View of downtown San Francisco, including the Salesforce Tower
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Gartner analyst Mick MacComascaigh told us four years ago he did not see Salesforce’s lack of a web content management system (web CMS) as a hindrance but added “it would be one heck of an opportunity for Salesforce to have a stronger story around web content management and content marketing.” Salesforce this month made that opportunity a reality. Salesforce, known for its CRM, announced on Nov. 7 the Salesforce Content Management System, its own hybrid CMS.

Why Salesforce CMS Matters

Why is this news important to marketers and practitioners who use web CMS as a core component of creating digital experiences? It gives one of the leaders in Gartner’s and Forrester’s digital experience (DX) vendor rankings a software asset it long has lacked. A web CMS is said by some to be the backbone of digital experiences. Further, Salesforce’s addition of a web CMS potentially shakes up the DX landscape at the very top, where big players like Adobe, Sitecore, Oracle and SAP play and compete to be the central DX software hub for brands who care about digital. “I think this expands the competition in activating relevant customer experiences across all channels,” said Steve Riegel, alliance strategy and innovation lead at Merkle. “The promise of a hybrid CMS with drag-and-click content creation, management, delivery and distribution to Salesforce and other digital platforms — through headless APIs — will create interest in marketing teams looking to expand the impact of their Salesforce CRM data. The ability to democratize content creation will be a big draw.”

Related Article: Can Salesforce Offer Optimum DX Without a Web CMS?

Wait for the Salesforce CMS Roadmap

Or is this just hype for now? Possibly. Mark Grannan, senior analyst for Forrester and one of the lead researchers and authors of the Forrester Wave for Digital Experience Platforms, said the Salesforce CMS “has emerged from beta with a fairly narrow scope and impact: existing Salesforce Community Cloud customers gain the means to enable practitioners to create and update their semi-structured content without a developer.”

Buyers for at least the next nine months to a year, and possibly much longer, should not view Salesforce CMS as a replacement for a full-featured enterprise CMS that back-ends a large set of digital experiences and public-facing websites, Grannan told CMSWire. “However, Salesforce customers should stay tuned because the next steps for Salesforce CMS will happen quickly, and will impact the B2B and B2C Commerce solutions first,” Grannan said.

Grannan and DXP Wave co-author Ted Schadler said in their July 8 report that Salesforce is strong in commerce, campaigns, messaging, customer profile, developer tools and API management but weaker in web experience management, content hub and marketing and rich media content. They evaluated what they call the Salesforce Community Cloud Digital Experience Platform.

Brian Payne, vice president of Digital Experience Solutions for Connective DX, agreed with Grannan’s take, adding he’d be hesitant to recommend Salesforce CMS to a non-Salesforce customer or an organization that has more typical enterprise web CMS needs until Salesforce has established a clear CMS roadmap. “Based on what I’ve read, Salesforce CMS appears to be more of an evolution of CMS for Community Cloud and not necessarily a solution built from the ground-up to be a complete replacement for a leading, enterprise web CMS like Sitecore or Adobe Experience Manager,” Payne added.

Related Article: Does Web Content Management Have an Agile Future?

Salesforce CMS: Not All That New

Underneath the surface of the Salesforce CMS release is Salesforce Ventures’ $300 million investment in Automattic, the parent company of WordPress, the world’s most popular web CMS, in September. Salesforce officials didn’t link the two — the Automattic investment and the new Salesforce CMS announced this month — but it’s clear the company known for CRM is doubling down on content investments.

This, however, is nothing new, as industry analyst Tony Byrne of Real Story Group points out in a blog after the Salesforce CMS news broke. Byrne said Salesforce had a "site.com" hybrid CMS/Portal offering he analyzed in 2012. Salesforce’s site.com began as just a simple authoring system, Byrne noted, but soon Salesforce “realized that developing a full-blown CMS on the force.com platform would prove very, very difficult, and turned their attention elsewhere amid the big push for Lightning. Like most old CMS platforms, site.com didn't really die — it just faded away.” To that end, Byrne suggested buyers, before investing in the new Salesforce CMS, wait at least a year to assess the true level of Salesforce commitment to its CMS.

Content Always a Good Investment

That said, a boost in content management is a good thing for Salesforce, according to Payne. “Any improvements in Salesforce’s content management capabilities will help to further solidify their position as a frontrunner in the overall DX platform space,” he said.

Merkle’s Riegel pointed out that Salesforce is bringing drag-and-drop content creation and syndication capabilities to its tech stack offerings. “It offers the ability to connect customer data to published content in a meaningful way delivered with speed to market and relevancy in mind,” Riegel said. “Think about how much more connected a customer experience can be with the ability to pull CRM contextual data into customer touchpoints.”        

Related Article: What You Need to Know About Digital Experience Platforms

Salesforce: Legacy CMS Doesn't Cut It

Adi Kuruganti, Salesforce’s general manager for the Community Cloud and SVP of product management for B2B Commerce, blogged Nov. 7 that legacy CMS are designed for a single touchpoint, not an ever-evolving, omnichannel, customer journey. “We built Salesforce CMS to help empower teams, from novices to experts, to create content, and then it deliver to any channel — all connected to customer data,” he added.

Salesforce and Kuruganti touted the ability to turn CRM data into content by taking a CRM record and translating the rows and columns into “rich, visual content, like a banner, tile menu, or engaging promotional CTA (call-to-action).” He also lauded the ability to create content in a central location and syndicate it to any digital touchpoint, whether it’s an experience powered by Salesforce or another system. It includes multi-language, translation support and permissions. “If you want to deliver content onto a third-party site, experience, or mobile app,” Kuruganti blogged, “you can use our headless APIs to deliver content smoothly.”