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Greg Luciano

Greg is the Director of Customer Success at Contentstack. His extensive knowledge and experience span the deployment of content management solutions for customers like VMware, Echelon, Ayla Networks and more.

Posts by Greg Luciano

Jul 10, 2018

Contentstack Headless CMS Services the SAP Cloud Platform

SAP was faced with a challenge. Potential opportunities were being lost because Sales needed a Content Management System (CMS) to complete its SAP Cloud Platform offering, especially since having a compatible, flexible CMS frequently came up in sales conversations. To provide a holistic portal, SAP selected Contentstack to deliver integrated content services for the SAP Cloud Platform Portal. Now, SAP customers can quickly and easily create portals, sites and apps with embedded, turnkey content management capabilities – all without the hassle and complexity of a traditional CMS. Why Contentstack? The primary use case was to deliver relevant information to employees, as effortlessly as possible. SAP decided to forge ahead with a headless content management system with robust API support so that they could easily integrate SAP Cloud widgets with the new CMS. A headless CMS decouples content presentation on the frontend from its management in the backend. Unlike traditional CMSs that require developers to work directly within the CMS to make front and back-end changes, a headless CMS lets developers work on the back and front-end without interrupting content creation, thus saving SAP customers time and resources. Another requirement was to find a CMS that enables multiple content contributors and business stakeholders to create and edit content, assign reviews and workflows, schedule the date and time of publications, as well as preview pages before going live. Additionally, SAP wanted support for the delivery of content to mobile devices. After reviewing multiple content management systems, SAP chose Contentstack as their CMS of choice, since there was a natural pairing between the two platforms. Contentstack had the necessary API support to deliver content and SAP Cloud had the platform to build powerful front-end applications. Additionally, SAP chose Contentstack because they wanted a scalable system, so they could continue to add new functionality and omnichannel delivery as efficiently as possible. SAP and Contentstack began a partnership to work together to architect a new scalable portal solution that could be used to demonstrate the power of SAP’s Cloud platform. The SAP People Portal Working together, the SAP Cloud and the Contentstack teams built a use case of an easy to manage, public-facing portal named the SAP People Portal. This portal was the example use case that could be leveraged to help SAP Cloud sell their solution to enable any business to deliver omnichannel content efficiently. The SAP People Portal includes the following: Company news Company upcoming events Company procedure updates Benefits/reimbursement info Team information Nice reads Successful deals and new products updates A word from the CEO Birthdays and info on new employees getting on board Open Positions Testimonials Making the Transition SAP provided detailed guidelines for each user experience, and both SAP and Contentstack teams worked together to build the system. WIth Contentstack managing content, SAP proceeded to develop widgets that would act as modular page content using APIs in the front-end application. Using a proxy-based cloud solution, SAP was able to white label the domain, allowing users to rebrand any domains to appear as SAP, instead of exposing the Contentstack domain. The SAP Cloud platform application seamlessly connects to Contentstack and delivers SAP mobile cards, and SAP widgets to deliver content to desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. The Future of SAP and Contentstack Working together to demonstrate the exemplary power of the SAP People Portal is just the beginning of the story. Since a headless CMS backs the portal, developers can continue to hone the user interfaces as well as add SAP Cloud functionality to deliver scalable content on any device. Contentstack is committed to working with SAP to continue to iterate and expand its portal offering.

