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Best Practices for Headless Content Management on Mobile Apps

As I work with content managers day in and day out, I see a clear trend: Despite the fact that we hear constantly about the shift to omnichannel, the vast majority of use cases for content management continue to be focused on mobile apps. It’s the “here and now” problem that everyone is talking about. With that in mind, here are some of my best practices for approaching content management on mobile apps.

Best Practices for CMS on Mobile Apps

  1. A CMS needs an SDK. Integrating Contentstack with a mobile app decouples development and content.
  2. First and foremost, a CMS has to have an SDK (software development kit) specific to mobile apps. Mobile apps have very different needs, as I’ll cover shortly, and those needs have to be met with the right tools and processes. With our headless CMS, once the connection is made between Content Stack and a mobile app, developers are able to throw in dummy data and placeholder content. This allows technical development to keep moving and for earlier submission to the app store. The sooner an app is in the queue for app store approval, the sooner it can come out the other side.

  3. Add a CMS to your mobile app for agility. Modify content without having to resubmit.
  4. While an app is in approval by the app store, content editors can begin to create and publish new, non-placeholder content. In this way, adding a CMS layer to a mobile app offers significantly more agility in the marketplace. Once live with the app, there’s no longer a need to do a build/release/app store approval cycle with every change of content. This best practice allows the organization to easily meet the constantly changing goals of marketing without heroic effort each and every time.

  5. Build content blocks In categories.
  6. But it doesn’t stop with this practice. Having the CMS hooked directly to the mobile app allows marketers to build content blocks within the app that have the ability to reference content in specific categories. For example, a menswear block has all of the various content related to the that category already baked in before content is known. From that point, news reference and related categories are built out as content arrives. Doing this through the CMS saves effort and especially keeps content flowing smoothly.

These best practices are no small thing. Without taking the approach, even text changes to a mobile app have to go through a development team. This adds rounds of approvals and additional UAT before ending up as a new build. Keep in mind that every new build requires an app store review.

Before you think mobile apps are all you need to worry about, omnichannel is inevitable. Its slow start has probably lulled many content owners into a belief there’s still plenty of time to get started. In fact, the IoT is coming much faster now, and the early talk of connected toasters has morphed into actual products like the connected refrigerator, smart watch applications and a myriad of push notifications. Nest, Wink, Apple HomeKit and a host of other platforms are pushing the boundaries of how, where and why content gets generated and consumed. The diversity of content sources and destinations goes well beyond mobile and it isn’t around the corner. It’s here.

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How Six Companies Are Handling The IoT Revolution

The Internet of Things (IoT) is about much more than just connected devices.

It’s a new landscape that allows for the creation of new products, services, and lines of business that did not seem possible before.

Forbes surveyed 700 executives on the IoT and found that 60% of enterprises are expanding or transforming new lines of business, and 36% are looking into new directions for their business altogether. 63% of executives even said they’re already delivering enhanced services to customers as a result of growing their IoT capabilities. Furthermore, nearly all (94%) of executives surveyed said that IoT would help them boost their profits by 5-15% in the next year.

IoT is a business transformation strategy.

With 7 out of 10 executives citing IoT as a significant driver of increased revenue, there’s no question that IoT has evolved beyond being merely a connectivity strategy. Beyond just revenue growth, IoT is impacting business in many ways.

From creating new ways to understand customers while improving their buying experiences to leveraging greater efficiency and expanding opportunities through better data, IoT holds much promise for companies looking to get ahead of the curve. Here’s a look at a few that are leaning into the IoT with a focus on digital transformation.

How Businesses Are Succeeding With Their IoT Strategies

Companies are trying to solve existing business challenges and find new opportunities.

They’re not on the hunt for IoT solutions in a vacuum.

Whether it’s improving internal operations or finding new and better ways to connect with customers, IoT can be a powerful enabler when it comes to digital transformation for businesses.

The process of leveraging IoT solutions to address business challenges typically starting with senior management (they’ve got the 10,000-foot view, after all), but it should involve multiple stakeholders in the organization ranging from IT to HR. That said, all parties should understand the strategic intent of putting IoT solutions into place.

Here’s a look at six companies that got the job done when it comes to IoT:

1. Fujitsu

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You might not think of agriculture as an industry brimming with IoT innovation, but holy cow!

