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The Complete Enterprise CMS Guide + RFP Template

Marketing Gillian Mays Gillian Mays
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If you’re looking for an enterprise CMS, the good news is that you have a huge selection of options. This makes it more likely that you’ll find your perfect fit, but it also has a downside: with so many systems to choose from, you might find that selecting the ideal one requires careful consideration before you commit.

That’s why we put together this complete enterprise CMS guide. By combining knowledge of your needs with a few good rules of thumb, you can land on a system powerful enough to support your organization.

What is an Enterprise Content Management System (CMS)?

A Content Management System (CMS) is a piece of software you use to create and manage a website. With a CMS, developers can work off of a basic site structure, allowing them to fully customize their project without having to code everything from scratch. This makes development faster and easier.


You can get a more in-depth definition of a CMS in our other article.

How to choose the right enterprise CMS

So what differentiates an enterprise CMS from one for smaller groups? Well, you probably don’t need us to tell you that different-sized organizations have different needs. However, it’s not just about sheer scale. There are a lot of other aspects that play a role in this process, too.

For example, security might not be too important for a small business that has a single website storing virtually no user information. On the other hand, enterprises handle countless pieces of critical data. Losing any of it could be extremely costly in terms of finances and customer trust. As such, you’ll want robust security features that keep up with the latest technology.

Bigger organizations also need a broader digital presence. Smaller ones might not need to expand beyond a mobile-friendly website. However, a larger audience demands more omnichannel experiences: phone applications, physical kiosks, or whatever new channels may emerge in the future can all represent valuable marketing opportunities.

Simply put, enterprise CMSs are those that are designed to handle all of this. They account for large numbers of employees, broad growth plans, and advanced technology while still providing enough flexibility to switch up your approach when necessary.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as picking any option with the enterprise CMS title. It’s anything but a one-size-fits-all situation. Fortunately, an enterprise CMS guide like this one can help shed some light on the situation.

3 options for an enterprise CMS

Content management systems come in all different shapes and sizes. Let’s take a look at three of the basic types you can pick from: monolithic CMSs, headless CMSs, and in-house solutions.

1. Monolithic CMS

Monolithic CMSs are also known as traditional CMSs. That’s because they fit most people’s traditional understanding of the internet: you put content in a single backend, and it comes out as a single frontend.

Monolithic CMSs are simple and easy. These out-of-the-box solutions don’t require tinkering if your needs are just as simple. This can mean a faster launch time, easier maintenance, and overall fewer resources required to run your site. Thus, it might be best if you’re looking for a straightforward solution.

However, simple isn’t always better. Monolithic enterprise CMS options tend to be restrictive. You’ll have very little room to customize your approach, so it’s not a very agile choice – and when you can change things, it often takes a lot of time and effort altering base code. This could limit your growth or the power of your system. If your enterprise is trying to compete effectively in our modern world, simple might not cut it anymore.


  • Easy to use

  • The simple design usually requires few resources

  • All-in-one structure means you can spend less time on set up


  • The basic technology can’t be changed, which puts it at risk of becoming outdated

  • The rigid structure limits opportunities to extend to new platforms and adapt to changing customer expectations

  • A set list of features can mean missing or extraneous functionality


Some examples of a monolithic CMS include WordPress, Wix, and Drupal.

2. Headless CMS (SaaS)

Headless CMS is a newer alternative to traditional CMS. That connection we talked about earlier between the single front and back end? Well, headless severs it. That means you can still put content into your backend, but you’re free to send it to whatever channel you want. This structure is far different from that of a traditional CMS:

Three white blocks connected to user roles and front end options through a series of arrows.

The basic structure of a traditional CMS compared to that of a Headless CMS.

Headless systems are remarkably flexible. You can push content to as many channels as you like without having to worry about siloing it. Moreover, APIs mean that you have that same flexibility when it comes to your chosen technology. Add, remove, or alter your system as you like. Without a rigid structure, you can create a hand-crafted system. Moreover, choosing a SaaS (software as a service) option means you don’t have to worry about taking updates or other maintenance issues into your own hands.

Despite these benefits, headless isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone. You’ll still need experienced developers to get the results you’re looking for. This can be costly, especially if you only need a very simple system. For a headless enterprise CMS to work, you’ll most likely need to dedicate a fair amount of energy towards it.

There are tons of different projects that can benefit from headless. Check out a few of the most popular use cases in this whitepaper!


  • Flexible technology allows you to swap out programs as necessary, essentially future-proofing your system

  • The compartmentalized structure adds an extra layer of security

  • You can edit your content from a single backend and send it out to limitless frontends


  • Multiple frontends can be more complicated to manage, often requiring a bigger team with more resources

  • The more complicated ecosystem requires more time to get set up


Storyblok, Contentful, and are all examples of headless CMSs.

3. In-house solutions

In-house solutions are a rare breed. They can be headless or monolithic, showcasing features offered by either. However, there’s a huge difference: custom in-house solutions are not SaaS. That means you’re looking at a significant amount of work from your team.

