Matthew Baier is a man of many hats — an astrophysicist by trade, a sommelier and a tech executive with an eye toward the latest innovations. Enterprise software is where he’s spent most of his career, with past roles at iconic tech companies including Salesforce, Oracle and Sun Microsystems. He’s helped found three companies with his fellow friends and innovators.
His latest venture has been headless content management system Contentstack — a product for enterprise customers that existed as part of a multi-product company until 2018, when interest in headless content management really took off. Then Baier and his partners spun off with Contentstack. He also serves on the advisory board for the MACH Alliance, a non-profit cooperation of technology companies helping enterprise organizations navigate the complex modern technology landscape.
Matthew Baier is the chief operating officer and chief marketing officer at Contentstack, a sponsor of CMSWire's DXSummit Spring event taking place May 27 as an online event. Contentstack's CEO, Neha Sampat, will deliver a keynote titled "Agile CMS: An API-First Approach for Content, Technology and Speed" during the event.
We spoke with this tech leader and self-proclaimed “Stephen Hawking fanboy” about how a smart CMS strategy can keep your organization agile, how the digital customer experience has shifted over the past several years and how tech can either enable or inhibit agility.
We're Only Scratching the Surface of What's Possible in Digital Experience
CMSWire: How do the tech stacks of today compare to how the same work was accomplished five years ago? What kind of changes, if any, do you expect in the next five years?
Matthew Baier: Five years ago, 'stacks' often looked a lot like an assembly of 'suites.' Companies would buy all-in-one solutions to enable their teams to have access to maximum functionality — the more that came bundled, the better. The convenience of single-vendor procurement and support frequently came at the expense of quality — after all, no single product, no matter how comprehensive, can be great at everything.
Today, individuals and companies demand the best, with no tolerance for subpar tools or products. Across the martech landscape, what is considered the best may vary substantially by category, industry and use case — and with time. The nirvana is to compose your dream tech stack by cherry picking the best solution from every relevant category and being able to add or exchange parts without disruption and without breaking the overall architecture.
Five years from now, the pendulum will likely have swung back a bit, as organizations realize that best-in-class and seamlessness don’t have to be at odds with each other. Companies may want the best, but they ideally want everything to work together — almost as if it was a single product suite.
CMSWire: What innovations excite you about the future of this technology?
Baier: From retail to entertainment to finance, content has the opportunity to change the way a product or brand is experienced by its customers.
Sports teams like the Miami Heat have created connected experiences that bring together the physical and digital aspects of their sports franchise in a way that elevates the fan experience — before, during and after the game, and regardless of physical location. Financial services company Ellie Mae pivoted their flagship annual event to be 100% digital in the face of the pandemic. They beat their attendance goals, gained more and deeper insights into their audience, and ended up reimagining future events based on the superior experience and execution.
Being able to combine technologies and then use them beyond their original purpose opens up endless possibilities for brands to quickly and easily create connected experiences. I think we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface with what is becoming possible.
CMSWire: Which types of organizations can especially benefit from the headless CMS, and why?
Baier: Any organization with a traditional CMS suite has already run into the limitations of that technology. Everything you do with these legacy systems is slow, complicated and expensive. The world has changed a lot since these systems were designed 20 years ago. Audiences demand more than static websites, and a lackluster mobile app doesn’t cut it anymore. Speed in today’s market is critical. Slow CMS jeopardizes that agility.
Any brand for whom content is important can benefit from headless CMS. Developers caught on early because headless allows them to work with any technology of their choosing when building digital experiences. Similarly, marketers and content teams have realized that omnichannel content management demands a headless approach. Headless CMS enables the business to move faster. The key is infusing headless CMS with intuitive simplicity that enables marketers to do more with less reliance on developers.
Do You Know What Matters to Your Audience?
CMSWire: Has what customers expect out of the digital customer experience changed in the past few years? Why or why not?
Baier: What our customers expect out of a digital customer experience has changed significantly in the past few years. Perhaps even more poignantly, what our customers’ customers expect has dramatically shifted. For the last 20 years, digital content has been mostly static, web-focused, generic and rather predictable. By contrast, today’s digital interactions span web, mobile, AR/VR and voice, to name a few. And the best ones are highly dynamic and individualized.
Companies that simply blast out digital content are missing out on the opportunity to actually learn about what matters to their audience members. Ultimately, they’re at risk of losing their fans and allies to competitors that are taking the care to create meaningful, seamless and individualized digital experiences.
CMSWire: How can technology help agility? How can it hinder agility?
Baier: Tech agility and business agility might seem like separate considerations at first, but the ability to change your mind in the face of new insights is something that can pop up anywhere in an organization, and tech quickly becomes either a catalyst or a roadblock.
In these situations, technology that supports the ability to learn, change course and adapt is superior to technology that mandates a certain direction. Business agility depends heavily on technology agility, and with Contentstack we are committed to addressing both needs. By removing technological complexity, we empower users to independently address their shifting needs. This frees developers from mundane content tasks, allowing them to focus on building the next cool digital experience.
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