Agility CMS Execs Discuss Content Architecture
As you may recall, in a previous CMS-Connected interview, Jon Voigt, Co-founder of Agility Inc, had described Agility CMS as “on the cloud before the cloud was even a cloud.” Today, Jon, alongside Joel Varty, VP of Innovation and Development at Agility Inc, speaks to our media reporter Laura Myers about Agility in the Cloud, the importance Agility places on the thoughts of developers and, how their platform integrates with many of the popular platforms in the market.
One of the things that make Agility stand out from the crowd is the fact that the platform was built in the cloud from the ground up. Conversely, many vendors in the market deploy the cloud and build a managed hosting service around their existing product, and they offer it as a cloud CMS. However, the unique benefits of Agility’s offering come from not only being a true cloud platform but also being Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and multi-tenant. While there are a lot of advantages to having this 3-in-1 architecture, to sum up, Jon says that their customers receive small upgrades every month and do not have to pay for everything upfront as SaaS works that way, while they still have “unlimited flexibility” in terms of design and system integrations due to being a multitenant application.
Joel, on the other hand, brought up a great example to put Jon’s summary into perspective. He said that they needed to open up a Canadian Data Center and the architecture they utilize allowed them the flexibility to do so without a huge outlay such as a hardware or huge capital investment. At the end of the day, they were able to provide a whole other platform for their customers who want to have their data in Canada.
Why Should Everyone Take Note of Content Architecture?
After delving a little deeper into the benefits of Agility in the Cloud, Jon and Joel explained something to us we’ve heard a lot more of recently: “What does content architecture mean and why should everyone take note of it?” Jon defines content architecture as simply the ability to configure your back-end platform to support your content. He states, if people are not able to manage their content through their platform, then why would they have a content management system in the first place?
I definitely agree with the alignment between back-end and front-end. Back-end means the software on the server side of applications and takes care of everything from analytics and user authentication to databases and libraries that an app needs to communicate. Front-end, on the other hand, is where the content is presented. Jon draws our attention to the fact that back-end is often overlooked as organizations are mostly focusing on the customer-facing side, such as user experience and web design, which makes up for the front-end experience. Unfortunately, this shortcut approach doesn’t serve well while developing the website because the content manager experience is just as important as the user experience. Therefore, without having a proper configuration between front-end and back-end, it is not possible to continuously support content in the long run.
Again, to put this into perspective, Joel highlighted the fact that Agility has customers that have been working with them for over 10 years, and over the course of that time, the vendor rebuilt their sites three different times. Because the content architecture at the back-end was done so well, as Joel claims, all they have done was reskin the front-end or enhance a new integration with a new platform.
Unleashing the Full Potential of Developers
Speaking of overlooked areas of the content management business, Jon also made a great point by saying that people, who are on the sales side of things, focus more on marketers so often, they forget to step back and look at other people such as developers who are living in the system day in and day out. It is very important to take the needs of internal practitioners, content authors, and developers into consideration because if their skill sets are not smoothly transformed into a new environment, soon enough, the customer-facing side will also be negatively impacted.
With this in mind, Jon believes their platform was built based on developers’ need from day one. When we look at the history of the company, it is easy to see what Jon means. When Jon founded the company with Michael Assad in 2002, they started out as a developer shop and from there, in the realization of the need for a content management system (CMS) that could offer custom applications, easy system integration, and enough flexibility in the market, they leveraged their business with a focus on the custom development and systems integration services.
Despite the fact that we have seen the advent of technology since then in the market, unfortunately, the gap between the expectations of business and the readiness of IT organizations hasn’t been narrowed enough. In fact, last week, here at CMS-Connected, I wrote an article about the gap between executives’ expectations for Digital Transformation and IT organizations readiness. Here’s a data point that I noted in the article that bears repeating; a new study released by Commvault and Quadrant Strategies reveals that while 41% of executives believe their organizations understand and are prepared for innovation (already a surprisingly low number), only 29% of IT personnel believe the same. What it means is that while many executives recognize the need to be able to lead their companies through digital transformation, IT personnel actually feel they lack the skillset, technology, and bandwidth to create the data-centric foundation required for that digital change and future innovation.
In order to bridge that gap, Agility has been thriving to unleash the full potential of developers instead of putting them into a box, as Joel puts it. “When I see that a partner builds a website, I ask – well, how did you do that? It’s always a delight to see the new ways that they use to approach problems using our technology,” he further explained.
Your Platform Must Support Your Business Process Through Integrations
As I always state, the web content management system is the gravitational center of organizations’ digital ecosystems. To allow the exchange of data between a WCM platform and the other technologies in that ecosystem, organizations typically utilize an API which is a software intermediary that makes it possible for application programs to interact with each other and share data. Today, the use of APIs is going beyond just connecting internal and external systems such as ERP, CRM, commerce and DAM systems as now, developers can easily make content available to connected devices through APIs. Given that Gartner estimates tens of billions of everyday devices will be equipped with sensors by 2020, such integration capabilities will keep growing in importance.
Agility believes that people shouldn’t have to change their business process because of the limitation of their platform. As Jon said: “People want to figure out the most efficient way of running their business process and then put the platform in place to support that.” I couldn’t agree more with him. During the interview, Jon also mentioned about how a recent study revealed that marketing organizations use an average of 20 different platforms. There are, indeed, so many various studies out there suggesting that more and more marketers remain committed to a best-of-breed approach to vendor selection rather than seeking the advantages of single-source solutions. To satiate this obvious need, technology providers like Agility have to give the freedom and flexibility to their customers to create a win-win situation so the customers could get the most out of their digital investments.
Joel believes Agility was one of the first vendors to employ an API-first everything approach as integration was the first thing they thought of while developing the platform. Since then, web APIs have really evolved and the other providers followed suit. To take a forward-thinking approach in order to build a future-proof technology goes a long way for both technology providers and their customers. Among many other reasons, one in particular is because, in the advent of technology, things are transforming at the speed of light, and technology investments are still fairly costly and time-consuming. It may not be possible to find a one-size-fits-all faultless software application as there is no such thing, but it is definitely possible and immersive to find a technology that can scale as your business revamps over time.
As far as usability goes, one of many things I like about Agility’s platform is that since the platform is built with the decoupled architecture, customizable parts of the solution are separated from the CMS whereas the main CMS is multitenant. That way, when Agility launches updates on a monthly basis, new modules and enhancements to its platform quickly and frequently, its users can stay on the top of all the advanced features and capabilities without having to go through big upgrades. Speaking of moving fast, as per the vendor claims, Agility’s customers can deploy the platform within two or three months whereas the deployment of their competitors’ platforms can take over six months.
As far as strategy goes, Agility’s approach involves discovering organizations’ processes and workflows to provide insight on current inefficiencies and suggest the best course of action. Today, like Agility, many vendors in the space, view their customers as a business partner rather than a buyer. Gone are the days of only developing features powered by the most advanced technology available, as today, vendors are additionally expected to guide their customers through tailored use cases for those features.
Lastly, creating a collaborative environment around integrated workflows, business processes, data streams, and applications is critical to maintain your business today and flourish tomorrow as your digital initiatives can only be effective when your organization is truly integrating ecosystems of people, business, and technology. Therefore, the ability not only to integrate one system to another but also setting up a clear alignment on the goals, execution, deployment, and strategy should also be taken into consideration.