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A Fair Review of the Top Mid-Market CMS for 2020 — Magnolia

Gary Eisenstein

By Gary Eisenstein

July 27, 2020

Corporate Name: Magnolia International Ltd. Web: magnolia-cms.com
Founded: 1997 Get in Touch: 1-305-267-3033
Corporate Office: Basel, Switzerland Worldwide Locations: 9
CEO: Tim Brown — Since 2019 Worldwide Employees: 132
Platform Type: Java Current Version: 6.2.1
Licensing Model: Annual subscription (based on number of instances) Licensing Cost: Median: $60K annually
Support: Service Level Agreement GitHub Account: www.github.com/magnolia-cms
Trial (Sandbox) Version: By Request Online Demo: By Request
North America Service Partners: 10-plus Certified Global Service Partners: 110-plus Certified

Magnolia is a headless content management solution laser-focused on empowering all users to create compelling omnichannel experiences. Built on a flexible architecture, open standards and a rich set of integration points, Magnolia offers full flexibility, open standards and rich set of integration points. Their unique light-weight development approach brings the fastest possible time-to-value.

HISTORY

Founded in 1997, Magnolia is a privately held company headquartered in Basel, Switzerland with eight regional offices serving customers in over 100 countries.
 
Magnolia started with a vision of creating the first open-source content management system built on Java that allows organizations to create engaging websites around their existing IT infrastructure. As we’ve evolved, our commitment to empowering front-end developers and to headless content delivery ensure organizations can deliver first-class digital experiences to any channel, no matter which programming language they prefer.

KEY CAPABILITIES

Magnolia is a headless digital experience hub that gives businesses the flexibility to build out a modular digital experience platform tailored perfectly to their needs, all without developers or marketers having to sacrifice capabilities. Developers can complete entire projects more quickly using favored front-end languages like React, Angular and Vue, while authors get a friendly UI, in-context editing and access all their content within one platform.

In a market where many of what you’d call features or capabilities have become commoditized, the key to Magnolia is the freedom it allows across the entire organization. We’ve put a lot of focus into making it easy to connect Magnolia to the other parts of the DX stack in a meaningful way. By meaningful, we mean being able to leverage these technologies together via Magnolia to really elevate the digital experience. Freedom also means the freedom to work the way you want. The developer side gets a sleek headless solution for delivering omnichannel experiences quickly, while marketers still get the in-context authoring needed to really let their creativity shine,” added Magnolia CMO Rasmus Skjoldan.

Key features and functionalities include:

  • Headless & Hybrid Delivery
  • In-Context Editing & Preview for Headless
  • Dedicated UI Slots for Integrations
  • Customizable REST APIs
  • Cross-Platform Content & Data Access  
  • Complete Projects Using Front-End Tech
  • Open Architecture
  • Deployable in Cloud or On-Premises
  • AI-Powered Search
  • Customizable Workflows
 

ECOMMERCE CAPABILITIES

Magnolia gives eCommerce focused organizations a better option for integrating content and commerce. Businesses connect Magnolia to their eCommerce system via Connector Packs or by leveraging Magnolia’s REST APIs. This enables content-rich product pages, centralized content management across systems, free data flow between systems, and most importantly a seamless experience for shoppers.

When asked about Magnolia's eCommerce capabilities Skojldan had this to say “When eCommerce-focused brands turn to Magnolia, they are typically looking to provide a richer, content-driven experience to their customers. By using Magnolia to interconnect with tools like their eCommerce platform and CRM, users are able to gain a 360-degree view of the customer. This makes it much easier to quickly create the timely, personalized offers that ultimately drive more business.”