May 09, 2018

Why Agencies are Turning to Digital Experience Platforms

Now you may be thinking to yourself, that’s a lot of buzzwords in one title. Well, it is. But let me tell you why it’s the truth. Let’s start by defining what a content hub is and then we’ll dive into how agencies can deliver the quickest ROI for their enterprise clients by utilizing this pluggable architectural approach to content marketing. A content hub powers omnichannel content delivery through the use of extensible APIs. Contentstack is a prime example of a content hub. Other industry terms you may have heard of to describe a content hub include decoupled CMS, Headless CMS, Content as a Service (CaaS), or an API-first CMS. What makes it a content hub is the extensible API’s and its ease of integration with various industry-leading content management tools. It’s a pluggable architecture model, or hub and spoke, where you can quickly connect the best of breed or existing legacy tools into one central content marketing hub. Microservices: An Integral Part of Digital Experience Platform Another buzzword you may have heard of before is “microservices,” but what does it mean? Everyone these days assumes an all in one platform is the way to go, but let me tell you why all-in-one doesn’t mean the quickest road to success for your clients. With a microservices approach, your enterprise clients may already have five or more of the spokes to their content hub within their organization. During your discovery phase with an enterprise client, you will quickly discover what these tools are. Here's a short list of the most popular tools: Marketing automation: Marketo, HubSpot, Salesforce Pardot, and ActiveCampaign. Translation services: Qordoba, Acclaro, and Moravia. Digital analytics: Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, and Adobe Analytics. SEO: SEMrush, Moz, and Brightedge. Video hosting: Brightcove, Ooyala, Youtube, and Vimeo. Digital asset management: Box and ECMs. CRM: Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, Zoho CRM, and Pipedrive. A/B and multivariate testing: Optimizely, Google Optimization, Marketo Real-Time Personalization, and Adobe Target. Machine learning and AI: IBM Watson and Qordoba Text Intelligence. E-commerce: SAP Hybris, Shopify, and Snipcart. The beauty of a content hub is that these existing in-house solutions that your customers and prospects have already made the time and investment into can plug into a content hub. Your customers may be halfway there and not even know it. This is where as their agency, you can be the hero and guide them down the path of getting them into those personalized content experiences quickly vs. an all in one platform, or traditional CMS, where there will be some additional training on the integrations performed around how to navigate the now bloated, and most times watered-down experience within a single interface. Content Hubs and the New Digital Transformation What are CIO’s, CDO’s and CMO’s looking to do these days? You may have heard the term “digital transformation.” This refers to changes made by applying digital technology to traditional methods that bring new types of innovation and creativity. For example, getting out of the old legacy way of thinking and into the new world of personalization, AI, and AR/VR. A few years ago, a digital transformation might be considered simply making the move from an on-premise site to the cloud. Now 90% of the market is on the cloud, the question, “Are you cloud-hosted?” doesn’t typically come up anymore. It’s just assumed you are. The new, more powerful meaning of a digital transformation is how companies market to their audience. How do we build new personalized experiences that are not solely focused on the web? What about AR/VR? How can we use AI? What is going to give me the quickest ROI and show that we are an innovative leader in our industry? You guessed it, with a content hub at the core you can accomplish these initiatives with agility and speed. Let’s dive into each of these use cases a little deeper. Creating a Personalization Engine A good example of digital transformation is personalization. With a content hub at the core, this is where your content and asset variations will live. For example, a different version of the content, ad, or image can be presented to a person based on his or her persona, location, or interests. Adding personalization tools is as simple as adding a javascript code snippet to the front-end code, and now you’ve unlocked a personalization engine. With a combination of these two tools you can now, know who your audience is, and start segmenting what content and assets are presented based on data, such as geolocation, and other demographics that these tools support. Moving Beyond Text with Augmented and Virtual Reality AR/VR is a similar story. Apple iPhones are now supporting an AR Toolkit, which can power augmented reality experiences for mobile customers. At Contentstack we have enterprise clients, such as large clothing retailers, who are taking full advantage of this feature. The AR component allows you to try on clothes on your iPhone before you order. Another retail use case is a furniture retailer who is using AR to preview home products within their homes. The image asset can be hosted within the content hub and quickly integrated with this AR integration. VR solutions are also possible, such as a gaming experience where content is powered within the VR application. Applying Artificial Intelligence to Your Content Another example is machine learning and AI. Today, we are on the cutting edge of AI and machine learning. Qordoba just announced a new text intelligence platform that integrates via API’s to your content to provide content marketers with brand, style, and emotion. Through this integration with your content hub, marketers will be able to quickly refine content like they have never done before to help improve conversions faster than ever. In summary, by utilizing a content hub such as Contentstack, agencies are empowered to guide large enterprise digital transformation journeys with speed and agility. ROI is realized quickly by enabling your clients to become an industry leader in the latest market trends and seeing greater conversions by providing a more personalized experience.