Fujitsu armed its cattle breeding support service with a monitoring device that attaches on their dairy cows’ legs. The device allowed their team to predict the best time for breeding, even sending alerts to farmers’ smartphones.

After attaching the devices, Fujitsu saw pregnancy rates jump up to 70% and birth cycles reduced from 400 days to 350 days on average. The company also saw a 30% rise in the important ratio of female calves to male calves.

Overall, Fujitsu experienced a $500 a cow per year improvement in productivity. That’s big.

2. EY

For many companies, IoT represents uncharted territory.

There’s a significant role for companies that help businesses navigate the difficulties and opportunities that come with IoT. Ernst and Young (known as EY) has said: Challenge accepted.

EY delivers a broad array of services to clients to support their transition into the world of IoT. From strategy development and change management to regulatory advice and advanced cyber services, EY is operating at the cutting edge alongside its clients facing internal and external challenges related to digital transformation.

Many companies struggle to find the right talent in the IoT space while also having a hard time dreaming up new potential advances they could make leveraging IoT. Building a business case, understanding governance structures, and building strategic roadmaps in an emerging field isn’t easy. Companies like EY build strong partnerships with their peers to take advantage of the potential that the IoT offers.

3. GOFAR

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GOFAR produced an IoT device that plugs into a car’s computer to measure driving performance. It gives the driver real-time feedback on how to drive more efficiently. Drivers can also conduct engine checks, keep a digital log of trips (for tax season), and get reminders about registration and other needed administrative tasks.

The company’s device also allows for a significant amount of data collection with a focus on privacy built-in. As an added benefit for customers, they can qualify for insurance discounts by using the app and making a special request to the company.

4. Accenture

Like EY, Accenture is also a major player in the world of the IoT.

The consulting giant cooked up the term “internet of things” to explain the trend of collecting data from IoT devices and using network computing technology to process the data in real-time (instead of sending it to the cloud). Such interaction between hardware, internet solutions, and software has the potential to offer valuable instant feedback for companies.

By demonstrating how to take the IoT to the next level in terms of delivering value for companies, Accenture has added a great deal to industry conversations and put more profound innovation on the table in the future with the internet of thinking concept.

5. Receipt Bank

The accounting world gets a bad reputation for its tedium.

Receipt Bank is trying to change that using the IoT. They’ve built tools that automatically extract important bookkeeping information from documents, invoices, and receipts using the IoT. That’s a massive win for accountants.

Users can submit files through Dropbox, email, snail mail, Receipt Bank’s website and app, and other methods. Receipt Bank’s tools then do the hard work for you. Looking ahead, Receipt Bank hopes to pull receipt information from purchases made on IoT-connected devices, cutting out that extra step for users.

This innovation is the gist of what IoT can offer customers—automation experiences that eliminate tedious tasks while capturing relevant data.

6. Amazon

You can’t talk about the IoT without mentioning Amazon.

From their Echo smart speaker to the Amazon Key, Amazon is the House of Lannister from Game of Thrones—they’ve got the most gold in the realm of IoT.

Amazon also has AWS IoT, which is a cloud platform that lets connected devices interact with applications (and other devices) quickly and securely. The company also offers Amazon Go, a brick and mortar store that uses IoT and artificial intelligence to eliminate the need for cashiers and allows shoppers to walk out of the shop with their goods in hand.

Other companies are looking up to Amazon when it comes to IoT innovation, and it’s clear why.

Going Headless In The Age Of The Internet Of Things

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The IoT is a major new destination for content, but what gets done with that data?

How will it get automated and leveraged?

Putting that information to use and pulling key insights from it are critical roles for the IoT within companies in the emerging future. A headless CMS can be put to use in this way—as a powerful internal productivity tool.

It’s becoming increasingly evident that a headless CMS is a clear solution for content-driven companies that emphasize engaging consumers wherever they are. If you’re ready to embrace the IoT revolution and try a headless CMS, risk-free demo try a demo with Contentstack.

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Digital Transformation: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

When it comes to digital transformation, no one gets to say, “That’s not my job.” 

Even if you don’t sell technology or rely on big data daily, there’s very little in the modern workplace that isn’t somehow powered by or connected to technology — from marketing to IT, going digital affects every aspect of how an organization works.

