Impact of the headless CMS on digital agencies

Contents
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    The headless CMS market has gained a lot of traction and attention in the last few years. This market is currently valued at US$ 328.5 million and it is expected to grow 22.6% by 2027.
    In fact, we may be as bold as to say that any digital agency who practices organizational ambidexterity should at least heard of the headless CMS. While the number isn’t as high as we hoped, according to a study done by Business Wire, two thirds of agencies use headless content management systems (CMS) regularly, with nearly half (48%) seeing an increase in client projects that benefited from headless CMS in 2020.
    In this article we will try and see why more and more digital agencies are choosing the headless CMS for most of their projects. We will do this by asking ourselves three pertinent and realistic questions.

    Illustration depicting possible devices and channels

    Can we afford not to be agile anymore?

    Everybody is familiar with the definition of Agile, the iterative approach to project management. And probably most people know about the agile manifesto, its principles and unchallenged benefits. It advocates an adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery and continual improvement approach to software development.
    If we take a look at the way traditional CMSs work, it’s become painfully obvious that they tend to enforce a waterfall approach. The separate phases of development are dependent on one another. Content editors have to wait until developers have finished configuring and testing the system, which are two separate phases as well.
    With a headless CMS, on the other hand, your teams have the capability to work agile. They can deliver much more quickly and cheaper. Content editors and developers can start working on their part at the same time, without worrying about the design. Similarly, the designer can focus on delivering a great experience without worrying about the restrictions a monolithic CMS would impose.

    The same agile, reiterative, approach is applied to content delivery, after all the channels are up and running. Siloed content which is prone to errors and difficult to manage, becomes a thing of the past. Equipped with reusable content modules, custom workflows, versioning, custom user permissions and approval processes they can plan, test, re-edit, schedule and publish content. There is room for mistakes and repairs before the content reaches the users.
    This also translates to increased productivity, quicker time-to-market, less overhead, and control over the branding message.

    Can we afford not to be language-agnostic anymore?

    All traditional CMSs come with a built-in technology stack. More or less you are forced to build your development team around said programming languages, frameworks, and tools.
    At the opposite side of the spectrum, the headless CMS gives you the freedom to step back from a certain technology and focus on the solution and strategy of platform development, as it is virtually language agnostic. You are no longer locked in a specific framework, the team is free to build their own stack according to the available skills and knowledge.
    Even in recruiting new team members, you can start focusing more on the cultural and organizational fit, building a team that works well together.
    Another great benefit of being able to choose your own stack is that you can easily move from offering monolithic CMS services to headless with low impact.

    Additionally, in terms of deployments and hosting, the requirements are massively reduced because you don't have to deploy and host a headless CMS, you are only deploying the presentation that you have created. Equally, the API-first approach is significantly easier to implement since content delivered via APIs is much more simpler to integrate, manipulate and distribute.

    Can we afford not to be omnipresent anymore?

    More and more users expect to find your brand on all channels and devices, it’s not limited to eCommerce businesses anymore. They are looking for an omnichannel user experience, where they can start their journey on one device or platform, and finish it seamlessly on a different one.
    Sometimes clients can confuse omnichannel capabilities with multichannel. While not easy, 2 channels can be administered with moderate success from a traditional CMS. But what happens when you want to add more channels/devices? For example, smart watches, smart TV or virtual assistants. Aside from all the obvious drawbacks, any changes you want to make, will need to be executed for each channel separately. This is a very time consuming and fruitless approach, even with only 2 channels.

    As mentioned above, the headless CMS acts as a content repository from which you feed all the channels via APIs, the requirement of being omnichannel is there from the start.
    Moreover, you are able to increase your personalization efforts, since you will have a complete and transparent overview of the users’ behaviour and preferences.

    Conclusion

    The headless CMS plays a crucial role in keeping your competitive edge as a digital agency. Whether your clients know it or not, the digital experiences you help them deliver need to be built in an agile, language-agnostic way and they need to be omnichannel ready, in order to be cost-effective and stand the test of time and competition.

    If you are curious what a headless CMS, like Storyblok, could do for your agency and how it can be the best solution for any type of project, download our free eBook “The benefits of Storyblok by type of project”.