The suffering called upgrading
With the release of a new major version of an enterprise Content Management System (CMS), big CMS-vendors use a lot of their marketing power on the likes of LinkedIn to convince their audience with the benefits of their so called revolutionary new version. But in reality, it’s not necessarily good news for their existing customer base. While considering an upgrade is highly essential, there is another choice you might need to consider if you want to take the further development of your digital platform to the next level. To help you, we have made an overview to help you decide on what to do when there is a new update.
Do you really need such a large CMS at all?
I now have nearly twenty years of experience with Content Management Systems. In all those years I’ve seen how they developed from a simple best-of-breed system to a total package of digital capabilities. I saw and participated in dozens of CMS selections, including sales demos of the previously mentioned packages.
What’s striking about those demos is that they often only deal with Content Management 20% of the time and 80% of the time with bells and whistles that most customers don’t use in practice. What am I talking about?
In the demo it seems so simple. But personalization is not a technical trick. It’s a damn tricky game, where the technical aspect is perhaps the easiest to solve. In reality, the use of the personalization module remains dangling at the bottom of the backlog. If that’s also the case for your organisation, then the new version is not going to change that.
- A/B testing/Multi-variate testing
For sites with clear conversions and a lot of visitors, this is absolutely useful. However, in practice it is more often solved with packages like Google Optimize, Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer, while the CMS has the functionality built in. Why is that? Simply because the marketing specialists who deal with this have more experience with this specialized software than with the built-in functionality of a CMS. What’s more, these best-of-breed products are easy to implement and offer more functionality.
Create forms yourself with the CMS. It seems handy, but only pays off on sites with lots of forms, limited integrations and a generic user experience. For a small number of forms or forms with built-in logic such as back office checks and price or premium calculations, customization is usually faster and more effective.
The quality varies greatly per system and is not always included. Customers who do use it, do so mainly as a supplement to Google Analytics and hardly as a replacement.
I therefore advise to always investigate how the current CMS is used so far. Chances are that you will find out that the use is limited to content management and that alone is a reason to seriously think about an alternative.
Valid reasons to upgrade
If you are currently experiencing certain technical issues and bugs, these issues might have been fixed in a new CMS update. Most technical issues and bugs identified in previous installations are normally taken care of in a new version.
Often, there are new features that come with an update. To enhance the website’s functionality and give a chance for growth, it might be a good idea to upgrade your CMS framework. Also, delaying upgrades can make the process longer and more costly when you finally give it a thought.
If you are running a website on an old version of your CMS, the chances are that your website is not secure. This way, the website might be prone to forms of attacks and, thus, vulnerable. Upgrading your CMS software will reduce the vulnerability of a website to various forms of cyber-attacks. This is especially true for Wordpress and Drupal and to a lesser extent for commercial systems like Sitecore, Adobe Experience Manager and Bloomreach.
Can I upgrade CMS ‘for free’?
Many organizations have purchased their Content Management System after an extensive selection process. Subsequently, one has been selected, and a contract has been concluded with the software supplier. How these contracts look like differs per supplier. The most popular ones, including Sitecore, Adobe, Bloomreach, Episerver, Magnolia, eSpirit, and Kentico, all have their own licensing model. The license agreement describes exactly what is covered by the agreement. Think of which modules and the number of websites, users, servers or other variables. It also usually describes whether or not future versions are part of the signed agreement.
Things get more complicated when customers realize that most of these vendors change their product structure and licensing model now and then. What could lead to situations where the old contract is no longer compatible with the new product structure. In the past, customers were only required to pay a one-off purchase at a price for the license and, in subsequent years, and pay a percentage of the original price, like 20% per year, for example. The majority of suppliers have now gone against this tradition by using a fixed price per year. This can be a user license for the PaaS solution that many suppliers offer. But also simply the right to use the software while it is installed by the customer on their own servers or in the cloud.
Because of this lack of transparency, it is very doubtful whether you can upgrade your CMS to the latest version without changing the contract. Usually, this will have to be renegotiated with the supplier.
The negative consequences of a new version
Impact on support
CMS software generally do not have lifetime support. In fact, the appearance of a new version could automatically expires the support on older versions or the support. Or the support is gradually scaled down to zero over the years. However, most vendors only offer full support on one version older than the latest.
This means that anytime a new CMS version is released, a customer has little choices to make and, thus, forced to replace the old software with a new version or with other software.
Technical impact on upgrades
A new major version of the CMS is expected to bring new features and functionality. The software has been drastically changed on several points over time. The upgrades do bring new possibilities for editors and marketers as well. These changes always have an impact on the implementation.
The implementation of a CMS usually affects the configuration of the CMS for editors and the development of the website. Before any upgrade is carried out, the extent to which the old implementation is usable on a new version needs to be investigated. Upgrading a CMS is often considered a complicated process that requires the attention of highly experienced web developers.
There have been many cases known where the upgrade of the CMS in fact meant a complete rebuild. For example, but certainly not limited to, from Drupal 7 to version 8 or from Sitecore 7 to version 9.
In short, customers do an upgrade project that costs tens of thousands of euros and takes months to complete, while the improvements are only visible to the users of the CMS and not to the visitors of the website. This sounds to my ears like wasted money.
Alternative: choose a headless SaaS CMS
Nobody wants mandatory upgrades with a high financial and technical impact and low added value. Modern SaaS CMSs, such as Contentful, Contentstack, and Kentico Kontent, prove otherwise.
A headless CMS gives:
- editors all the tools they need to manage content and images for their digital channels.
- developers the freedom to develop a website or an app with the technique that best fits the specific task. Content from the CMS is consumed through well documented APIs
Editors always have the latest version
When Gmail, Facebook, YouTube, and the likes update their software, users are not required to make any upgrade before using the most recent version. It is hard to tell which version you use when you see new features automatically appearing. In the same way, customers using a headless SaaS CMS always have the most recent version without performing any upgrade. The content is stored in the cloud, and the editorial interface is the same for every client, with all updates been rolled out automatically.
In the case of a headless CMS, the frontend of a website is not directly integrated with the CMS backend. The content from the CMS is displayed on the website using APIs. When a headless CMS vendor makes new features available in the APIs, they can be used directly by the developers and does not require an upgrade of the CMS.
It is possible that previously used API’s change. When this happen, the website that uses such API also needs to be adjusted. However, the impact of such changes is limited, well documented, and easy to include in regular maintenance.
Why we only work with API First SaaS CMS
At Touchtribe, we believe that 80 percent of development time should be spent adding value in the front end. Adding new features for your customer. With SaaS CMSs such as Contentful and Prismic we don’t have to spend a lot of time setting up the CMS and we don’t have to worry about system maintenance. At the same time, we learned from experience that the users of these CMSs consider them to be user-friendly.
Traditional systems, such as Drupal, Sitecore and Adobe Experience Manager, require a great deal of product knowledge and set-up time. In addition, a major upgrade once every few years is necessary. We may be pleased if the added value versus maintenance ratio comes out at 50/50.
That is why we at Touchtribe are convinced that for most organisations a headless SaaS CMS is a better solution than a solution from one of the traditional players on the market.
Is your organization using a traditional CMS and would you like advice on a possible switch to a headless SaaS-CMS? I’m happy to help you. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org