»The real role of the CMS is to integrate well with AI systems and services, rather than to provide them itself.« Interview with Handelskraft speaker, Christopher Zimmermann

speaker, konferenz, HK19FFM
Source: dotSource

Content is no longer just produced and published in one place. Information and data are processed by various devices and distributed over several channels. The classic content management system, therefore, reaches its limits, as it’s not designed to provide data outside of its own template engine.

Headless is the answer to this new scenario and more and more companies are betting on its many benefits. It can be very well combined with other emerging modern approaches, such as a microservices architecture, a progressive web app, and a cloud strategy.

On 28 March, 2019, Christopher Zimmermann, Product Manager of Magnolia, will be giving answers to all questions about Headless CMS at the Handelskraft Conference, even those you wouldn’t even dare to ask. He gives us his first round of insights in the Handelskraft interview.

Why is the headless CMS approach gaining in importance and what benefits does it offer businesses?

One of the really interesting things about headless is that there are so many different reasons that people are tending in that direction. Headless starts to make sense when you see it in relation to some of the big trends that are driving it. I’ve recently realised that the most significant drivers are technical. It’s about micro-services, where you split big things down into smaller services – this makes things more manageable, more connectable, but also frees businesses from ‘vendor lock-in’, giving them way more freedom and independence to choose the best tools and products for each part of their stack. (And to swap parts out whenever they want.) The second big technical driver has been the mobile phone platform, which has also driven the rise of super-interactive websites running on javascript frameworks like React, Angular & Vue. The key business benefit for this is actually the speed of project development, ease of finding developers, and ramp-up time. Why? Because you don’t have to find as many experts in a particular CMS, any developer with React chops can be productive on your project right away.

People mostly talk about the benefit of being able to use the same content across all your current and future channels (Multi-channel and Omni-channel trends) – and this is also a real advantage of headless, but just one among many.

There’s so much more to tell you about! Check out my session and I can paint you the whole picture in a way that makes sense.

Content is king and the software behind it as well. Why is important for companies to always keep their CMS up to current standards? What would you say to those companies that are worried about the effects and efforts of a software migration?

I’d recommend that digital leads and CMO’s always start any technical evaluation with the people. How can I best serve my audience, my content authors, my developers, my IT staff? New trends and technologies give us (and our competitors) ideas and opportunities, explore how they can really help your people. And then based on that what tech and tools will do that the best. 

For example, “Huh, our target audience keeps adopting new social channels where we don’t have a presence yet, and our content authors are struggling to maintain all these channels.” Brainstorm. “Hmm, what about this new headless thing, supposedly we can write content once and reuse it across all channels?” 

So to respond to your question, companies should work to serve their people best, if their current CMS does that, great. If it doesn’t then they need to see if it’s flexible enough to accommodate their new needs, or it could be time to look for a new CMS.

As to the effort of migrating to a new CMS, two strategies are really effective.

  1. Migrate a small part of your site first, or launch a new initiative on the new CMS. Then you can go live much sooner, with much less risk, and see how the CMS really performs – for your audience, content authors, and developers.
  2. Maybe you don’t ever need to migrate your whole site, or not for a long time. Move your high-value properties to the new CMS, but keep the old one for “legacy content” that still has value.

Artificial intelligence is something everyone’s talking about and can already be found in software developments. Automating content creation is also among the possible applications of this technology. To what extent do content management systems keep up with AI and what can users expect to achieve with this?

This is an important trend to watch. Certain types of data-centric news production are where I see the most value right now. The real role of the CMS is to integrate well with AI systems and services, rather than to provide them itself. This gets back to this “microservice” architecture. Amazon alone has like 8 amazing AI web-services. The CMS should provide a connection to these services on a technical, but especially on a UI level so that content authors can really get the most out of them.  Look for AI to be helping content authors. For example, we did a project where after a reporter wrote a news article, an AI would suggest some headlines, the reporter would approve a few of them, and they would then go live in an AB test. Finally, the best performing headline was locked in, and the AI could learn based on the successful headlines.

Another important trend related to content management is the increasing demand for collaboration tools as a result of a growing number of remote workers. What’s magnolia’s response to this trend?

We aren’t specifically responding to this trend, but we definitely see it emphasising the value of logical, easy to understand user interface. With remote workers, and also with multiple teams you often have running different country sites, it’s just critical that people understand their tools, otherwise, they are timid about using them, afraid of making a mistake. When that happens, you’re not getting the value that you signed up for. If authors don’t like the tool, or if it takes a lot of training, you’re going to have a difficult rollout.

What can guests expect from your session at the 2019 Handelskraft Conference?

You’re going to learn everything you always wanted to know about headless but were afraid to ask! It’s in the last slot of the day, so I want to make it fun and interactive and wake people up. I’m going to do a quiz show format which is cool because the questions make you curious, and the answers sink in more.

As to the content, I’m going to explain headless from the ground up so no previous knowledge on the topic is necessary. The thing is that headless and the other buzzwords of 2019 make a lot of sense when you see how they relate to each other – so I’ll use that as a teaching framework.

Based on that groundwork, guests are going to learn about the big downside of headless, a bad content authoring experience – and the cutting edge techniques that Magnolia and other CMS vendors are developing right now to solve it.

Secure your ticket for Handelskraft 2019 now!

Be there on 29 March at the Handelskraft Conference in Frankfurt am Main and see how trends turn into innovations and buzzwords become a real business.

We invite all brands, retailers, and manufacturers to be at the Klassikstadt in Frankfurt.

Click here for tickets the 2019 Handelskraft Conference!

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