Sep 04, 2017

Best Practices for Headless Content Management for 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 A CMS needs an SDK. Integrating Contentstack with a mobile app decouples development and content. 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. Add a CMS to your mobile app for agility. Modify content without having to resubmit. 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. Build content blocks In categories. 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 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 CMS 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, smartwatch 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.

Feb 16, 2017

Two Key Features That Make Headless CMS the Ideal CMS

The choice of content management system (CMS) has much greater importance today than it has in the past. Requirements are being driven less and less by the need to publish to a static website and more often are connected to the need to get content out quickly and to diverse end points, including mobile devices, smart watches and more. Those end points and the need for flexibility and speed are pushing organizations to headless CMS. A headless CMS allows the organization to focus technologists on the look and feel of the content while allowing marketers to focus on the content itself. That split of skills is best managed on the creative side by the use of stacks and forms to make content creation very fast and very, very easy. The Stack A stack is a site or workspace within a headless CMS. Commonly, there is one stack for a single website or microsite, which performs the function of containing all of the content, assets and collaboration amongst the marketing team members. Collaborators, whether content developers or content editors, are invited to the stack where developers have created content types that match the requirements of each particular stack. This setup allows for separation of the presentation layer code, created by the developer, and the organization’s content that has been created by the business expert. Because a headless CMS is API-driven, a single stack can publish to multiple environments if that’s the best way, or separate stacks can publish to different environments. Whichever makes for better management, the point is that a single update of key data (like a date) can be published out to whatever home that data has. A stack can also have a master language that allows a stack to manage localization of a Web page, content blog or mobile site. This further aligns the purpose of the content with those who create and consume it. Power of Forms Anyone can use a form, which is a really simple, non-threatening way to move content quickly and without barriers. A headless CMS, already more flexible than a traditional CMS, becomes even more powerful with the addition of forms, which harden the content and make the system hard to break. As an example, field limits and text validations that insulate users from mistakes are easily applied to forms. Simply put, a form is one of the most basic ways to pull data from an individual and to get that data, formatted correctly, into a system. We’ve been using forms all of our lives, and having forms within a CMS allows the front end to looks as good as a developer’s talent and the content to look as good as the marketer allows. It is a perfect separation tool that allows the system to be managed well; if it is built right, content presents well and if it is written right, content is compelling. Stacks and forms are the tools that make a headless CMS a great choice for content management.

