Agile content management systems (CMSes) build on the momentum of nearly 30 years of delivering modern, digital, internet-powered experiences. With a nod to both developers and practitioners, agile CMS seeks to enable collaborative, iterative approaches to content and experiences that satisfy both sides of the house. Make no mistake, though, agile CMS is more than headless CMS in a new box. The rise of headless and API-first approaches is essential to being able to create content once and deliver to omnichannel endpoints — and to assemble new types of engaging experiences from content, commerce, and data building blocks. But it takes a village to bring these parts together, which means a proper agile CMS needs to:

  • Have a content hub at its core, where techies and creatives can work equally well to drive more efficient content operations. Pure-play headless appeals to shops that have strong development teams, but they can also leave practitioners wondering, “Where did my tools go?”
  • Incorporate easy-to-use creation, with collaboration and planning tools that offer intuitive workflows and built-in best practices, standards, and smart use of AI. Plus, it needs to support the full range of content formats (even rich media) and contributors as “anywhere work” becomes the norm.
  • Offer flexible deployment options. Omnichannel is the rule rather than the exception, so it’s about embracing content reuse across channels and campaigns. But it’s also about supporting all deployment options and bringing the right support services, since many organizations (still) can’t handle or don’t want pure headless.

In our new Forrester Wave™ evaluation on the agile CMS market, we took a look at the 15 top vendors in the space and scored them against more than 20 functional and strategic criteria with the aim of helping you choose a CMS that better suits your needs and your users. An evolution of our 2018 Wave evaluation on web CMSes, you’ll see a new emphasis on what makes a solution “agile” — but also a number of foundational content management capabilities that carry forward. The result: Adobe, Optimizely (formerly Episerver), and Acquia lead the pack with strong collaboration capabilities, channel support, and community offerings, plus a vision that is more progressive than web- and page-centric days of the past.

One key component of our analysis was speaking to reference customers from the vendors. Some like web CMS just fine. Many others are looking for a new model. In a market that is in transition, feedback from these references is especially important as we score capabilities and validate each “pitch.” References here, in general, were very bullish on key capabilities like practitioner support, with one reference saying that their vendor needed to “continue to double down on business user support.” Others made heavy use of APIs and saw documentation and ease of integration as a differentiator, while another said their vendor’s “biggest opportunity was tighter integration with segmentation and personalization tools and technologies.”

The agile CMS market is incredibly important. It’s how brands express their digital persona and drive commerce conversations. It’s how prospects and customers learn about and interact with new services, products, and other users from their device of choice. Not only that, but our Forrester Analytics Business Technographics® data from 2020 tells us that almost a third (30%) of software decision-makers are planning to replace their current CMS with a new one — either from the same vendor they currently have or a completely new vendor.

While we took a look at the broader agile CMS market in our Now Tech, there are still some suite vendors that you might be wondering about, such as Oracle, Salesforce, and Acoustic (spin-off from IBM), to name a few. Increasingly, these firms have compelling agile-inspired offerings, but to date, they are typically purchased as part of a larger marketing or experience suite vs. stand-alone. So while these offerings tick many of the agile boxes, we didn’t include them this time around, but they should be on your shortlist — especially if your firm is an Oracle or Salesforce shop.

But wait, there’s more! I’ve kicked off two pieces of research that are great follow-ons to this Wave. I’ll be looking at the state of DAM (digital asset management) through our Now Tech research and, in another report, how content is an essential component of omnichannel experiences.

Want to know more about the agile CMS market and which vendor might be right for you? Forrester clients can set up an inquiry with me.