Key eCommerce features and functionalities include:

  • Commerce Connector Pack
  • REST APIs
  • Dedicated UI Slots for eCommerce Integrations
  • Access to eCommerce & PIM Data & Content
  • Implicit & Explicit Personalization
  • WYSIWYG Editing
  • Multi Country Rollout and Content Update Management
  • Dedicated Campaign Management Tooling
  • Native Capabilities for Rating and Commenting
 

DIGITAL EXPERIENCE CAPABILITIES

Magnolia is an ideal option for organizations looking to build their own best-of-breed digital experience platform rather than relying on the technologies of a single vendor. Connector Packs for commerce, digital asset management, marketing automation, analytics and SEO natively extend Magnolia into other core digital systems. From there, data and content are accessible from directly within the Magnolia UI, ensuring that users gain the efficiency of working within one platform.

We see DXPs as an architecture and framework of interconnected, interoperable components. As opposed to DXP as a suite, we think our approach allows organizations to build out DXPs that better fit the specifics of their digital transformations rather than having to fit their needs to whatever a chosen DXP as suite provides. They key to making our approach work is the care we’ve taken into making Magnolia extendable natively into the other components of the stack. Without ever having to leave Magnolia, users get access to the content and data they need from across platforms, whether it’s through a dedicated app within Magnolia or integrated UX slots which bring outside content directly into the user interface,” said Skjoldan.

Key DXP features and functionalities include:

  • Connectors (Commerce, DAM, Marketing Automation, Analytics, & SEO)
  • Customizable REST APIs
  • Dedicated UI Slots for eCommerce Integrations
  • AI-Powered, Cross-Platform Search
  • Open Architecture
  • Single Sign-on
  • Cross-Platform Content & Data Access
 

TECHNOLOGY PARTNERS

Magnolia partners with a diverse set of leading technology providers to offer customers a multitude of options for building out a DXP fully tailored to their needs. With pre-built Connector Packs for commerce, digital asset management, marketing automation, analytics and SEO, organizations don’t have to settle for anything less than the best technologies on the market and use them in unison to drive world-class digital experiences.

Skjoldan added: “Our technology partners are critical to our DXP as an architecture approach. We partner with some of the leading technology providers in order to give clients the optimal tools for creating a DXP that perfectly suits their needs.”

Magnolia's technology partners include:

  • Salesforce
  • Marketo
  • Siteimprove 
  • Bynder
  • commercetools 
  • BigCommerce
  • Magento
  • IBM
  • KonaKart
  • Matomo
 

STRENGTHS

Magnolia’s Point of View

Magnolia stands out in how it fills the gaps between the marketing-focused suite DXP vendors and the developer-focused headless providers. Developers get the speed and agility of headless delivery, while marketers still get features like live preview and in-context editing that they need to build rich experiences. This allows both sides to work collaboratively, rather than imposing limitations on one side or the other.

Another strength is Magnolia’s ability to serve as a digital experience hub. With Magnolia you can bring in content and data from your PIMs, DAMs, CRMS and even other CMSs. All of this can be done without Java code. You can then use the content and data in Magnolia apps, forms, templates and search results just like local content.
 
Last but not least, Magnolia is built on a highly flexible architecture, open standards and rich set of integration points. You get full flexibility to employ microservices and to deliver experiences with a headless approach, fully server-rendered or any combination. With Magnolia’s Light Development approach, front-enders can work with their favorite languages like React, Angular and Vue to deliver full-fledged digital experiences.

Implementation Partners' Point of View

“One of Magnolia’s key strengths is how easy it is to connect with various systems or services.  As it is an open-source system, you are able to see the code to take advantage of the existing connectors to utilize or extend to fit your needs."

“Magnolia provides a great set of core content management features for marketers who value speed and beauty. On the development side Magnolia gets out of the way so web designers can create any experience they want without worrying about the underlying tool. It’s the best CMS for integrations — Magnolia assumes you will want to connect it to other systems and makes doing so easier than with other more complicated enterprise tools.”

“User experience and Omnichannel capability define Magnolia at its core.  With all the rage about headless CMS lately, it's great to see a CMS that not only provides those headless capabilities but also provides unrivaled content editing capability to truly accelerate content time to market.”

