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Know what problems you are trying to solve before deciding if a headless or decoupled CMS is the answer

close up of puzzle with one missing puzzle piece

No one wanted it to end up like this, but a combination of poor marketing and user confusion has created a CMS market where buyers aren’t always getting what’s right for them. That’s one of the clarifying takeaways from our recent Brightspot webinar, "Ensure your CMS technology is solving, not creating, content problems" (featuring Forrester Consulting). Read on to learn more about the topics discussed and how you can use the findings to select the best CMS for your business needs.

Vendor marketing for headless CMS technology has been confusing and poorly messaged, resulting in cognitive overload for content buyers who are only looking to solve their content problems and future-fit their content strategies.
Joe Cicman, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research
Joe Cicman, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research

Let’s be honest: Do you really understand what a headless content management system (CMS) is, and why it would be best for your needs?

By the same token, if we put you on the spot, are you totally confident you could define a decoupled architecture and say how it’s different than headless?

If you’re getting a sinking feeling right now … you’re not alone.

In what might be one of the most important customer webinars we’ve run so far, respected IT advisory group Forrester Consulting cautioned vendors against pushing concepts onto customers without proper explanations of their specific advantages and disadvantages.

In fact, warns Joe Cicman, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, “Vendor marketing for headless CMS technology has been confusing and poorly messaged, resulting in cognitive overload for content buyers who are only looking to solve their content problems and future-fit their content strategies.”

He says headless and decoupled CMS technologies are poorly understood and poorly marketed and that too many firms may have rushed into purchases without first considering which CMS approach is best for their actual people, workflows, goals and existing technology.

Headless implementations are most common among respondents currently, but that appears poised to change dramatically.
  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents told us they were currently using a headless CMS, yet 69% of these headless users indicated their next CMS is likely to be a decoupled system. This indicates that many of these organizations are reevaluating their choice of headless implementation once they were able to fully see whether that approach was actually the best fit for their situation.

The same issues and bottlenecks plague most content and digital producers

Brightspot commissioned Joe’s team to research the state of CMS implementations at U.S. brands in order to understand how they’re impacting the company's overall success. The study covers 400 content decision makers at mostly U.S. organizations with at least $100 million in annual revenue in technology financial services, real estate and professional sports.

If you don't go into your CMS decision with your eyes wide open, you could end up burning your project time and money and leaving the practitioner experience unaddressed.
Joe Cicman, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research
Joe Cicman, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research

In a walkthrough of Forrester Research’s findings, Joe says, respondents in marketing, IT, product, digital and corporate communications roles all highlighted the same problem. “It's not about choosing headless or decoupled," he explains. "It’s about understanding which implementation is best for your organization's content needs.”

He says content is becoming more complicated to create, deliver and measure, and companies are facing content demands that are difficult to deliver.

Clearly, technology should be there to take this pain away, but not enough companies really get the difference between the two main approaches to CMS right now.

Spelling out the difference, Joe says: “A headless content management system is a back-end-only content management system that acts primarily as a content repository and enables the 'write once/publish anywhere' strategies that omnichannel experiences require. It does this by making content available via an API for display on any device out of built-in front end or presentation layer."

“In contrast, a decoupled CMS lets brands seamlessly perform content authoring refinement, management and distribution in a way that both the front-end experience management and the back-end content management act together as a content repository/creation/editing and publishing suite.”

Download this study, commissioned by Brightspot from Forrester Consulting, to learn how to avoid the content management marketing hype by matching your technology choice to your specific context.

It's more than a name: Know exactly what you’re buying with your CMS architecture choice

The problem, as the webinar lays out, is that if you make the wrong choice here, you risk a CMS implementation that’s a poor fit for your actual needs.

In fact, the research found that many organizations are re-evaluating their choice of headless implementation now that they’re better able to see whether that approach is actually the best fit for their situation.

To be a good partner, a CMS vendor must be good at understanding the actual business problem you're trying to solve and focus on that.
Image of Brightspot founder and CEO, David Gang
David A. Gang, Co-Founder and CCO, Brightspot

So, what’s the solution? Forrester Research’s guidance is that there’s simply no substitute for really exploring the market. The report states: "The right choice of CMS can only be determined by carefully examining which implementation makes the most sense for an individual organization."

Brightspot shares these concerns. During the webinar, Brightspot Founder and President David Gang added: “The decisions you make going forward should focus on what enables you to build the right workflow to bring your business to life and to deal with integrations in a very sophisticated way—in a way that's most appropriate for your company. This means choosing the right technology to run your content business most effectively and deliver the right message to your customers, whether they're partners, employees or end users.”

There’s a lot more thought leadership guidance in the session, so why not watch the full webinar now? To get the full findings from the Forrester study, download the report here.

Everything you need to know about CMS architecture
Brightspot CMS Extensible Architecture
To help you cut through the clutter around the different types of CMS archictecture, we've developed guides to explain the differences between the main types of CMS platforms, including coupled CMS, decoupled CMS and headless CMS, as well as the pros and cons for each.

Edward Murray
About the Author
Edward Murray is a freelance journalist and business content writer. He has more than 20 years of experience writing for a broad selection of publications. These include specialist trade publications as well as regional and national newspapers. He also writes for a wide variety of clients, ranging from start-ups to multi-national corporations producing white papers, opinion pieces, online content and event and webinar summaries. He is based in the UK and writes for clients worldwide.

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