Jan 12, 2017

Going Headless Increases Team Productivity

In our previous blog post, we made predictions about the future of Headless CMS and the impact of cloud-first content management system. While the future of a decoupled CMS looks bright, there are many benefits to it today. We see great potential for headless CMS and a greater opportunity for business and technical groups to become more agile, increase ROI and gain a competitive edge over their competitors with a flexible, CMS cloud platform. Headless CMS Empowers Departments to Focus n What They’re Good At Headless CMS decreases the need for teams to manage and "acquiesce" their projects by the limits of their CMS and frees up time and restrictions for businesses to focus more on the business, rather than the technology. Too often, we consider a platform as the sole answer to a business problem when in reality, a platform is only as good as the people who work within it; those that touch the platform have an outsized effect on a successful outcome or a disappointment. The platform can make life easier or it can slow everything down to a crawl, depending on how comfortable people are and how quickly they adopt it. If it takes longer to bring resources up to speed, there are four key negative effects: Implementation delay Longer time to value Errors Resistance to change A headless CMS mitigates each of these common predicaments by first allowing for a separation of skills so that everyone involved is working within their area of expertise. This means developers develop and marketers market. Key takeaway: The people are a critical part of the productivity of your CMS. Headless CMS Helps Attract and Retain Talent This is why an even bigger problem is solved with recruiting and retaining the best development talent. Competitive programmers are happiest when working with the latest technology rather than being stuck using “old tech.” There is significant personal satisfaction that comes with being conversant in cutting edge ways of solving technical problems. Being up to speed on the latest is valued as a smart way to manage a technical career. This provides big benefits to the organization as well as the individual. The freedom of choice that a headless CMS provides is an excellent way to help with the continual struggle with recruiting and retaining the best employees. An organization should never lose sight of the fact that every time you force a developer away from their favorite tools, they lose comfort and this affects productivity. What’s worse, discomfort and low productivity take away a measure of the joy of work, which has a big effect on employee morale. Everyone wants to work in the organizations that pay attention to the personal and career needs of their people. Key takeaway: A headless CMS makes it easier to find and retain the best developers. Headless CMS Encourages Creativity in Your App Ultimately, a headless CMS brings people freedom in their work. With freedom comes a level of satisfaction and creativity that drives an organization to higher levels of performance in the market. With so much change happening in how content is created and consumed in a digital world, a platform that greatly improves the working environment is sure to have a significant impact on productivity and competitiveness. With the time and resources saved from using a headless CMS, a developer using a can focus on thinking ahead, tackling bigger issues, being proactive and creative with problem solving, so they can bring in great ideas like the following: workflow automation bots or digital assistants VR or AR interactive in-store displays wearables or IoT The Bottom Line of Employee Productivity Is That It Ultimately Makes Your Business More Competitive Headless CMS's flexibility opens up a breadth of endless possibilities and allows users, teams, and businesses to hone in on what they can do as opposed to what they can't do. A headless CMS enables a business to quickly adapt to a frenetic, API-led world of expanding devices and content destinations. By increasing productivity and ingenuity within an organization, you also increase agility and shorten time-to-market for creative ideas. The headless CMS platform has been rapidly trending upward for its leap forward in allowing an organization to quickly adapt to a frenetic, API-led world of expanding devices and content destinations. Pace and pressure will only get worse. The need to quickly adapt means a change away from the traditional CMS model. The agility and flexibility brought by a headless CMS move the biggest focus away from the technology platform and toward the marketing and development teams like never before. This is a great focus to have, as that’s where the best organizational differentiator is found: Productivity. While a headless CMS breaks through significant technology barriers, it also meets the ongoing challenge of human productivity, which is a key to survival as everything goes digital. Ultimately, human productivity translates directly to agility and flexibility. As much as we automate our world, the people that are necessary to run the machines remain as the biggest differentiator of success.