Here’s what digital transformation means for enterprise organizations, its ups and downs, and how the right kind of technology can get various departments on board to achieve success.

What Does Digital Transformation Mean?

The truth is that digital transformation has more to do with transformation than technology, and it has very little to do with what a company does or sells.

Digital transformation is an organization-wide reimagining of how people, processes, and technology are utilized to impact overall business performance. It’s part IT project, part business strategy, and part cultural re-engineering. At its heart, digital transformation is about how you do that thing you do—and using technology to help you do it better.

So why does digital transformation matter? We’ll defer to George Westerman, a principal research scientist from MIT’s Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy: "Customer expectations are far exceeding what you can really do. That means a fundamental rethinking about what we do with technology in organizations."

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Digital Transformation: The Good News and The Bad

The good news is that done well, digital transformation can propel businesses to stardom.

Advances in data analytics are giving companies new insights that open up business opportunities and innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping automate repetitive tasks so that humans can focus on the deeper stuff. Organizations that go digital score better on employee engagement, they earn more revenue, and they adapt more quickly to market changes.

According to Oxford Economics, 16 percent of businesses that have the leadership skills and updated processes it takes to succeed at “disrupting” when it comes to digital transformation experience an excellent return on investment.

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The bad news? According to research by McKinsey, two-thirds of digital transformation efforts fail.

Whether that’s a result of the cost or complexity of technology or the struggle to get organizational buy-in, for some, it can be reason enough to quit before they even start.

Still, over 60 percent of businesses either already have or plan to have a digital transformation program in place eventually. Which is encouraging, because we believe there is a way to get it right—it just requires the right team members to come together around the right technology.

Who Does What to Support Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is often seen as an IT task where they’re asked to identify, procure, and manage the best-fit technology to drive the business forward—with no input from anyone else.

However, in reality, digital transformation is equally (if not more so) a function of improved workflow, process, policy, and operations across the organization.

Several  teams across your organization should play leading roles in your digital transformation.

The Marketing Team

Is marketing the last department that comes to mind when you imagine digital transformation?

Then it’s time to think again because modern marketers have one of the best views of what’s happening with customers—and therefore great insight into what form your digital transformation should take.

From web analytics to personalized Facebook ads to mobile-focused campaigns, marketers see it all—where customers hang out, how they engage, and when they disengage. In most companies, marketing is the team most consistently engaged with the best data on consumer experience. Who better to exercise leadership when it comes to digital transformation?

So what might digital transformation look like from a marketing standpoint?

Say, for example, a marketing team observes that their customer base increasingly values personalized, relevant, and perfectly-timed content—across various channels and devices, no less. It won’t take long for them to realize that kind of effort is going to be practically impossible to scale with the traditional content management system (CMS) their business is using.

They need a CMS that ensures they’re able to create content once then publish it to any device or channel at any time—whether it goes to a smartwatch, a marketing email, or to technologies we haven’t imagined yet. Also, they need to be able to do it with more autonomy than ever before. When both your competitors and your consumers are online, there isn’t time to submit an IT ticket and wait for a new content environment to be spun up or, worse, making minor copy changes to published content.

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So how does this marketing team go about getting their hands on such a tool?

Enter IT.

The IT Team

No doubt, IT is the go-to place for selecting the right technology to meet your organization’s business objectives. However, they can’t diagnose business problems—at least not alone. Just like a costume designer can’t rewrite a script, your IT team needs input from the rest of the company—such as marketing—to develop the right systems.

In a healthy, digitally-transformed business, there are systems in place that enable the marketing team from the above example reach across departmental lines to connect with IT for help sourcing and installing a new content management solution.

After learning about marketing’s desires, a good IT team incorporates them with a solution that’s also equipped to handle their enterprise-level uptime and security needs. Bonus points if it can give them the freedom to develop in their preferred environments, so they’re always able to keep up with the latest tech!

With a solution in place that meets requirements and needs—it’s rinse and repeat, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for continuous digital transformation, right? Well, yes, but there’s one more team to get involved for maximum impact.

The Management Team

Wipro Digital found that one out of every five senior execs has major doubts in their own DX efforts—some even going as far as calling them a complete waste of time!