The biggest advantage of this is the ‘custom’ part. The truth is that even the best off-the-shelf enterprise CMS options will never fit your needs exactly. With in-house, there’s no need to fiddle with settings you don’t need or jury-rig something to get the functionality that you do. Instead, you’ll be operating within a perfectly controlled environment. If you need a system that fits like a glove, in-house is the way to go.

Nevertheless, this perfect fit comes with a few downsides. The most salient one is the work involved. Not only is there the initial development cost and effort, but you also have to maintain your own system. Every time you want new features or to swap out technology, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board. This also risks having to overhaul your whole system to adapt to the world around you, once again requiring a lot of cost and effort.

If you’re looking for an in-house enterprise CMS, the key will be knowing what you need. After all, you don’t want to find out that you’ve spent time and money building a system that closely resembles one already on the market! Don’t be afraid to take your time with the process so you can find developers and technology that will help you take advantage of an in-house solution’s potential.


  • Hand-crafted design specifically tailored to your company’s needs

  • No need to pay for features you’ll never use

  • Total control over your digital presence


  • Requires a significant amount of time, effort, and resources to build

  • Requires constant, in-house maintenance

7 enterprise CMS traits that you should be looking for

Once you have an idea of what system type will work for you, it’s time to narrow down those options. Here are a few principles that you can apply to find the perfect enterprise CMS to support your specific business.

1. Top-tier security measures

Businesses can’t afford to treat security as an afterthought. A single breach could lead to a huge loss of clients, data, and cash. That’s why security should be at the top of your mind while you’re looking for an enterprise CMS.

This is one of the areas where headless really stands out. A headless system means that your programs are independent rather than closely tied together because each one is powered by its own API. As a result, there’s a built-in quarantine in case of an attack. So even if one program of your company falls, it doesn’t mean the whole thing will come crashing down.

By contrast, an all-in-one suite is just that: all-in-one. If someone hacks just a single entry point, they gain access to everything your business has to offer. The same goes for monolithic systems with a set front-end. Front-end attacks will channel directly into your back-end, which only opens up more opportunities for data loss. Separating the two with a headless system minimizes your risk.

Overall, we’d recommend a headless system for the best security available. If you’re committed to a traditional system though, be sure to closely inspect their protective measures and ask about how they’ll be keeping your data safe. Seeking out which different industry certifications their data security policies are in compliance with is a good place to start.


Want more information on how Storyblok keeps you and your data safe? Check out our trust center!

2. Access to multiple customer channels

The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a staple experience aspect for most customers. Gone are the days when an enterprise CMS could provide little more than a homepage. Nowadays, customers aren’t just demanding more and more ways to connect with your brand – they’re expecting it!

A flat-lying webpage with smaller images representing digital content on top of it.

The IoT promises a connected digital experience everywhere: on computers, in applications, and even with virtual assistants!

Because enterprises have the resources to provide this, there’s not really an excuse for not doing so. It’ll reflect poorly on you and could project an image of low technical ability. And with the huge audience that most enterprises have, showing that you can connect with customers in multiple ways can be the key to obtaining and retaining users.

You can take Augmented Reality (AR) technology as an example. With all the buzz surrounding the Metaverse these days, there's been growing interest in using AR to connect with customers. Even if you're not ready to take that step yet, having the option in the future could be very useful.

As such, try to choose a system that won’t restrain you. In this case, that means one that allows you to add new technologies. It also means centralizing your content. You’ll want to pick something that allows you to push your content out simultaneously regardless of channel. That way, your users will receive a consistent, high-quality experience no matter how they choose to interact with your content.

3. High-performance at all times

Let’s not skip over one of the most important parts of a digital presence: performance. The best content in the world can be sabotaged by long loading times. This is another aspect that customers will naturally expect from you. As such, if your system can’t deliver in terms of handling traffic, you’ll be failing to fulfill a basic need of your customers – and if they can’t trust you to do that, will they trust you enough to make a purchase?

This also goes back to those multiple channels we mentioned earlier. Can a shopper using a voice assistant get the same smooth experience as one using your main website? If you’re not providing consistently fast load times, you risk looking like you can’t quite handle the technology you’re offering – not to mention the impact that it’ll have on your SEO!

Our advice here is to look beyond the big picture and sweat the small stuff by asking:

  • How fast does the CMS company’s website itself load?

  • Does it offer in-engine performance tools like image optimization?

  • Does the system off customization potential without the need for complicated coding workarounds that can bog down loading times?

Even speed differences of a single second can make your bounce rates skyrocket or your search rankings plummet. Don’t be afraid to use analytics tools like PageSpeed Insights to check out how websites using that enterprise CMS perform – and to keep an eye on how your performance changes as the system does.

You might also want to keep future growth in mind when you're thinking about performance. As your company expands, so will the potential for traffic spikes and site crashes. Try to choose a CMS that's been designed to scale effortlessly.

4. Collaboration between developers and content creators

The bigger your company is, the more likely it is to develop complicated workflows and interdependencies. Collaboration then becomes a big element of quickly creating content to send out to your audience. Pick an enterprise CMS that lets your whole team work together.

