Having a great idea, like implementing a future-proof and flexible headless CMS, is only half the battle of getting it done—or maybe even less. The real battle kicks off when the time arrives to gain organizational buy-in for a bold plan. It begins with understanding exactly why moving to a better way is worth the effort. For many organizations, difficulty executing campaign-based marketing is a powerful catalyst. Most engineering-based businesses that got off the ground by focusing on product releases reach a point that requires this shift to ongoing campaigns. Other times, it’s the hiring of a new marketing director that forces an organization to rethink sitting and waiting for new content—they know they have to move now. More than anything, though, the need for buy-in is based on the need to grow at the speed of marketing.
The Head of Engineering
There are multiple personas that drive the decision for a headless CMS and each needs to have their rationale locked down. When I’ve talked to heads of engineering, for example, the problem shows up as marketing needing updates to content. Without a CMS in place, that requires a change request and then two weeks of waiting in the queue for a code push. They aren’t moving at the speed of marketing and they know it. What’s more, they realize that demands are increasing for other work like new integrations and new marketing tools. The headless approach puts content first and lowers the risk of locking into anything that might be a poor decision later. Every Engineering leader wants to avoid decisions that become risky over time. And it isn’t just later that matters. A headless approach takes developers out of the loop of content flow right now and, at the same time, takes recoding out of the drive to keep marketing happy. A Head of Engineering is fully bought in the moment they realize, “Wait, I can add some API calls and keep going?”
The Marketing Director
The new Marketing Director isn’t just a catalyst for change, they’re also keen to update content without complexity and to publish in a way that’s familiar and easy. They aren’t bound by templates that have to be coded and things are easier for their marketing team. I’ve been in situations where marketing gets adventurous and begins to put .css controls directly into the CMS that affect the presentation layer, simply because it became easy to make layout changes without involving IT. They are able to manipulate elements of the layout, not merely the content itself. The Marketing Director is fully bought in the moment they realize, “This was easy and there was little to no training required.”
Lastly, the CTO has to be invested in the outcome as well. This individual is most concerned about slowing down their engineering team from accomplishing their primary purpose. In-house work that avoids hiring more bodies is always the preference. A CTO is bought in the moment they realize, “I can keep marketing and engineering happy and productive.”
Each of these personas has other options beyond the headless CMS, but each option comes with significant drawbacks to one group or even all. Many of my customers considered building a CMS in-house with existing expertise. But they invariably figure out that the skills and coding required are an enormous tax on the organization. They’ll pay a high price while straying from their requirements and core mission. Good DBAs, DevOps and other required skills command salaries well over $100K for maintaining a traditional CMS. Organizations start with the belief that WordPress or Drupal are a good starting point, but then quickly realize that they’ll encounter complexity in other ways and lose lots of flexibility in the process.