Whether a founder, a company president, or a CEO—leaders must buy into how digital transformation supports the organization’s business objectives. That doesn’t mean transformation has to be management’s idea, but they do need to support it with gusto. After all, if they don’t care, why should anybody else?

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Headless CMS Makes Everyone’s Job Easier When it Comes to Digital Transformation

Headless CMS integrates content management tools via Application Programming Interface (API) so that content is kept completely separated from how it’s eventually going to be displayed. This modular, decoupled functionality means any piece of content can be personalized, optimized, or otherwise updated without affecting other content modules. Not only does this mean IT and marketing teams can both work on the same content delivery projects at the same time, but it also future-proofs content and empowers it to scale infinitely.

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Because it allows IT, marketing, and business users to work together so successfully, a headless CMS is a key piece of technology that businesses can adopt to achieve their digital transformation objectives.

See for yourself how Contentstack’s headless CMS combines enterprise-ready content management solutions, white-glove service, and unsurpassed user experience to support your digital transformation by building a completely free proof of concept today.

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Enjoy All the Benefits of a Modern Website Framework With Gatsby and Contentstack

What do consumers want from the digital experiences they interact with every day? Speed and ease.

What do businesses want from the technology upon which they rely to deliver these experiences day after day? Scalability, flexibility, maintainability, security, and affordability.

Now, what if we told you there’s a duo of tools out there that empowers organizations to deliver the experience consumers crave without sacrificing any of these business-boosting benefits?

If your interest is piqued, keep reading to learn about the trifecta of speed, experience, and scalability that the right static site generator + headless CMS combo can provide.

What is a Static Site Generator (And How is it Different from My CMS)?

When a website user lands on a page whose assets are stored in a traditional content management system (CMS)—such as WordPress or Joomla—the site has to assemble data from its database dynamically, process the content through a template engine, and finally display the page to the visitor.

A static site generator grabs the content, applies it to the right templates, creates static HTML, and quickly delivers the formatted content to the user. There is no dealing with databases or any other external data sources—avoiding opportunities for security breaches and time-consuming server-side processing.

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A CMS makes an excellent solution for businesses where marketing users need a styled interface to input and edit content, where loading time isn’t a priority, and where there are no plans to distribute content across various channels and platforms.

Meanwhile, a static site generator is a perfect fit in an environment where lightning-fast content delivery is critical, where several departments need to work on the same campaigns autonomously and simultaneously, and where a content delivery mechanism is necessary for supplementing a headless CMS that prioritizes omnichannel distribution.

Should I Make the Switch to a Static Site Generator?

Static sites themselves predate most of today’s popular CMS platforms. However, static site generators modernized the concept and brought it back into the spotlight as a lightweight alternative to traditional, database-driven, dynamic websites—but that doesn’t mean it’s just some fad.

Data shows that interest in static site generators has increased pretty steadily since around 2010.

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It’s safe to say that static site generators are here to stay—but we don’t expect you to adopt new technology based on popularity alone. So, here are some of the awesome benefits you’ll be able to take advantage of when you make the switch.

Benefits of Static Site Generators

Don’t think you can afford to scale quickly? How about increasing your site speed 10x while still cutting down on technology costs?

These benefits and more are well within reach when you make the switch to a static site generator.

Scaling is Quick and Affordable

One of your articles just got shared in a massively-popular email roundup. Congrats, you’ve gone viral!

Now, are you going to be able to make the most of this spike in traffic or are you going to spend your time in the limelight apologizing for a slow or unresponsive website?

Unless you somehow saw this one coming or have been overpaying in hopes of scaling, chances are it’s the latter.

Even when you finally do get your servers firing on all cylinders, scaling is going to cost you. Because with dynamic content, at every page load you’re paying for servers to process complex code.

However, with static site generators, scalability is nearly effortless. Sure, increased traffic still means increased pages served—but it doesn’t take any extra time or effort to serve the same pages multiple times because they don’t have to be reassembled with every delivery.

Static Sites Load 10x Faster Than Dynamic

When an internet user pulls up a web page in their browser, the server sends the browser HTML, CSS, and JavaScript which it renders in a way that’s pleasant and readable for visitors. Moreover, it does this whether the website is static or dynamic.

So what makes many a static site as much as 10 times faster than its dynamic, CMS-based counterpart? Dynamic sites go back to the server to render each page every single time someone visits it while static site generators store a “pre-built” version that can be delivered nearly instantly.

