January 13, 2020
Content Matters Podcast: David Hillis on the Rise of Agile Content Management and What it Means for Organizations
David Hillis Content Matters Podcast

Who better to talk to about the evolution of content management than someone who talks with organizations every day about their content needs?

David Hillis, VP of Business Development at Ingeniux, doesn’t just work with prospective customers, he is also responsible for the marketing team at Ingeniux. In our interview with Hillis for the Content Matters Podcast, he shared his views on the changing content landscape and the shift to agile content management.

Continue reading for highlights of our talk with Hillis, or listen to the full podcast via the link at the bottom of the page.

Why Ingeniux Launched the Content Matters Podcast

We kicked things off with Hillis explaining why we started the Content Matters Podcast this year:

“One thing we talk about on this podcast was really kind of coming back to that sounding stone over and over again, why does content matter? Why is content important? And I would argue that content is actually the most valuable business asset that most organizations have. Content shapes the way that we interact with the world, with our customers, with the market. It's how we project not only who we are but where we're going as a company.”

Hillis explained that content marketing had been around for a long time, long before the internet ever existed. But the internet did something – it democratized content and completely changed the way we create, consume and share it. Every brand is now a publisher or has the opportunity to be a publisher, and it’s become incredibly important to understand content strategy, content quality, content production and the relationship between content and the customer.

The Shift in How We Manage Content

“It's been a market that's evolved, really in incredible ways in the last 20 years - content management - and we call it the third wave of content management where we are today, which is a really exciting place – it's basically been a market shifting industry since its inception, that has defied really a lot of the principles of many markets, like consolidation. The content management industry today continues to be a very diverse, vibrant market with a lot of new ideas, new players, existing players. It's not been a consolidated market, even though you would think given all the investment and focus in this industry that would have happened. In fact, the opposite has happened, which I think is actually really good for the industry and really exciting.”

Hillis described the first wave as basic web content management with HTML and brochureware type websites, the second wave as wanting to deliver richer web experiences with WEM platforms providing tightly coupled architectures for delivering dynamic content. But the problem was, everything was on one platform with similar modules and out of the box capabilities that didn’t leave room for differentiation. These WEM platforms were typically large and cumbersome and trying to be a full-stack delivery tier.

We are now in the third wave of content management, said Hillis.

“A few things [are] driving it, but a lot of what's driving it is, first of all, experiential. Organizations have found that delivering modern experiences today takes a village or ecosystem of solutions. The fact is that, you know, these companies have 20 years of investment in their IT systems and platforms that they want to deliver as a cohesive customer experience, really from the demand generation, the marketing side all the way up to customer service fulfillment. And, doing that with a very heavy server-side architecture doesn't really solve or check those boxes becomes very expensive. Implementation timelines are long and wieldy. Success rates are pretty low for those projects.”

Today, we see the desire to create digital experiences with new technologies and frameworks that don’t require a heavy, complex backend to support it. Organizations are also trying to provide omnichannel experiences and require solutions that can support multiple delivery channels.

“The majority of businesses today manage multiple websites. And they actually use multiple CMS products to do that. And they think about content management as a project tool, rather than as a strategy in the organization for supporting content across every channel. And that's a big part of, again, what we would call the shift, which is this kind of major paradigm shift happening in our industry today, is really a shift from single-site projects, to multi-site management and ultimately to what we would call kind of the unified content repository or the content stack in your organization. And having a kind of a centralized service that can manage content across multiple sites and venues. So, if it's your mobile app, your web applications, your front end, web sites: all of those being fed off a single piece of content.”

It’s also not just about marketing content today. It’s about customer service and support, account management, commerce, and more. All these groups have the same problems with content, and they just don’t know it, Hillis said.

Headless vs. Hybrid vs Agile Content Management

“It’s about the right tool for the job.”

Hillis describes several scenarios where you might want a headless solution or a decoupled solution with templates. He explains the benefits of each approach in certain contexts. He pointed that within a single website there may be multiple approaches for delivering content.

It’s an agile approach that gives you multiple options.

“There's a number of components to what makes an agile CMS, and I would probably highlight three of them. The first is that it is a hybrid content deployment system. You can choose to deploy content the right way for the project. You could do dynamic content that uses server-side code to render, or personalize content and apply templates to it. You can do headless or API based content deployment and basically use different types of API approaches and responses to integrate content into your external templates and applications or mobile apps. Or you can do static content deployment, which pre-renders information, and then replicates it to an endpoint. ... So, the flexibility of the hybrid content deployment is really the first kind of key piece of Agile CMS.

The second piece is intelligent content. It's being able to model that content in a way that provides enough structure, that content can then be displayed in multiple different ways.”

The third component is the architecture. You can create content in an environment that is either coupled or decoupled. Coupled means the presentation layer runs in the same environment where you create and manage the content. This coupled approach does have benefits, but it is also restrictive locking you into the vendor’s technology and roadmap, and it gives you a heavy architecture for your delivery tier.

“A decoupled architecture, which is a definitive part of an agile content platform, means that it's a completely separate environment from content creation and management to content delivery.”

Content Management is Foundational, But the Customer is the Key

“Most CMS vendors think that the entire ecosystem revolves around them. And that's actually not true in any way.”

In fact, the ecosystem should revolve around the customer and what they need. And the information they require, Hillis said, comes from multiple systems that must be integrated on the backend to provide the customer that single view.

“You start with the customer. What does the customer need? Where do you get that information? How does that information get into that system, all the way backwards? And then really streamline those processes, starting from the customer working backward until it's efficient and scalable and has utility and content. You know, to me, content is the most important thing in that whole equation.”

“And if we think about a universe that starts with the customer, then all it comes down to is humans speaking to humans, and we speak through language. And we speak through content, we gather around a digital campfire. We tell stories, we look at the stars, right? It's what we do. I mean, to put it in a really high-level perspective, what the ultimate goal should be is to make it human, and content is what makes us human.”

Roadmap for Revolutionaries

“It doesn't matter where you start… If you hear all this, and you're kind of overwhelmed, and half of it doesn't make sense to you, that doesn't matter.”

Hillis explained that you can start anywhere. For example, you can start with a basic website and content creation, or you can go bigger. You can also start functionality in a certain department, like customer service, and build your content stack and your content management system. Or you can start in marketing to build a better website. But also think beyond.

“Think big. Don’t just think about this project. But think about how this content has utility and use beyond this project. It doesn’t matter where you start… All roads lead to Rome.”

The longest part of the journey is the first step. Start thinking intelligently about your content, your content strategy. Define a goal and a target, get buy-in and support, and get started.

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Posted by Barb Mosher Zinck