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Content Management Systems in 2017 – Trends, Predictions and Innovations

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This post first appeared on LinkedIn, published by Kane Barton, Technical Account Manager, Kiandra IT

 

One of the coolest things about being a technical account manager, is the opportunity to see how the same technology is implemented across many different industries and customers. One technology that is widely adopted across industries and customers is the humble content management system (CMS).

For most organisations, the CMS gets relegated to being treated as a poor cousin of their fancier and more fashionable Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms. While common, it doesn’t necessarily mean their CMS is not just as important or mission critical, but instead, it just doesn’t get as much attention. In recent years it’s actually quite surprising (but exciting) to see just how far the CMS has become in being an integral part of many businesses and marketing departments.

Almost every aspect of business today faces some form of digital disruption and the CMS is no exception. A good quality CMS will have over 100 features out of the box and be integrated into multiple core business systems. Commercial businesses like Adobe, Sitecore and Kentico all have wonderful product offerings that truly redefine what people have come to imagine from a CMS. They are massive platforms with a vast breadth of functionality and capability.

With disruption lurking around every corner and an extremely competitive market space, businesses need to continually invest in their CMS platforms.

So, unsurprisingly in my line of work I’m regularly asked questions about the future of CMS platforms. My clients want answers to questions like “what are other industries doing with their CMS?” or “how can we increase our competitive advantage from our CMS?” or “what should we look for in our next CMS?” or “what killer feature should we be making better use of?”

I typically respond with “it depends” (clichéd I know) and then go into a lengthy discussion around what I see as the top emerging technology trends, predictions and innovations in CMS platforms.

Here are my top six predictions on the trends and innovations that will drive CMS platforms over the next 12 months.

 

1) Monolith to Microservice CMS

For the technical folk among us, the concept of microservices has become a very appealing architectural approach. Microservices are a proven way of creating business application(s) by orchestrating a suite of small independent services organised by business capabilities, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms. You can imagine microservices as digital Lego blocks that can be combined and interchanged to make powerful business applications.

Applying microservices concepts would split current monolith CMS platforms into much smaller interchangeable parts. I believe the current trend from monoliths to microservices — for developing line of business applications — will start to be adopted by CMS platforms.

Why should you care about how the CMS platform is constructed? If it’s done well, the concept (or architecture) will bring a number of benefits such as faster time to market with new features, more attractive licensing (as you should only pay for what you need), improved scalability (as each component can be scaled to meet its specific needs), reduced risk when upgrading older features and better service interchangeability.

 

2) Decoupled rendering

Decoupled rendering is the concept of split content management or administration from content rendering and presentation. Businesses can achieve serious agility by allowing developers to create new, innovative user experiences without having to re-implement the whole CMS. User experiences can be surfaced in a variety of ways, from single page applications, to specifically targeted sections of content, to statically generated sites or even dedicated mobile layouts. With decoupled rendering multiple frontends can, and should be able to peacefully, coexist.

The responsibility of the CMS is separated from presentation to facilitate content management, editorial, and administrative functions.

In 2017 we will see the decoupled rendering trend explode in popularity and practicality, with CMS platforms offering decoupled rendering taking market share from those which do not.

 

3) Exceptional searching

It would be fair to say most CMS portals have a heavy reliance on content searching and when it comes to searching user expectations are high. Users expect contextual relevance, geo-location awareness, alternative suggestions, spelling corrections, near-instantaneous responses, multiple language support, faceted result filtering, natural language searching and more. Searching is an incredibly complex task, from scanning content to determine context, to identifying keywords, to determining the currency of the content, to automatically scaling capacity up and down based on demand.

Surfacing relevant content to answer questions like “show me press releases from last month” or “what is the lowest fee credit card?” is extremely difficult. Even the best CMS platforms fail to adequately offer search results you or I would expect from Google or Bing.

In 2017 I predict we will see the emergence of CMS search functionality that is directly integrated to highly mature cloud search services like Azure Search or CloudSearch from Amazon. The Azure Search service is the exact same code that powers Bing, a multi-billion dollar division of Microsoft. These specialist search services provide a Google-like experience, performance and have an army of people all working on improving their offering.