Collaboration features that embody this may include comment functionality. That way, your team can work asynchronously without missing a beat. Other features to keep an eye out for include robust editing histories or predefined workflows that ensure all work goes through the correct pre-publishing channels.

It’s not just about working together, either. Finding a system that lets all users work to the best of their ability regardless of technical skill is crucial. Choose an option with a visual editor. That way, both categories of users get an intuitive option that still allows for the code-based view when necessary.

Finally, you might also want to consider your CMS's ability to support third-party programs. Your developers might not want to code everything from scratch themselves. Giving them the option to integrate separate plugins can save a lot of time and effort down the road.

5. Support for growth in every direction

Growth can be hard to predict – thus, it can also be hard to prepare for. Whether you’re increasing traffic, adding more pages, or scaling to entirely new channels, choosing a system that lets you quickly expand your limitations is crucial.

For example, you may have dreams of expanding your company to new countries with different languages. In that case, you’d want to make sure that localization and translation features are robust enough to support those goals even if they’re far in the future. This can help avoid a serious roadblock down the line.

You should also check to see if your CMS experience will be consistent during growth. If scaling up includes unpredictable changes in fees or required upgrades that you don’t want to use, this could end up limiting you. The same goes for inconsistent customer support or frequent changes that require employees to constantly alter their approach.

Checking in with your candidates can be a great way to find your perfect fit. Check out this guide for other helpful strategies!

6. Future-proofed technology

Tech changes fast. If you’re a future-forward organization that strives to provide the latest and greatest to your users, this is an essential element to consider. However, even those who prefer a more simplistic approach should be concerned: after all, even the most straightforward CMS may become outdated with time and become a burden in need of replacement.

You can prevent this by choosing an enterprise CMS that relies on MACH architecture. MACH architecture ensures that you’ll always have the freedom of an agile setup that allows you to grow. APIs are specifically important here. These allow you to connect whatever technology that you want to your centralized system, making swapping them out easy and seamless. It also prepares you to integrate future technology or data sources that may not even exist yet!

A system that offers an extremely fast, out-of-the-box start can be very attractive, especially if you’re operating on a tight timeline. However, this can end up seriously constraining you down the road, requiring more money and time investment to switch to a better one. As such, be sure to look beyond the initial benefits of your system before you buy. If you want certified technology that meets these standards, checking out members of the MACH Alliance is a good place to start.

The phrase MACH in yellow surrounded by a white circle.

The MACH Alliance is committed to certifying programs that meet rigorous, high-tech standards.

7. Efficiency in everything

Efficiency is essential for any enterprise. Getting the most done in the shortest amount of time with the least resources is key to a clean bottom line and swiftly delivered customer experience.

Check out how efficient an enterprise CMS is at every stage. This includes answering questions such as:

  • Will developers have to learn an entirely new programming language to start working with it?

  • Will your content editors face a steep learning curve, or not be able to work independently?

  • Can you reuse your content in different places or will you have to repeatedly recreate your work?

  • Is managing individual pages as easy as managing the entire ecosystem?

Aspects like these are almost always tied to how easy it is to use an enterprise CMS. After all, you can’t quickly and effectively serve customers when the system itself is too clunky to allow flexibility. An easy-to-use system is an efficient system – even the most powerful features can be worthless if using them is a pain!

This is also a good reason to check out a CMS's set of features before you commit. For example, features that allow you to automate tasks save a lot of time right from the start. The same goes for reusable components and customizable workflows to optimize collaboration.

How do you use this enterprise CMS guide?

Now that you have an idea of what to look for, it’s time for the hard part: making your decision! Consulting this enterprise CMS guide will hopefully help, but there are a few more active ways you can prepare, too.

If you need a little help making your decision, you can use our RFP template!

First up, write a list of your specific needs. For instance, localization might be a huge priority. Ask questions about how easy the process is or how long it will take. If the enterprise CMS you’re looking at offers case studies, these will also shed some light on what you can expect in practice.

By the same token, list what things your current CMS isn't delivering on. Is it taking a long time to implement essential technology? Are you having trouble organizing your content or assets? Knowing your current issues can help you directly address your business's needs.

You also don’t have to wait until after the purchase to make sure your whole team is happy, either. Get multiple departments involved in your enterprise CMS decision! Let editors and developers alike try out a demo to see if it fits their needs. This can avoid an unfortunate post-purchase realization that not all members of your team can work with the same system.

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to your top candidates while you peruse your options. These representatives are almost always the easiest way to get specific, accurate information. This will provide you with some answers while also giving you an idea of how responsive the support team is.

Key takeaways

Picking the perfect enterprise CMS is a big decision. It could either be the perfect tool for maintaining your digital presence or a huge headache for years to come. Fortunately, you don’t have to go into the process blind. By keeping a few broad best practices in mind alongside your organization’s specific needs, you can settle into a system that works for you instead of against you.

Resource Link
RFP Template for Choosing a New CMS
How to explain the concept of headless CMS to your team
An introduction to MACH architecture (and why you might want to embrace it)
Multicultural marketing: How to use tech and local experts to localize content
DXP vs CXP vs CMS: a glossary of digital experiences

Still not sure which enterprise CMS is right for you? Our specialists can help!

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