Jan 09, 2017

We Predict a Big Shift for Headless CMS in 2017

I’ve been asked by my customers and many others in the industry to predict how headless CMS one-ups itself in 2017. 2016 was an excellent year for headless CMS, with strong growth and plenty of attention from Forrester and other analysts, including Gartner. The verdict is in: Many are making the shift. Those who aren’t already making the move to a platform that takes advantage of the overall trend of flexible, content-as-a-service through microservices and APIs, should be working to get buy-in for such a move. The market is realizing that traditional CMS is limited, time consuming and dissatisfying for the Marketer and the larger organization as well. With these thoughts in mind, here are my predictions for headless CMS in 2017: Headless CMS Will Drive Marketing Beyond the WebMy first prediction has already been made in App Developer Magazine, where Contentstack was asked to weigh in on Blockchain, IoT, chatbots and connected finance. I provided the following, “Content marketing will need to diversify beyond just responsive web marketing to support native apps and IoT devices. Going headless. The responsive web has now become the norm in 2016. No one is doing desktop-only websites anymore, we are now in a world where design agencies just assume a mobile-first approach. With the rise of IoT, many other devices have screens that need to show content too (VR headsets, smartwatches, and so in 2017 we are going to switch to the headless CMS model as the clear front runner for Content Marketing teams. A centralized platform with a decoupled front end and API delivery of content will future-proof any business looking to expand their content portfolio to the masses. As we see the market moving towards microservices and integrating everything via APIs, having a singular content platform to manage everything across the board just makes sense.” So many of today’s tech breakthroughs are dependent on flexible systems that can consume change and allow companies to capitalize on new ways of doing business. There’s no reason a CMS has to be a millstone. Headless CMS Will Drive Platform Freedom (Finally)A Lot of technologies have promised to open up choices for users, but few have delivered on this promise. The challenge has been that every system developer makes choices that lead down a path to proprietary tools. In the case of traditional CMS, those choices lock users into messy plugins and a headache of custom code. Taking advantage of integrated services involves too much vendor lock-in and requires marketers to make risky bets. Headless CMS defeats this problem by eliminating the connection between those who create content and those responsible for its integration and presentation on any and all devices. 2017 will see further growth for the new freedoms that headless CMS brings. The technology itself grows, but so do the myriad of platform choices available for connection, and payment services for e-commerce are a great example. Each day brings more competitive pricing on transactions and a chance to get a better interface for the customer. No one wants to wait for a plugin or recoding when they can keep their content intact, connect to a new microservice and take advantage of better pricing or functionality immediately. With an increasing number of players in just about every service available, there will always be something cheaper, better, and more powerful. Platform freedom will be a big driver of headless CMS in the coming year. Headless CMS Performance Will IncreaseThe demands of IoT, mobile-first and far more ways to display content puts an unbearable load on a traditional content management in 2017, but will push headless CMS to higher performance levels. The natural divide of content and technology responsibilities inherent in a headless CMS allows the API and microservices focus to shine, enabling technologists to use the latest and greatest tools and techniques available—without limits. This allows the platform to be optimized for performance regardless of the boundaries being crossed (devices, distances, timing, volume, synchronization, integration aspects). Headless CMS Will Support Rise of AIAs artificial intelligence, robotics and automation explode, constraints will be the enemy in 2017. Combined with analytics, marketers will be automating decisions on what content ends up where and with what expectation. Consider individual preferences, seasonality or something as simple and unpredictable as the highlights and results of a sporting event. Marketers want to be able to maximize a moment by knowing what to expect and then waiting for the right conditions to present themselves. Content flows to a myriad of destinations, based on flexible logic and integration without being bogged down by the process and technology limitations of a traditional CMS. AI is really interesting because it sets the stage for whole new levels of automation and opportunism for marketers. The traditional CMS begins to look like a telephone with a long cord, hanging on the kitchen wall. The overall tone of 2017 will be of maturation of both the market for headless CMS and the platform itself. We will see more integration with microservices that will satisfy the strong need to pull data together, stronger workflows, and plenty of innovation led by the myriad of use cases that headless CMS solves that simply haven’t been applied yet. These are and will continue to be great times for headless CMS.

Dec 06, 2016

Does Your CMS Support Omnichannel?