 

4) Customer support

Immersive customer support services from industry leaders like Intercom, LiveChat, ZenDesk Chat and UserEngage have redefined how customers and companies interact together. These types of services have brought about a new way of connecting with people and provide unique experiences, with the best examples being virtual person-to-person interaction. The level and reach for customer engagement is immense and many businesses are heavily investing (technology, strategy, money and culture) in this area.

Most CMS platforms offer varying levels of ways to engage customers, for example live chat, but in all honesty when comparing the system default functionality to these specialist services, the inbuilt functionality pales in comparison. From my experience it doesn’t perform well, is clunky to maintain, only offers a small subset of expected functionality, and most importantly the experience is well below that of specialist offerings.

An innovation I would like to see happen in 2017 is CMS platforms that embrace these specialist third party offerings and providing an easy mechanism to switch out the inbuilt functionality.

 

5) Security

Security authentication and authorisation is, to be honest, a very boring and dry subject. Typically, the level of security expected by a business of their CMS is higher, more complex and more demanding than the functionally offered by most CMS platforms. The security, reputational, financial and operational risks to a business in having low quality authentication or authorisation controls is immeasurable.

It may not seem it on the surface but the world of authentication and authorisation is extremely complex. Aside from mandatory expectations like password hashing and data encryption, complexities arise in the form of enterprise directory single sign-on over protocols like SAML and WS-Federation, social logins, SOX levels of auditability, integration with other services like Salesforce and multifactor authentication. Few CMS systems provide all of the functionality expected by today’s businesses.

Business expectations are further demanding by the growing necessity for even more security controls like; password less authentication, biometric security, breached password detection, Google Authenticator and so forth. It is unimaginable that any CMS platform can realistically react quickly enough and keep up with this rapid pace of demand. The cost to retro fit these key controls into existing systems is understandably high.

There are however specialist services which exist to service this exact need, services like Auth0, Stormpath and DailyCred. My prediction for 2017 is the emergence of CMS platforms that will be integrated and configured to use these specialist authentication and authorisation services out of the box — being the default mechanism for authentication and authorisation.

 

6) Machine learning

Many industry experts are predicting machine learning is the next BIG thing, so it’s unsurprising that this would feature in my predictions for 2017.

Machine learning is an emerging technology that will impact almost all of us. In essence, it’s a type of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that allows computers to learn by examining data and recognising patterns. Using this knowledge, machine learning allows computers to find hidden insights without being explicitly programmed where to look. Integrating machine learning will help create smarter applications, and ultimately applications which are more relevant to your customers. Wonderful sentiment but without some specific CMS context it might be a little meaningless, so how will it impact CMS platforms?

CMS capabilities from content rating, suggested content, A/B testing, lead scoring, personalisation, analytics and social marketing are just some of the CMS capabilities ripe for innovation and could benefit from machine learning. For this post I am going to put suggested content / similar content under the microscope. In suggesting similar content most CMS platforms combine preferences, personas and browsing history to offer suggestions for similar content. While a good start, machine learning can take this to the next level by overlaying location awareness, different browsing habits based on the time of day (for me the morning is where I catch up on news and in the afternoon I read trashy entertainment and weekends is when I watch movie trailers), socioeconomic, anomaly exclusion, device and other collaborative filtering attributes. Augmenting CMS suggestion algorithms with machine learning will offer better matched content to users’ needs, wants and preferences bringing significant business value.

Like authentication and authorisation discussed above, most CMS platforms will find it difficult to maintain the pace of innovation happening in the suggested content / similar content feature, let alone developing complex code and algorithms for each of the 100+ CMS capabilities.

In 2017 innovation using machine learning will take hold. We are likely to start seeing the emergence of CMS platforms which integrate directly with industry leading machine learning services offered by IBM, Azure and Amazon. Like most evolutions it will probably start small with features like content rating or A/B testing the likely first candidates, but then quickly expand to almost every interaction.

So there you have it, my predictions for the trends, and innovation for content management systems you’ll see in 2017. Agree, disagree or perhaps somewhere in between it would be wonderful to have your feedback.