When load time has been shown to impact bounce rate and consumer loyalty directly, static site generators are great for boosting user experience and happiness.

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Customizations Delight Developers

Traditional content management systems are limited. What we mean by that is that each one has a particular pool of plugins and add-ons from which you can pull to “customize” their look or functionality.

Truthfully, that makes them an excellent solution for organizations with minimal technical chops. However, any business that’s looking to scale will probably have access to a development team—and it’ll probably find itself quickly handcuffed by the limitations of a CMS.

Few Moving Parts to Maintain

CMS platforms require a surprising amount of interconnected software and hardware to keep them up and running.

For example, a self-hosted WordPress install may require you to keep up with all of the following:

  • a machine that runs Linux
  • a web server that runs Nginx or Apache
  • PHP (with associated extensions and web server configurations)
  • MySQL
  • WordPress
  • Various plugins and add-ons
  • The theme and template code

If you choose not to host your own CMS so that you don’t have to keep up with the updates, fixes, and security vulnerabilities that all these moving parts entail—you’ll need to pay extra for a trustworthy hosting solution that will.

On the other hand, you can host a static site generator on pretty much any server that returns HTML files. With less moving parts to keep updated and secure, you can pretty much set it and forget it for a while.

Improved Security Over Traditional CMS

Speaking of security vulnerabilities, they’re one of the biggest threats of using a dynamic CMS to host your content.

The risk comes from their need for extensive server-side infrastructure—infrastructure that attracts and leaves pathways for intrusions.

On the flip side, static site generators turn code into secure HTML files. These are what the server displays each time a user loads a page. Because the server doesn’t have to build the page completely from various assets, there’s no opportunity for hackers to inject malicious code or exploit your database.

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Highly Affordable Website Solution

Ease of scalability, lack of a complex database, no need for constant maintenance and security checks, super lightweight hosting needs—running a static site is almost always less expensive than running a dynamic one.

This allows a business to pass the savings on to consumers and enables workers to spend valuable time and resources building and managing content and features that matter.

One Static Site Generator + Headless CMS Duo to Rule Them All: Gatsby and Contentstack

For businesses that need to deliver omnichannel content at lightning speed without sacrificing backend usability for neither marketing nor development, there’s just one worthwhile solution—a headless CMS with a static site generator for content delivery.

And to achieve the magic trifecta of speed, experience, and scalability; go straight to the best duo on the market—Gatsby and Contentstack.

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Gatsby is a modern website framework that can be used to generate static sites by using its unique front-end web building experience.

Using React, Gatsby turns static data sources into dynamic websites that function as single-page apps. The static site generator enables asset optimization, smart image loading, code splitting, and server-side rendering that result in hyper-fast load times.

In fact, because Gatsby is built on React, it can go well beyond generating static sites to do just about anything a traditional web application can do—including authentication, fetching changing data, and delivering dynamic interactions. To learn more about using Gatsby to create progressive, dynamic apps; check out their article on Building Dynamic Apps with Gatsby.

Gatsby has a rich and growing ecosystem; a delightful developer experience; and is highly secure, scalable, and effective for the businesses that use it.

Contentstack is an API-first, headless CMS that empowers marketing users to create and optimize omnichannel content experiences while development users simultaneously build out cutting-edge front-end systems to distribute these experiences across web, mobile, IoT devices, and more.

Together, Gatsby’s powerful UI tools and framework work seamlessly with Contentstack’s content management and delivery features to enable marketers and developers to create powerful websites, apps, and e-commerce portals that are secure, scalable, and flexible.

It’s easy to create a powerful website using Contentstack and Gatsby:

Step 1: Create an account with Contentstack.

Step 2: Create a stack, add content, and hit publish!

Step 3: Add and configure the Contentstack plugin for Gatsby.

Step 4: Access your content using Contentstack’s Content Delivery APIs.

To learn more about the greatest static site generator + headless CMS combo in the game, read this guide to getting started with Contentstack and Gatsby and check out an example website built with Contentstack and Gatsby. Also, check out our free PDF detailing how Contentstack and Gatsby can enable your business to create websites marketers and developers will love.

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10 Questions Every Enterprise Should Ask Its CMS Provider

Your content is king. Yet, many enterprises find they are still searching for the best way to manage and optimize their content.

