Modern service companies and their specifics
Present Telco, Energy&Utilities or Media companies are among the most dynamically developing sectors of the global economy. The range of services offered by these companies is constantly expanding, which also has an impact on the behaviour of customers, who have increasingly higher expectations. Telecommunication and energy companies often become providers of multimedia services (for example cable TV) or even enter the retail market with consumer products. Additionally, new types of services appear on the market because of the dynamic development of digital technologies: Internet 5G, 8K TV or "Internet of things (IoT)". At the time of such expansive and rapidly changing customer needs and technology development, innovative industries taking part in the customer race are a very demanding and unpredictable area for software selection.
Nowadays, the telecommunication, energy or multimedia sector uses a huge number of IT systems that carry out specific processes related to the service of the company. All systems of the BSS layer displayed directly to customers, which means omnichannel sales systems (for example e-shop) and service (for example self-service) accumulate enormous amounts of digital content. These can be text content (promotional and marketing articles), multimedia content (graphics, audio, video) or text documents (pdf, doc, etc.). Creating and managing such a large amount of diverse content requires an appropriate tool that will support authors and editors in their daily work at each stage of creation.
Digital content management systems in a changing world of digital services
Modern IT market offers a great array of IT systems, commonly called CMS, for managing electronic content.
What is CMS? We need to have a bigger picture and go back in time a little bit.
CMS means Content Management System.
Is this only about content management? Traditional CMSs made it largely possible for people without technical facilities to create simple websites and manage their content. It has contributed to the development of the Internet. According to some sources, around 60 % of all websites on the Internet are based on CMS! This is a lot. Initially, CMSs were not used only to manage the content, but also made it possible to configure the look of websites.
There are dozens of CMS solutions available. They have many features in common because they focus on the content management process but can differ significantly. From the available features, technology stack, distribution model, to licensing issues. The choice of the right one depends on the specific needs of your organisation and key features of a product. These can be the licensing model, the programming language, the technology stack and others. That is why before choosing a specific product, your needs must be thoroughly analysed and then compared with at least a few products offered by the market.
Moreover, along with the dynamic development of individual systems and architectural concepts, there occurs a natural division of solutions in the CMS family. The classic CMS (currently referred to as 'headed', 'coupled' or just 'standard'), well known and used for years, is slowly being forgotten in favour of new solutions that appear on the market.
The need for a modern content distribution system in an organisation
The world has changed, and it happened very quickly. Traditional CMS had limited web templates and it was increasingly difficult to meet the expectations of the users. As a result of the technological development in the last decade, the traditional CMS became not enough for today. From one information channel, which was websites, we suddenly switched to smartphones, tablets and then smartwatches, smartbands, smartTV. The next devices from the "IoT" family are waiting just outside your door. Everything we can imagine in the near future will be smart and we will present content there. With so much content and distribution channels, we can no longer rely on a classic monolithic CMS which is tied to a specific channel. We need tools which will allow us to manage a large amount of diverse digital content in isolation from its presentation form. The products are headless CMSs that do not operate in the context of a specific publication channel or digital point of contact. This is another step of the industry towards API first and the architecture based on micro-services.
7 reasons to consider Headless CMS
1. When flexible use is necessary for any channel, application, device
The advantage of headless CMS is the lack of a front-end delivery layer – content creators can use any front-end technology, they are not limited in any way, they can be open to new technologies, programming languages (React, Angular, Vue), which can present content. This means that they can deliver content beyond websites and apps, reaching any channel, from kiosks to smartphones, and even in headsets (wherever it is possible in the future). The content model available in headless CMS is not oriented towards any specific channel or screen of sales, and therefore it can be used flexibly in any context. It does not matter if it is a screen or a printed flyer, the content is always the same, which makes the brand message consistent and we are independent of the presentation method.
2. When you want to improve the management of the software development process
An important feature of headless CMS is a new way of working for programmers of the front-end layer. When the front-end layer is separated from the back-end layer, the possibility of flexible approach opens up for programming teams. Front-end programmers do not have rigid rules of presentation imposed by the back-end because they receive only "content" using dedicated APIs, which they then display accordingly. Additionally, the content provided by teams working in the CMS is independent of the distribution channel, so the teams creating the channel are independent of each other and can work separately.