WEAKNESSES

Magnolia’s Point of View

Magnolia is a solution built for complex business problems, with the ability to customize and extend the platform as needed to fit project needs. This means that businesses without skilled developer resources on hand, whether as employees or through an implementation partner, haven’t been able to truly tap into Magnolia’s full potential. However, this concern is being lessened some with a strong new SaaS offering.

Implementation Partners' Point of View

“A weakness of the Magnolia system is within its documentation.  While some areas are well documented and give usage examples others seem to be based on prior software versions and do not pertain to the current system.”

“As content operations become more complex, one area that Magnolia lags is in providing more complex content scheduling and workflow features to match. Some may consider this a strength since many content teams may want to use other more purpose built tools like Monday.com to manage their content workflows, approvals and calendars.”

“Magnolia’s weaknesses have traditionally revolved around complexity both in website development and devops. Today great improvements have been made on both fronts with light development and Magnolia now hosting.”

KEY DIFFERENTIATORS

Magnolia’s Point of View

The visual headless editing experience is a key differentiator for Magnolia. While other headless solutions limit practitioners to form-based content entry and no preview, Magnolia provides in-context editing and full live preview.

Another is Magnolia’s best-of-breed approach to serving as a digital experience hub. With a range of pre-built connectors and the industry’s most flexible APIs, Magnolia is built to make integrating with the other aspects of the martech stack easy. Content is both searchable and accessible across platforms all from within Magnolia.

Last, but not least, are Magnolia’s dedicated multisource integrated user experience (IUX) slots. Dedicated slots are placed within the Magnolia UI where elements from integrated applications can live natively. This means users do not need to switch contexts to access the data and/or content they need from another platform.

Implementation Partners' Point of View

“Magnolia stands out to me in a few areas. One is the ability to easily create any rich user experience within an enterprise grade system vs. the more cookie-cutter provided by others. Another is speed to implement and deliver. We get projects done faster with Magnolia than we’ve seen with other enterprise-level systems and partners. Third is a balanced focus on both the end-user/marketers and developer quality of life within the system. Last but not least is the level of support provided by Magnolia.”

“Magnolia has differentiated itself from others in this space with its latest release and support for a headless CMS, more specifically, the hybrid headless CMS. This allows for content to be created as normal within the CMS but also allows for this content to be repurposed in various channels.”

“Three key differentiators for Magnolia are Restful content API's, ease of use for the content editors and personalization.”

TRAINING & SUPPORT

Magnolia Professional Services focuses on customer success by providing support and assistance, enablement and consulting.

  1. Support and assistance: customer care, product support, assistance

  2. Enablement: classroom training, certifications, customer workshop

  3. Consulting: pre-sales workshop, kick-off workshops, architecting and coaching

Magnolia offers four different service project packages: Self-service, Standard Package, Custom package, Single service.

  1. Self-service: Customers can get started with Magnolia through our official documentation, online tutorials, how-to guides and webinars.

  2. Standard package: Magnolia has defined the services that are needed to start a project with Magnolia which contains six engagements:

    • Training - Instructor-led course taught by Magnolia experts at a Magnolia office or on-site

    • Kick-off workshop - We assist in the project setup and planning, and provide a recommendation catalog on Magnolia Specifics

    • Technical/Information architecture workshop - We perform in-depth architecture and technical requirements review, and recommend best practices.

    • Guidance & assistance - Guaranteed in-depth exchange with magnolia technical staff, guidance and assistance, and a recommendation report.

    • Pre go-live review - We perform in-depth analysis and provide recommendations on quick wins and a technical or business report.

    • Performance audit/project audit - We perform logging, best practices, quality & performance reviews.

  3. Custom package: Customers can choose professional services based on timelines and short- or long-term needs.

  4. Single service: Customers can pick a service that is urgently needed for the project based on timelines and short-term needs.

