“Content management” is a misnomer, and it has been for years.
It made sense back in the day when all we did was actually manage content. Decoupled systems meant that your content management system and your content delivery system were two different things. You managed content, then you kind of threw it over the wall to some rudimentary delivery framework.
What’s the dividing line? It’s vague, but I’ve tended to split it at the publish button – anything you do to the ‘left’ of publish is management, and anything to the ‘right’ of publish is delivery.
It’s fair to say that most of the recent changes in content management systems (CMS) have happened in delivery. This is natural since we had to solve management challenges first. And management is less volatile than delivery. While management is a process of refinement, evolution and adjustment; the delivery side is in constant upheaval – it keeps reinventing itself.
This means that systems which are poorly architected on the management side will suffer when trying to adapt on the delivery side. Systems without a solid data management foundation find it hard to stay on the edge of the delivery curve. The level of delivery-side change magnifies architectural shortcomings, and several vendors have had to scrap their systems and write new ones.
The most recent vendor to give in is Sitecore. In a recent video, it heavily implied it was abandoning its current CMS architecture in favour of a software-as-a-service approach, which would be based on its StyleLabs acquisition of 2018. The firm took the underlying object architecture of the StyleLabs digital asset management and are using that as its go-to CMS going forward.
Effectively, Sitecore is walking away from the much-vaunted CMS it has been developing for over 20 years. From someone who has been in this industry for 20 years, that’s pretty wild to see.
Let us state something for the record – Content Cloud is both Optimizely’s present and future. And the reason is simple: it doesn’t need to be scrapped and re-architected.
I’ve been working with our product for 13 years, both as a service partner and now a member of the product team, and it never fails to impress me with its underlying elegance. Content in Content Cloud is stored and manipulated as pure data. The only reason content objects appear as web pages or embeddable elements is because their design implementation and the resulting user interface (UI) makes them function that way. Our foundations are incredibly solid, presentation-agnostic and they don’t need to change.
We are continuing to invest heavily in Content Cloud. By the end of this year, we’ll be releasing a fully compatible .NET 5 version, with some astonishing performance improvements. This has been a mammoth project for us, but one that positions the platform for an amazing future.
Our next major release will be our GraphQL engine, which is now in beta. And we’re increasing the scale of our headless application programming interfaces (API) with a new content modelling API, more features in our content modelling UI, and a new content-focused editing experience that will effectively embed the same feature set that pure-play headless vendors offer inside a more fully featured CMS platform.
Improving on this on top of our current product means no major re-implementation for our customers. Even as we continue to move forward into cloud delivery, our commitment is that customers will be able to move forward at a pace and path that makes sense for their business.
Given the direction of the market, did we take a long look at Content Cloud and ask ourselves if we should tear it down and start over? Sure, we did. But we came to the simple conclusion that if we spent years re-doing all this, the underlying framework of the resulting product would probably be very similar to what we have today. We trust our system to adapt to whatever is next. Content Cloud is a strong, stable platform that our customers can count on now and long into the future.
Deane Barker is senior director of content management strategy at Optimizely
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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