Whether you already have a CMS provider or are shopping around for a new one, take the strategic and smart move to evaluate your options. A CMS investment should be evaluated because it is exactly that – an investment. So it should be analyzed carefully, evaluated often, and questioned deliberately. For any platform handling your content, you guard, protect, and question it for the safety of the realm.

10 Important Questions to Ask Your CMS Provider

When evaluating a CMS vendor, determine if it’s the solution that’s ready for your organization now, and for the future, with these questions.

1) What enterprise expertise and experience exists at the company?

Look for experience working with (or at) large enterprises across all of the vendor’s business functions, including leadership, sales, product engineering and support organizations. Take notice if the vendor speaks your language and understands your challenges. The more experience the vendor has working with companies just like yours (e.g. same industry, similar size), the more they can relate to, anticipate and meet your requirements throughout your customer journey.

2) What processes exist in support of key enterprise concerns?

Verify that the vendor has and follows documented security and business continuity policies and procedures. Ask about relevant certifications, such as SOC 2 or GDPR compliance. Confirm the vendor has adequate insurance and operates with agreements (NDAs, MSAs etc.) conforming to industry standards.

The vendor should be financially viable. While this may seem obvious for some, it’s wise to peel back the layers. For a VC-funded startup without a long history, dig a little deeper into how sustainable their business model is. Hypergrowth often comes at the expense of a high burn rate, which could mean they have a limited run-rate. Conversely, legacy vendors that have shifted attention to other products may not be collecting significant enough revenue from their CMS anymore, so vendor size isn’t a guarantee for CMS longevity.

3) What capabilities and features do you have that specifically address enterprise needs?

There should be a long and thoughtful list of features that support enterprise requirements and concerns, including needs around service reliability, scalability, security, auditability, collaboration, workflows and global deployments. A CMS should appeal to both business and IT users. Ask about features that address the needs of your marketers, content managers, developers and IT. staff. Many CMS solutions favor one audience’s needs at the expense of another.

4) What support and service-level agreements are offered?

How many of the vendor’s customers (actual number or percentage) operate at each level? You don’t want to be the only mission-critical customer relying on and financing the vendor’s support infrastructure.

Understand what support levels and response times are offered. There’s many layers and levels of support – find out which one is right for your organization. Some implement 24x7 support, via a self-service on-line portal, or interacting with a chatbot or by live support via a qualified, human subject matter expert.

5) What is the concrete, ongoing commitment to innovation?

If the CMS is merely one of many different products, ask how resources are prioritized across the product portfolio. Look for the total number of CMS improvements in the previous 12 months and the general cadence of feature releases.

Ask how large the core engineering team is. If there are only a handful of developers working on the product (which can happen at both large or small vendors), this may be an indicator for lackluster future product enhancements. Be proactive and ask to see future development plans and feature roadmaps.

6) What is the historical performance and service uptime?

Look for publicly available service status information and historical outage data. Evaluate architecture, features and procedures that mitigate or eliminate the impact of a service outage to your sites and apps. In the event of a service issue, find out how it would it be communicated.

7) Why do developers like and choose your product?

Look for a rich library of tools, SDKs and thorough (ideally public) documentation. Ask about features that differentiate the CMS for technical users.

8) Why do content managers and marketers users like and choose your product?

Ask about features that differentiate the CMS for business users and evaluate the editor experience.

9) Can we run a POC?

The vendor should not only encourage you to try out their product before signing contracts, they should have a formal program to guide you through a quick and effective POC that validates (or adjusts) your assumptions about the CMS.

If the POC doesn’t demonstrate value in a matter of days, or if it seems complicated and requires specialist expertise – reconsider. Consider the POC a preview of your actual project experience. If the CMS doesn’t seem amazing at a reduced project scope, things will only get worse with a full-scale deployment.

10) What other customers do you have and can we speak to them?

Dig a little deeper than just the company logos on the website – determine if these are non-strategic projects (e.g. a microsite) or if the CMS is powering a mission critical digital property. Ask to speak to customers and take the time to check at least one to two peer references.

Try and find out where your use case falls on the scale of all of the vendors’ customers. You don’t want to be the largest – or most complex – deployment, or be the first company for a major new product option.

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