IMPLEMENTATION PARTNER PROCESS

Potential Magnolia partners are thoroughly vetted and extensively trained on Magnolia to ensure they are able to help clients get the most out of their implementation. As ongoing education and development for our partners, we deliver blueprints, monthly webinars, workshops and facilitate direct client/partner relations through our partner program.

Magnolia Partners are in charge of the project implementation and are the primary contact to the customer. Our Professional Services assist both customers and partners in leveraging best practices for deploying Magnolia, by various audit services and through expert assistance when needed. It's the combination of our dedication and commitment to the partner channel for project fulfillment, a product of highest quality and professional services that form the cornerstone for successful implementation.

CUSTOMERS

Worldwide Deployments: 375

Top Market Sectors: 

  • Travel
  • Retail
  • Technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Banking/Financial Services
  • Media 
  • Government
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Energy


Notable Magnolia Brand-Name Customers:

  • The New York Times
  • JetBlue
  • Atlassian
  • Virgin Holidays & Virgin Voyages
  • Fendi
  • Avis
  • State Street
  • Invesco
  • CNN Philippines
  • Tesco
  • Melia Hotels International
  • American Express

Customer Comments:

 Janine Peralta, CNN Philippines
"Magnolia's Stories App is really simple, functional and fast. So I don't have to worry about the software – I can just focus on content creation."

Wiebke Reissig, JobRad
"It’s fun working with Magnolia, it’s really easy and it fulfills all our needs: be where the user is, and deliver the right content, at the right time to the right person."

José María Tomás Llompart, Melia Hotels International
"The Magnolia team is very close and collaborative, which allows for high quality support and a very active community where Magnolia’s own engineers are involved."

 Customer comments and testimonials are all third-party verified

Featured Case Study

Magnolia-casestudy-1.png

More News, Faster. As a Leading Media Outlet, CNN Philippines Relies on Magnolia to Fuel Its Daily Reporting

FUTURE ROADMAP

Magnolia is currently strongly invested in native content optimization capabilities. We are currently working towards improvements in a number of areas, including A/B/N functionality and stronger reporting. Beyond those, we are also closer to releasing deepened eCommerce capabilities. In addition, the front-end developer experience continues to be one of our primary focuses. Coming soon is our GraphQL integration, which will be moving from the Magnolia Incubator program to the official Magnolia DXCore bundle.

PERFORMANCE GUIDE

CMS-Connected's performance guide is based on our interviews with the vendor, their implementation and technical partners, customers, and leading industry analysts.

Category Scoring: 5 = Excellent | 4 = Very Good | 3 = Good | 2 = Satisfactory | 1 = Unsatisfactory

Overall Performance Scoring: 57–70 = Excellent | 43–56 = Very Good | 29–42 = Good | 15–28 = Satisfactory | 1–14 = Unsatisfactory

Performance Category Scoring
Performance Category Scoring 3
Strong North American Footpring with a Global Presence 2
Leadership and Positive Industry Recognition 3
Well-defined Differentiators 2
Offers Headless and/or Decoupled Architectures 3
eCommerce Offering 2
Cloud Capabilities 4
Digital Experience Platform (DXP) Offerings 3
Ability to Integrate with Pairing Technologies 4
Stable Platform with an Active Number of Deployments 3
Strong Customer References 3
Presales and Post-sales Support 3
Trained, Certified, and Experienced Implementation Partners 2
Clear and Well-defined Future Roadmap 3
Overall Performance Score — Very Good 43

ANNUAL HOSTED EVENTS

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Please contact Magonlia for upcoming events.

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Gary Eisenstein

Gary Eisenstein

Gary has been working in the IT industry for over 26-years and is a Principal Analyst at CMS-Connected Media Corp. and is the Founder and CEO of Falcon-Software Company. If you would like to receive additional advice or consultation on how to evolve your digital transformation journey, Gary can be reached at gary.eisenstein@cmscmedia.com.