Omnichannel has very quickly overshadowed the market’s focus on mobile-first content management systems (CMS). Until very recently, the world was incredibly focused on mobile - and so naturally content (sites, blogs, video, ads and the like) all followed suit, first on mobile only sites and later on those that are responsive. But today screen sizes aren’t limited to just mobile devices like tablets and phones, let alone laptops and desktops. Screens are everywhere: on smart watches, VR headsets, or jumbotrons at arenas. Even a smart TV is essentially a screen that has applications that display content now.. This poses a challenge for anyone creating and sharing omnichannel content. How do you ensure your content looks good on every device? How do you get it out there into the world and onto the screen - without having to format for every single size variation? Because let’s be honest - that’s going to take forever regardless of how agile your team is. The answer is APIs (Application Program Interface). In the context of content, the content management system that supports APIs without dependency on the presentation layer is a headless CMS. With a headless CMS, you can literally point your content to any screen (and anywhere else you need to) thanks to the power of APIs. In a world where technology is driving what feels like daily change, building in flexibility by going back to basics is a smart approach. Rise of Omnichannel Marketing Omnichannel probably deserves an explanation for this context. Simply put, omnichannel means cross channel being done well. It means the look and feel of the website isn’t much different than on mobile, in-store, and any other interaction is also connected to that look and feel. For the consumer, it means there is a continuity of experience. This continuity is even larger than the brand, website or storefront. It extends as far as how the customer collects data and defines their experience for themselves. It doesn’t take much extrapolation to realize that this goes far beyond the content models that most businesses are using today. Done well, it means that a customer trusts a brand to bring content to every experience whether within the control of the brand or outside of it. As an example, for a large retailer, that means first being able to put dynamic offers in mobile apps. These offers are no longer hard-coded and submitted to Apple for approval— they can be updated on the fly. But moving beyond mobile, they’re prepared to use mobile as a bridge into whatever container they have in mind for their dynamic offers. That container could be an automobile, a smartwatch, or anything else that allows the consumer to “carry” their experiences with them. Future-Proofing In times of this magnitude of change, companies need to think hard about what tactics they can employ to help futureproof a business. To prevent today’s investment from being squandered, they need to consider technology options that offer the most flexibility going forward. This is where headless CMS comes strongly into play. The ability to manage content independently of where it will end up is game-changing. With so many industries making the switch to focusing on APIs and microservices, headless CMS content falls very neatly into a very future-proof pattern. If there was ever a time to take the leap of faith, it is now, and many marketers are realizing that if they build it, their content needs will come. Planning for Performance And it isn’t just about the destinations for content. There’s a powerful argument for planning ahead for systems to perform at greater speeds than are needed today. The headless model provides a unique ability to cache content where performance demands. In this new API and microservices world, integration, push notifications and many more things have become easier than ever before. It’s a great thing that API-based applications are being built with less effort and cost, meaning that what doesn’t work can be pitched, and what works can be a place for follow-on investment. Low cost and effort means less emotional attachment to a particular solution. Taking a risk just became cheaper thanks to new architectures and approaches. The future proofing ability of a headless CMS, the technologies of APIs and microservices and the big push for omnichannel marketing are a perfect match for each other. These are complementary technologies that will continue to see growth in the coming years. Headless CMS is the new content engine, APIs and microservices are the structural engine for change, and omnichannel is the new mobile-first. They all couldn’t have come soon enough.

Dec 02, 2016

What to Expect + Best Practices for Implementing a Headless CMS

Once our headless CMS customers have made the decision to move to a flexible, API-driven approach to content management, there are obvious questions about how to begin. Like any change, knowing what to expect and best practices for implementation will make this powerful change happen smoothly. The best way to advise on a great implementation is to break down expectations by the organizational roles that are involved. Marketing Rollout For the CMO and those in Marketing, the change presents itself as a Web UI with a series of templates to manage the input and movement of content. In a big break from traditional CMS, the marketer no longer requires programming skills and won’t need to understand logic frameworks when entering content. This prevents training from being a hurdle and fosters adoption by marketing users. The setup of the CMS structure has a potential impact on the marketing end user and this is an area to put some thought. The best practice is to match the navigation and site structure so that navigating the CMS is as easy as navigating the site. This image is a good example of how the two should align: We also recommend using third party tools to maintain pricing models and other functionality. This is a more powerful way than traditional CMS plugins that require integration and also helps to keep the focus on the content rather than complexity that isn’t in marketing’s wheelhouse. This “putting the focus on content” theme is one of the largest benefits of a headless CMS and should be a focus for implementation. Most organizations have a need to put content in groups to benefit the marketing user. These groups help with organizing content that that will be published together in sections or tiles at the content destination. Working with groups makes layout considerations more simple, and this may seem like a broken record, but also puts the focus on the content. Yes, there’s a consistent theme here. Marketers focused on content will still want to preview the look and feel of publishing. Publishing to a staging front end solves that need and serves as a failsafe prior to putting content out in the public. Beyond the clear previewing benefit, using a staging front end ensures that IT isn’t required to move content to production. This is a clear benefit to any organization used to having wait times and handoffs for getting content out to its destinations. IT Rollout For the CIO and the technologists in the organization, the SaaS model for headless CMS delivery makes life fairly easy. It allows existing code to be reused and only requires the integration of prior systems with new headless CMS APIs. APIs and Microservices are a clear trend in technology today and technical resources are noticeably enthusiastic about this aspect of headless CMS systems. Like any new and different technical approach, developers will need to be trained in using APIs to call content from the headless CMS. They’ll need to feel comfortable with the concept of calls that request all that data that is then mapped to the presentation layer. Unlike Marketing, where training isn’t required, the new patterns for work should be clearly laid out. Modifying and Optimizing Once up and running, modifying and optimizing a headless CMS is fairly straightforward. Customers use rich text editors and have found value and flexibility in adding CSS to their entry as a way to structure content on the fly without IT. An example would be using CSS to right justify or center justify content so that when it hits the destination, formatting unique to the content shows up. The process required to maintain a headless CMS is not different from any other Web development. There is a need to determine templates, content, and the CMS structure to match templates. Default template structures are chosen within the CMS so that marketing people can add new campaign pages quickly and easily. The last but perhaps the most fundamental advice for rolling out a headless CMS is how to add new destinations for content. For the Marketing team, new destinations like mobile devices, watches or the Jumbotron aren’t an issue. Only the front end code is changed to optimize for the new destination, and technology-focused resources can create multiple stacks to address this or contain all the requirements in a single stack. Most importantly with a headless CMS, all of the data, the content, resides in just one place.

