in this area. We love the promise of Sitecore, and its upcoming Cortex engine, for its power and ability to analyze and personalize the customer journey. Kentico’s traditional EMS was another real contender, with its compact power and ability to drive complex digital marketing scenarios.

But, just like we do for our customers, we had to step back, analyze the need, and pick the best tool for the job. And when we laid out our requirements, we concluded that our scenario simply didn’t fit the traditional ECMS scenario at this time. The scorecard for our internal evaluation showed that we strongly favored agility and rapid launch over wide functional reach. Here are some of the reasons behind our final decision:

  • Personalization – Our current scenarios simply don’t call for complicated personalization. In fact, quite the opposite: We don’t want to funnel a prospect through personalization, because our biggest value as an agency is our depth of digital marketing experience, and we want our customers to be aware of that.
  • Email Marketing – Like all companies in the digital age, we certainly participate in some level of digital marketing. But as a focused agency, this doesn’t mean managing lists in the hundreds of thousands of prospects. It means working with a much more intimate list of dozens of prospective and current customers that we know we can tend to well. And you simply don’t require a full-power EMS to help drive that.
  • Authoring Tools/Workflows – The traditional ECMS has compelling tools designed to distribute the content creation and editing burden throughout the organization. For many organizations, this is an absolute must-have. For us, our team of day-to-day content contributors is comprised of two or three people. Based on this, we don’t have a current need for the powerful workflow options that the Enterprise toolsets bring to market.
  • Built-in Analytics – While these capabilities are an absolute game changer for our customers with many of the needs listed above, it simply doesn’t compute if you aren’t using the power for the digital marketing platform to drive complex marketing campaigns, manage powerful personalization, run multivariate testing, or many other EMS features. When you are doing these things, inline analytics become the key to success. When you aren’t, like in our scenario, Google Analytics gives you all the info you need.
  • Commerce – If we had an e-commerce presence, then an e-commerce platform would be an absolute must. Our use case doesn’t call for this.

Many other factors come into play when selecting the right platform, but the bottom line is that need and fit must drive the selection. As creative technologists, properly balancing these needs and coming away with the right tools for the job is a key building block of project success. In our case, the evaluation led us toward a new emerging toolset that met our fundamental needs while not weighing us down with unnecessary (for us) capability and configuration.

The Selection – Kentico Cloud

Once we moved away from the concept of leveraging the traditional full-featured EMS platform, how did we conclude that Kentico Cloud was the right answer for us? Essentially, the decision boiled down to a few key points:

  • Speed – We gave ourselves an extremely aggressive timeline of three weeks from concept to launch. We needed to select a partner solution that helped accommodate this. Kentico Cloud’s content modeling and repository approach, coupled with their API-first mentality, allowed us to split the effort into three distinct pieces to accommodate our timeline:
  • Content Repository: Because the SaaS platform took this care of this, we didn’t have to worry about our infrastructure. Not having to manage this saved us two weeks of planning, testing, and deployment.
    • Content Creation: Kentico Cloud’s content modeling toolsets allow for our content engineers and content authors to completely manage the content curation process, 100% separate from the presentation platform. This separation allowed us to start our content engineering BEFORE writing a single line of code.  For this engagement, that separation was a welcome departure from the standard engagement lifecycle and another big time saver.
    • Presentation: Since the presentation is a separate system consuming data from a centralized content repository, our team was able to very quickly iterate on the website presentation in tools most comfortable to them. In this case, we chose ASP.NET MVC, but it could have easily been Node.JS, PHP, Java, or any other platform.
  • Content First – We believe in content engineering leading the way in digital marketing strategy. We wanted to be certain that, despite moving away from the traditional content systems, we were able to maintain this mindset. We were, frankly, extremely impressed with how the Kentico team has made content king in this new model. The tool strips away everything else and brings the creation of content assets front and center. For what our strategists were looking to accomplish, we considered this to be a perfect fit.
  • Roadmap – The concept of SaaS content repositories to drive digital engagement strategies is a very promising technology progression, but it is one in its infancy. It was important to us that we select a partner with a demonstrated commitment to leading the space and evolving their offering with significant investment and a well-communicated roadmap. We’ve been very impressed with Kentico’s commitment to launching into this emerging space. 

 

These three considerations largely drove our selection of the platform to power our revamped web presence. We made our final platform selection on October 24th, 2017, after attending the Kentico Roadshow in Boston and feeling thoroughly impressed with their commitment to this emerging technology.

A little over two weeks later, we launched our new platform. And to us, this was the biggest determining factor in our choice. We certainly gave up a lot of potential functionality.  A headless CMS, after all, is pure no-frills content modeling. Utilized correctly, this is the inherent advantage of the approach. As such, what we gained in exchange for that trade-off was a tremendous amount of speed and agility in our implementation. Like all things, it’s a balancing act, and the selection of the appropriate technology for each specific scenario is the key to success. 

What does the future hold for our implementation? Time will tell. We are without a doubt evaluating our future roadmap. For now, it will certainly contain many evolutions of the implementation that we just rolled out. After all, we all know that a website is never “done.”  It’s an ever-evolving thing that requires constant care and feeding. It’s likely that as our needs and use cases evolve, we will migrate into a more traditional scenario. 

However, that is the true beauty of this solution. What we have built upon is, in its purest form, a content repository. That is the promise of the technology: anything can consume the content. Right now, it’s an extremely agile custom presentation platform. A few months from now, it could be a full-fledged Digital Marketing suite. By taking a content-first approach, we have unlocked tremendous opportunity in navigating our evolving roadmap.

The approach demonstrated here is how Q approaches projects, and we couldn’t be prouder of the results. It fit our ethos perfectly, by allowing content and ideas, not technology, to rule the process. By truly seizing the ability to operate in an agile and iterative method, it brought these ideas to market with remarkable speed. And by carefully considering the roadmap and interoperability with potential long-term needs, we can future-proof our efforts. All of this is at the core of what we mean when we say, “Predict tomorrow, deliver today.”