The next phase of CMS: Our most innovative solutions will come from integration

Content management systems are now easy to navigate and use for professionals with little or no coding skills. So what kind of innovations are we seeing in the field today? And what will these mean for people who use a CMS for their work?

By Martin Paludan, Communication and marketing manager at Boye & Co


I spoke to Perttu Tolvanen, Web & CMS expert as well as partner at North Patrol, who advises organizations when buying web projects.

  • What we are seeing now, and have been seeing for some time, is that the real innovation isn’t about features, but almost entirely about integrations. A website today has to be a lot more than a business card or place of information. Ideally it should be the core in the organization's marketing and CRM. This means that a CMS today can hardly be an all-in-one solution.

In terms of integrations and plugins, we can view the development in several phases. Many organizations are still only in the first phase, but in Perttu’s view there is much to be gained by moving beyond this phase.

The first phase of CMS: Open source and built-in plugins

The first phase has been driven by open source and built-in ecosystems. This is what wordpress has built its success around. With services for a myriad of different plugins, organizations and companies have been able to host themselves, with little need for coding. It provides users with a rather large dose of freedom in their selection of tools.

As Scott Brinker described in my recent interview with him, the field of marketing technology is expanding rapidly, and today “the best tools” will vary a lot depending on where you are situated. This has been one of the main driving forces behind what Pertu labels the second phase of CMS’es. However, if the development continues to accelerate, which data suggests it probably will, we will increasingly see the most innovative organizations move beyond this second phase as well. We will get back to that in a moment.

The second phase of CMS: Integration and software as a service

The first phase of CMS saw built-in plugins. The second phase is about an API that allows for third party integrations. Providing marketers and others a lot more freedom in their selection of tools:

  • The freedom in terms of Integrations really should be number one priority when choosing a CMS today, as tracking across platforms, and knowledge about customers become increasingly important - Perttu says.

This development is not fueled by a technical breakthrough, but by a slow design revolution. The frontrunners in marketing, customer experience etc. no longer simply view the CMS as a place for information and content. Today a CMS can be the place that owns your data, but it can also be the place that determines how you newsletters are being sent, even though a third party program like Mailchimp might still be the program that is actually sending them:

  • A CMS is no longer an application that simply aims at making the corporate website look good and function, but a service that empowers marketers, communicators and customer experience professionals in their endeavours on all platforms.

The third phase of CMS: The integration layer

The third phase, or wave as Perttu says, might in time see the question of compatibility in any given CMS completely obsolete. Applications like Zapier adds a third layer to the integration process, which removes the necessity for developers to think CMS-integration into the application, as these services read the api’s (application programming interface) of different services, and allows marketers and other digital professionals to automate processes across their cms, email-application, chat-programs and more. The integration layer also provides a place where marketers can manipulate and explore data. As Perttu points out:

  • Some organizations are already doing this in quite a sophisticated way, and it has the potential to save marketers and other professionals time in their handling and use of data, which is quickly becoming the biggest competitive advantage we are seeing in terms of cms and integrations.