When change comes about, some fears arise. 

Amongst those considering a headless CMS, one fear that comes up is around increased complexity. But technology is actually here to help simplify content management — and help the user focus on the content itself. 

Jurre van Ruth, composable DXP strategic lead at PostNL (a Netherlands-based e-commerce company), is working with Contentstack, a headless, API-first content management platform and a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s CMSWire CONNECT Conference. To follow up on the Contentstack session at CMSWire Connect on Thursday, May 11, CMSWire spoke with van Ruth about creating critical stakeholder buy-in for a headless CMS and composable tech stacks. 

Composable to Focus on Content

CMSWire: What does the “ideal” digital experience look like? 

Jurre van Ruth: The ideal digital experience varies depending on the specific needs and goals of target audiences, but also the organizations themselves. Overall, you could say user-centered, consistent, engaging, accessible and measurable so you can always optimize it to the evolving needs and preferences of its users. 

But I like to add something to this, and that is that the ideal digital experience is a positive experience and one that a visitor will tell others about. 

CMSWire: What is a headless CMS and where does it fit in a composable tech stack?

van Ruth: Headless CMS is not some mythical creature with a detachable head, though that would be an interesting conference talk. In the world of content management systems, a headless CMS is a CMS that focuses solely on managing and delivering content, without the front-end (or “head”) that traditional CMSs typically provide. This enables you to publish content components instead of entire pages. 

Now, where does it fit in a composable tech stack? Well, a composable tech stack is all about

flexibility and agility, and a headless CMS is the perfect fit. By separating content management from the presentation layer, a headless CMS allows you to mix and match your tech stack components to create the perfect combination for your needs. Whether you’re using a static site generator, a front-end framework or something in between, a headless CMS can add content to it. Then once you have your content, you can add other capabilities into the mix: personalization, presentation, orchestration or others. You’re focusing solely on content. 

Stakeholders 101

CMSWire: Who are the stakeholders for a composable tech stack? Why should stakeholders invest in this technology? 

van Ruth: This includes everyone from the C-suite executives, all the way to the developers, and everyone in between. But because we’re talking about a composable tech stack in accordance with the digital experience, I would say your CTO, CIO, CMO and then the relevant C-1s. 

I look especially for who are the ones who are going to use it, work in it and who are the ones who are going to receive from it. And then I choose the managers of those people. 

CMSWire: What do the people who use a composable tech stack typically look for? 

van Ruth: For example, when you look at the composable tech stack in the sense of digital experience, and especially looking at content, the ones that receive from it would be the touchpoints. For example, the website team or the app team. 

What they preferably want is to have as little logic as possible, so when they receive the output from the CMS, they don’t then have to look through it and pick what they should select. It should be to the point, this is the content that you’re going to show. They don’t have to pick anything. And of course it should be easily integrable so it’s not a big hassle to connect to it. 

And you want your outputs within a certain timeframe, so the visitor to the website or app doesn’t have to wait for too long for the website to generate the experience. 

Show Your Stack

CMSWire: How do teams successfully advocate for adding a headless CMS to a composable tech stack? 

van Ruth: An important thing to understand is the landscape in which a CMS will operate. And also in what way content must contribute to the value that the organization wants to offer the visitor. 

Learning Opportunities

Then, it’s important to do your research and understand the benefits that a headless CMS can bring to your composable tech stack. You should make sure to clearly articulate these benefits to your stakeholders, and provide specific examples of how a headless CMS can address pain points and help achieve business goals. Really align your solution with the problem that you have, but also the ambition you have. 

It’s important to involve stakeholders early and often in the process, so that you can do it together. It’s not only you who feels the problem and the ambition, and then feels that this is the solution. You don’t have to start convincing them at a later moment. That makes change management easier later on. This will also help build buy-in and support for the adoption of a headless CMS.

Then when you present your case for a headless CMS, it can be helpful to show what you want. Demo to illustrate how it works and how it can be integrated into your existing tech stack. This can help stakeholders visualize the benefits and get excited about the possibilities. 

Everybody can come up with why we shouldn’t do it and why the older situation is good, but when you actually sit behind the keys yourself, you can experience it and then you will often notice that the hurdles you saw aren’t even that high — or there are even boosters. 

Featured image with "Connect Quotes" and a headshot of Jurre vsn Ruth on top with a quote from van Ruth that says, “The ideal digital experience is a positive experience and one that a visitor will tell others about.”

Overcoming Fears

CMSWire: What are some common fears stakeholders might have about this technology? How can teams mitigate those fears and turn stakeholders into advocates? 

van Ruth: Fear of the unknown. Stakeholders may be hesitant to adopt it because they’re unfamiliar with it and what it means and are unsure how it will fit with the existing tech stack. So to mitigate this fear, you can provide education on the CMS, how it works and how it can benefit the organization. Demonstrating how a headless CMS integrates with other components of the tech stack can also help stakeholders understand how it fits into the bigger picture and how it will help the strategies of the company as well.

And, of course, resistance to change. In the Netherlands, we have a saying that translates to “old wine in new bags.” Meaning you’re still doing the old stuff, just in a new system. Instead, you want innovation. 

You’re always used to doing it in a certain way, but you propose something that is a bit different, and alarm bells start going off. Maybe that’s a good thing that we can’t do it in the old way anymore. Listen to the users and really listen to the fears that they have. Then you understand how to address those fears and take them away with, for example, educational workshops.

CMSWire: What do you like to do in your spare time?

van Ruth: I really love sports. I love to watch almost every sport, but I also go to the gym. I also enjoy music: listening, but I also play the piano. And I’ve recently started a new hobby of digital art on my iPad, more toward concept art. I also love to read about self-development, history and philosophy. 

Contentstack is a Visionary-level sponsor of the CMSWire CONNECT conference. To learn more, visit CMSWire CONNECT.