Nov 23, 2016

How to Get Company-Wide Buy-In for Headless CMS

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.” The CTO 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.

Nov 10, 2016

Traditional vs. Decoupled vs. Headless CMS – Know the Difference

To understand and, more importantly, value the differences between traditional, decoupled and headless CMS platforms, you first have to let go of the idea that content management systems (CMS) are purely a marketing-focused tool. Managing the production, design and distribution of content has become a major function of most marketing departments. The marketing team has grown used to doing it all and being enabled to design and deploy a web page within their team. This is the case for a traditional CMS deployment and within large organizations the lack of governance in this model can prove troublesome. Traditional or "Coupled" CMS There are clearly pros to doing it alone, but that ability has come with some rather serious drawbacks. For starters, pages need to conform to the database structure they sit atop. By extension, content needs to conform as well. Before you know it, content is being forced into structures that aren’t friendly, intuitive and may not perform to expectations. For all of the benefits of the WYSIWYG editor of the traditional CMS, it can only take an organization so far. Keep in mind that the traditional model was established for websites and was able to modify with responsive themes to adequately manage mobile, but there’s a world of change coming that won’t be satisfied with these systems. Also, traditional systems require components beyond the database, creating challenges for management and scale. Decoupled CMS Demands for greater flexibility and scale have led to the concept of a decoupled CMS. In this world, marketers focus on creating content, and developers focus on the presentation of the content in the front-end. With this approach, the style and presentation of the content is not stored within the content, giving greater flexibility. Marketers do what they’re good at (content), and developers do what they know and love (coding). The downside to a decoupled approach is that the moment a front-end is chosen, the limitations of that choice are then baked into the solution. So while you’ve solved some of the limitations of the traditional approach, you haven’t solved all of them. You’re still in a world that’s tightly coupled to the past. This decoupled model, like the traditional model, hits its limitations when content needs to move quickly to cross-platform use cases. Headless CMS or API-First CMS The need to have systems with even greater flexibility both now and into the future has given rise to another option headless CMS. There is some overlap with decoupled CMS in the sense that it allows for healthy separation between marketing and development needs. However, a truly headless model allows for the limits imposed by any coupled front-end to be thrown out . You end up with centralized model for content but a flexible and better-performing model for where content can go. This is because the Application Program Interface (API) approach of a headless CMS allows content creation to forever remain separate and distinct. Born in tandem with the explosion of API growth and the focus on microservice architecture, anything can call content from a headless CMS. Content becomes just another (but very important) service that can be called by a website, a mobile device, a software platform, an automobile, VR headset, Jumbotron or whatever tomorrow’s technology looks like.

