Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) has sparked a “revolution” in how web content management (WCM) products are built.

According to Forrester Research analyst Mark Grannan, PaaS removes friction from the delivery process by automating infrastructure tasks which allows digital practitioners to focus on content. He shared these thoughts with CMSWire in an interview following the publication of his Forrester Wave for Web Content Management Systems.

PaaS Unlocks Assets

Platform-as-a-Service goes beyond cloud hosting and covers the way WCM systems are built and iterated on, said Grannan.

PaaS deployments provide application development and deployment tools abstracted from the underlying cloud infrastructure on which they run your apps.

“Platform-as-a-Service is truly a revolution in the way products themselves are built,” Grannan told CMSWire. “And you pass those benefits on to the practitioners like marketers. They get access to capabilities sooner. They can rationalize a lot of their assets that might have been locked away in other repositories because they can stitch these together more seamlessly with cloud tools.” 

Cloud WCM Builds Flexibility Into the Back End

In short, PaaS and cloud-first is winning in WCM — at least according to two of the most watched analyst firms. Forrester’s thinking is similar to fellow analyst firm Gartner's here. 

Gartner, in its latest Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management stated cloud services, and specifically microservices, will win in WCM.

“Microservices with a high level of interoperability will enable WCM elements to be coupled with different sets of third-party technologies, depending on the requirements of the current phase of the customer's journey,” Gartner report authors Mick MacComascaigh and Jim Murphy wrote.

In his report, Grannan cited APIs, semantic content, cloud and marketing as key WCM features. The combination of APIs and cloud computing offers organizations increased flexibility and agility with integrations.

“APIs are hugely important for a lot of different reasons,” Grannan told CMSWire. “Software developers will commonly build on microservices architecture if they’re starting with modern-day best practices. That enables faster integration on the backend. It enables repeatable use of content on the front end and allows for you to run things in environments with less customization. If you can containerize microservices then you can run it in a hybrid cloud environment, on-premises or in the cloud as necessary — as it meets your needs."

Renewed Focus on Business Value

Cloud-based environments “truly unlock a lot of potential by taking the friction out of the process that was there because of software stability needs, or patches and upgrades, or testing and QA workflows.”

Content management systems that truly embrace cloud and PaaS allow for those challenges to be automated, Grannan said.

“And it can accelerate workflow,” he added, “in a very transparent and safe way.”

Organizations in such an environment benefit because digital champions like marketers focus on just that — digital experience (DX) delivery and not backend infrastructure. They can optimize content authoring and content structure, which allows them to improve testing and optimization across other digital touch points, Grannan said.

“Rather than focus on the operational value, you focus on engagement and business value,” Grannan told CMSWire. “So it becomes a shift of your resources to really focus on things that matter for the brand.”

Not everyone shares Grannan's enthusiasm for PaaS.

In a recent article on CMSWire, Kentico CEO Petr Palas noted the limitations of PaaS deployments, specifically the challenges of customization in the environment. 

"These can be easily deployed and managed with automated procedures, but they leave little space for your specific needs," wrote Palas.

Kentico was named a Challenger in Gartner's most recent WCM magic quadrant, but didn't make the cut in Forrester's WCM Wave.

Cloud Infrastructure 'Table Stakes'

Some are unsurprised by the emphasis from Forrester and Gartner on cloud computing, microservices and APIs.

Chris Chodnicki, executive director of strategic partnerships and IT at R2integrated, a Baltimore-based MarTech agency, said the PaaS movement is here to stay.

Learning Opportunities

He sees organizations like Adobe trying to position themselves as a true managed cloud solution because the “marketplace is demanding this from a cost, efficiency and scale type of basis.”

Chodnicki called infrastructure hosting environments for CMS table stakes. 

“There’s a lot of talk the last two years about a headless CMS — that ability to from a CMS perspective be more of a publishing vehicle and a true administrator of that content as opposed to try to do everything all in different environments,” said Chodnicki, whose firm helps organizations work with platforms like Adobe, Acquia, Sitecore, Microsoft and Salesforce. “It’s about how developers work in these environments and how fast organizations can leverage all this to get ROI.”

Vendors: Keeping Up with the Cloud Imperative

CMSWire caught up with officials at three of the WCM providers in the Forrester Wave report to hear how they're responding to these trends.   

Sitecore: We’re Innovating on Cloud

The big story in this year’s Wave was probably Forrester’s downgrade of Sitecore from a leader to a "strong performer." Forrester gave Sitecore low marks for its cloud offerings.

Ryan J. Donovan, VP of corporate communications for Sitecore, noted the Forrester Wave identified a half-dozen companies that “stand apart in this dynamic market and, of these, Sitecore scored in the top three for the capabilities that companies use today to serve their customers.” Forrester said Acquia, Adobe, Episerver, Hippo, Sitecore and SDL "stand apart, while others are heavily investing."

Donovan added Forrester did not consider Sitecore’s most recently available capabilities in its evaluation. He cited cloud innovations such as Microsoft Azure Web Apps compatibility. Grannan did note Sitecore's plan to add native Azure-managed services this year in his report.

In July, Sitecore announced its intentions to develop Platform-as-a-Service optimizations native and specific to Microsoft Azure, as well as adopt the Azure Resource Manager and Azure Marketplace as primary resource management and provisioning vehicles. Sitecore also is investing in AI and microservices, Donovan said. 

Episerver: Responsive Content Is Future

James Norwood, CMO and EVP of strategy for Stockholm-based Episerver, a Forrester leader, told CMSWire the future of content is “intelligent, responsive to real-time behavior and individualized to visitors. And we are making this a reality on an agile, unified and scalable cloud platform.”

Episerver increased resources for its partner channel in 2016, particularly in North America, and invested in in omnichannel personalization, campaign management solutions and machine learning capabilities. 

Acquia: DX Pressure Intense

David Aponovich, senior director of digital experience at Boston-based Acquia, the only open source WCM vendor named a leader, told CMSWire brands are under more intense pressure than ever before to deliver great DX.

“While enterprises going through digital transformation are forced to respond to the requirements of the here and now, it’s essential that they look ahead to the future,” he said. “The future of their brand, their competitiveness in a digital-first world and their ability to put the customer first across all interactions and experiences. What we know for certain is that digital will continue to change, and enterprises need to be ready to adapt in order to keep up.”

Open source WCM, cloud and multi-site management are critical, Aponovich said. 

He noted Adobe and Sitecore have promised PaaS services, but “we’ve been delivering cloud solutions for nearly nine years; we saw where the market was going in 2008 and, as a result, have thousands of customers worldwide today who trust us to support their digital experiences using our cloud platform.”

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.