3. When you need scaling, performance, availability and security
Since most headless CMSs are distributed as a cloud service (SaaS), you do not need to worry about performance, availability or security. The functions supporting the indicated areas are performed on the side of the service owner, such as CDN networks or communication encryption algorithms. Particularly API made available by headless CMS, which is the main point of integration with other systems, requires the provider to have a high level of security. As part of the subscription, we pay only for the service we use but we receive the latest infrastructure, the latest security updates and high performance on a global scale. In the case of local installation (on-premise), the costs related to such service are usually significantly higher.
4. When you need to integrate with product catalogues
One of the key sales processes in complex IT platforms (as in telecommunications or power industry) is the process of expanding the product offer. In architectures consisting of dozens of systems, the source of products and offers is usually a central product catalogue. This system defines the basic and required parameters of products, such as ID, price or sales channel. For sales systems available to end customers, for example, e-commerce, such amount of information is not enough. This is where CMSs supporting the process of expanding the product offer come to our assistance. The process is about synchronising product data between the CMS and the product catalogue and then editing the imported products in the CMS by adding the necessary marketing content. The task of the editing team is to add to products the marketing content required by the sales system available to the end customer. These can be text descriptions of the product, its photos, technical specifications, user documentation, advertising banners and other content that make the product attractive to customers. The product or offer configured in this way can be presented to the customer.
Only CMSs with the possibility of integration with other sales systems can manage the process of expanding the product offer. An example of the integration of one of the headless CMS products prepared by Hycom can be found here:
5. When you move to a service-based architecture
Modern systems built with the approach of micro-services open up a whole range of possibilities for IT system architects. When complex monolithic systems, which are heavy, expensive and hard to expand, lose their market share, new concepts enter their place. They are more attractive because of the cost of implementation, ease of expansion or quick and cheap replacement of the entire module or service. Basing the IT infrastructure on a more or less developed micro-services system makes it possible for each element to have its assigned responsibility and to deal with one aspect of the business domino.
Headless CMSs perfectly fit into this model by separating content modelling from its presentation. Compliance with the idea of separating responsibility and focusing on one's own domain is the main strength of such a solution, but it is also inseparably connected with the way of thinking about the content as unrelated to its presentation or the technology of the front layer. Thanks to this, headless CMS can deliver content both in an omnichannel way to end-users, but also internally to services using any edited content. For example, an email or push notification service can use such content.
6. When you want to have one consistent place of content management across the whole organisation
Headless CMS is, of course, natural support for the effectiveness of your actions. By creating one piece of content, we use it on many channels. Therefore, we introduce an essential element of savings, whether in the context of application or operation. On the one hand, we optimise the software delivery process, through independent and smaller teams, and on the other hand, we produce content that can be used in multiple channels at the same time. If it is necessary to change the prepared content, updating it will be much simpler and faster because it has one consistent source of origin.
Another argument in favour of a single source of information for our content is the optimisation of the on-boarding process for new team members working with the system. One single system will require much less energy to implement new people than many distributed systems.
7. When you want the content to be consumed consistently in the Customer Journey
Nowadays, formulating the strategy based on the omnichannel model is no longer innovative, neither is it a market differentiator. The fundamental message of the omnichannel philosophy is to make sure that the consumer has a consistent buying experience regardless of the channel or channels where they interact with the brand. Today, when the differences between products and services get blurred, product features alone do not ensure a long-term competitive advantage. We need to look for the advantage in the purposeful and thoughtful building of positive customer experience based on a consistent CX strategy where the content is one of the key elements. To use the content effectively, it is possible to move away from the so-called "channel driven" principle of acquiring and managing content from the perspective of a single channel and start modelling it from the perspective of its proper use by the user on their path, regardless of the communication channel they are currently using.
The new thinking about content management opens up a sea of new possibilities and, if implemented correctly, it will certainly strengthen the digital transformation and bring our company to a new level of productivity. Creating and having high-quality content is an unusually valuable investment when digital channels dominate the daily lives of customers.
Headless CMSs fully fit and support this idea. We need to remember that they are only a tool to achieve a broader, more complex objective – to gain an advantage in the digital world. As a part of the "system of record" (alongside other systems such as product catalogue), they are a service, a source of data to be used within the tasks of the agile delivery team.