Jul 27, 2015

Best Practices for Content Management Across Mobile, Web and IoT

Designing Content. Wait what? Design your page around your content or design your content around your page? For larger enterprise companies with mountains of content, designing pages around content is ideal. On the other hand, a startup without as much content can design content around the page. At Contentstack, we've seen both methods work successfully for enterprise firms and startups alike. In my experience, most designers prefer to see the content upfront in order to deliver designs that match their client’s needs. Let’s say you have a marketing campaign page for your product and the primary objective is to drive sign-ups. If the design team didn’t have access to your copy first, they may not have prioritized the call to action properly on the page. Responsive Design – a Must-have The days of building a non-responsive website are over. With so much of the market shifting toward mobile, tablets and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, having a non-responsive site won’t cut it. Google is fully aware of this and has started grading your site's SEO based on mobile friendliness. Before planning your redesign or first launch, responsive design and development should be a requirement, not a question. Managing Content Across All Channels Whether it’s a tiny screen like on the Apple Watch or a Jumbotron at a sports event, you’ll need your content to look perfect. Content delivery via the JSON format is the future because it’s lightweight and has become the de facto standard for mobile app content delivery. It allows content to be easily optimized for different end points, ranging from smartphones to emerging IoT form factors. Recognizing this early on, Contentstack stores and delivers all content in JSON. Staging Your Content When you see your content and design come together, it’s a rewarding experience for all the teams involved. Staging your content in an environment identical to your production one will allow your team to start editing your content in real time. When I say identical, I don’t mean just really similar, I mean exactly the same OS, same DB, and the same plugins. Talk to your DevOps team; they’ll understand. Contentstack allows users of all skill levels to mantain and update their own authorized content, including images, videos and more. Best practice should always be to check any changes on the staging environment before committing to the production environment push. With built-in version control, you can easily roll back edits and start over if need be, or continue to iterate while maintaining a detailed version history. Stakeholder Review (aka Business UAT) The stakeholder review stage is when the website is designed, developed and content is complete. This typically happens within a few days or a week before a big marketing deadline or an important announcement. In larger companies, the web marketing team will need sign off from members throughout the organization in different business units and upper management. Some of these teams may not have been involved in the initial content creation but will usually have some additional input – sometimes a lot. Having the ability to manage content in a CMS quickly is key here. You may want to try and identify these stakeholders who have strong opinions earlier on so you can get them involved in the preliminary stages when design decisions and content are being determined. Go Live Okay. Everyone has signed off; let’s go live! Time to push your staged code repository to your cloud infrastructure. DevOps to the rescue! Production delivery is usually done during off peak hours, typically just after midnight to account for multiple timezones. Having scalable cloud infrastructure to deliver to thousands, or sometimes millions, of users is critical. The DevOps support team is there to ensure the smooth delivery and backup of your environment. If at any point site traffic is exceeding the configured infrastructure, your DevOps team can quickly ramp up some virtual machines with your scalable cloud environment to support the extra usage, eliminating the risk of a potential outage. Post Production Management Your SEO optimized site is now live, your Google Analytics is firing, and pixel tracking is in place. Maybe you explore a little bit of A/B Testing with Adobe Target or Optimizely and find you’re not getting the traffic or demographics you desire. After performing a deep dive into your analytics, starting with your first month’s worth of data to reach statistical significance, you’ve come up with some targeted content changes you would like to make. With Contentstack, you can deploy your content changes and update your SEO keywords or tags on the fly to start getting the traffic or user base you desire. It’s as easy as type and publish. Time to Publish Now that you have read about some industry best practices for content management for mobile, web, and IoT, you have the foundation for accelerating your business into the future. Interested in how Contentstack can help you be successful in your mobile, web or IoT endeavors? Contact us for more information on Contentstack or a demo.