Dog running through a an obstacle shaped like a tube for agility training.
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Agile content management systems, or Agile CMS, support a move away from traditional page-centric or web-centric experiences to “something that fits the customer lifecycle better.” The software enables technicians and creatives to work together collaboratively and supports omnichannel delivery.

Forrester analyst Nick Barber shared those thoughts in an interview with CMSWire about the software category he and colleagues analyzed in their Forrester Wave: Agile Content Management Systems, Q1 2021 published in February.

“It’s something that's able to allow both techies and creatives to work collaboratively on something versus headless CMS, which very much appeals to the techies. But you haves the creatives saying, ‘Where did my tools go?’” Barber told CMSWire. “And previous iterations of CMS or Web CMS, or whatever you want to call it, was maybe focused on the creatives but not the techies. So we think with Agile CMS, the pendulum has sort of swung back to the center to serve both the creatives and the techies and acknowledge that there are other channels beyond the web.”

Welcome, Agile CMS

Forrester has pushed agility in content management technologies before. But this is a new Wave in a hot space. What does this mean for the content creators and marketers in the room? First, let's get past the hype: this is just another analyst firm's way to describe content-producing and content-managing software. There are a lot of ways this software is evolving, for sure, and the analysts are modifying their vernacular for these software categories.

Gartner has its Digital Experience Platforms Magic Quadrant, which replaced the old Web Content Management report. Aragon Research touts a new category of Content Experience Platforms, for which the firm is expected to release a vendor report this month.

And now Forrester’s got its Agile CMS Wave, a new report that replaces the Web Content Management Wave that last published in the fall of 2018. By the way, Forrester also does a DXP Wave. Oh, and 10 of the vendors in the Agile CMS Wave are also in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for DXPs.

Confused yet? It's OK.

For the record, these aren’t just any vendors we’re talking about here: Gartner’s DXP Magic Quadrant includes vendors whose DXP offering must have generated revenue of at least $17 million with at least 5% year-over-year revenue growth in the rolling 12 months leading up to June 2020. And Forrester for its Agile CMS requires a track record as the primary CMS for omnichannel content at large organizations: current Forbes Global 1000 customers cite them as having strategic customer-facing or partner-facing digital content.

And just in case you didn’t think people in this space were passionate about how to actually define the space, check out the activity on LinkedIn here:

Are We Really Beyond the Website?

Here’s the bottom line on these reports and how analysts think about the content-producing and content-managing software category: we're past "web experiences." We can all agree there. Brands need content experiences for channels their prospects and customers care about, and it may not be the website. The software used to power these experiences needs to be agile to support collaborative workflows and content experiences across multiple devices and channels.

Sure. But are marketers really ready to abandon their website? Not even close. The CMO Survey by Duke University published last month found that most marketers (73.8%) will spend a bulk of their time optimizing their website. 

It beat out, in terms of planned investments in digital marketing:

  • Digital media and search: 65.0%
  • Direct digital marketing: 57.3%
  • Data analytics: 56.5%
  • Marketing technology systems or platforms: 53.8%
  • Online experimentation and/or A/B testing: 45.4%
  • Managing privacy issues: 28.5%

Forrester itself has said in the past that web content management is a backbone of digital experience delivery. Have we now reached a point where it's just content management is the backbone?

Barber sees Agile CMS as a way that brands can deliver their digital persona to the world. “Agile CMS embodies their digital persona,” Barber said. “CMS is still relevant, but I think we're seeing it sort of cozy up a little bit to digital experience platforms. CMS becomes a component of digital experience platforms. They're not interchangeable obviously. But CMS is a component of the digital experience platform that's complemented by things like data and commerce and those sorts of things.”

Related Article: What Is a Content Experience Platform?

DAM Meeting CMS

Vendors Forrester analyzed for Agile CMS bring together traditional digital asset management (DAM) with traditional content management systems (CMS). "They're not colliding, but they're not staying so separate,” Barber said. “It is establishing the single source of truth inside of the organization around content and experiences and allowing all those endpoints to pull from a common centralized repository.”

Several components create Agile CMS, Barber said. The legacy DAM world brought collaboration, content hubs and planning. Channel delivery and content services come from the traditional CMS space.

“So I think from a collaboration perspective, it's about giving those practitioners more visibility into the content creation process, so they know where a piece of content or an experience is in the creative process,” Barber said. “It’s identifying where those bottlenecks might be and driving a lot of efficiency for organizations before the content or the experience even gets to market. We're definitely seeing companies make make strides there.”

Where Agile CMS Supports Content Workflows

Some of the vendors in this space are investing heavily in supporting workflows when it comes to creating content experiences. Barber cited Adobe's acquisition of Workfront and Sitecore's Stylelabs acquisition. Collaborative tools within these content management software suites support practitioners, and Forrester said embedded AI and automation will be making inroads.

Content can be viewed in three panes, according to Barber:

  • Paid, owned and earned media
  • Customer lifecycle
  • Channels

"When you start to think about all of this content that's being created across paid, owned and earned media, across the customer lifecycle and across all these channels, you’ve got massive complexity and workflows manage that complexity," Barber said.

Related Article: How the Move from Web CMS to DXP Is Fraying Key Social Contracts

What Does Your CMS Need?

Understanding this market comes down to understanding content development needs. When multiple departments or stakeholders are involved in content development, and there are multiple pieces of content being published or shared daily with different customer groups, it might be time to start evaluating CMS capabilities and a partner to streamline the process, according to Mary Schneeberger, marketing experience practice lead at Avionos, a digital experience agency.

“Once a business determines the need for a new CMS, they must select the right platform to meet their everyday content creation and management needs, while also enabling future company growth and enduring challenges brought on by sudden circumstances like the pandemic,” Schneeberger said. “CMS look different based on the aspects of an experience they manage and how those aspects can be managed by all stakeholders on the content, marketing or sales team.”

It must have flexibility to allow users to control high touch or high-value experiences while letting the system handle more simplified tasks, she said, adding, “Businesses can leverage a services partner to facilitate the requirements gathering for a new CMS and platform alignment to those requirements to make a final decision.”

Business leaders must also think about who in their organization will use the new CMS to align on the skill sets required to operate the platform and identify training opportunities as needed. “It will take some preparation work to make sure businesses are investing in the right system at the right time, but once that’s determined," she said, "businesses will be well on their way to share compelling content more easily with customers."