Operational agility that lets retailers adapt to new market circumstances and technologies as they emerge has never been more important. Retailers that adapted their digital model in 2020 by separating backend features from the front-end experience and incorporating new tools continued to grow. Decathlon exemplified this; the retailer adapted their stores into ecommerce packing centers to accommodate for online demand, which was only possible when they added new fulfilment software to their backend.
This post demystifies the process of adopting a content platform and offers five theoretical steps that will get you there.
What to consider before adopting a content platform and composable architecture
A content platform is a lot like a headless content management system. It separates the front-end and backend, which frees up front-end teams to get UI changes live quicker than backend changes.
But content platforms take it one step further. Not only are they connected to the front end by a set of APIs, they want that same flexibility and speed for the backend too. Therefore, additional tools connect via APIs to provide new functionalities, such as search, order management and localization. This results in a flexible, scalable and frequently deployable set of backends that uses industry-leading technologies. With composable architecture, you no longer rely on a single technology for every ecommerce functionality.
The answer to the question “should we use a content platform?” is entirely dependent on your business. Changing digital transformation goals also impacts the six steps below.
Before you begin, ask yourself and your team,
What are my strategic business goals? Companies that anticipate a competitive landscape, where their digital experience is a key differentiator, are more likely to consider using a content platform. In the long run, it will mean staying at the forefront of technologies as they emerge, now and in the future.
What are the most important aspects of my digital experiences? Knowing which parts of your digital experiences help you hit your business goals will help you understand how important using a content platform is.
Do I have the right IT skills and depth of resources? The more tooling you introduce, the higher the impact on the responsibilities of your team. Connecting industry-leading technologies via APIs as part of a composable architecture requires a level of DevOps that not all companies are set up to undertake. Lean technical teams should only go with a content platform if they are happy to get support from a managed service provider.
Learn more about the benifits of Contentful by speaking with a team member.
The transition to a content platform can be framed as not so much moving to digital but to digital-first. It’s about becoming a tech company that happens to sell clothes, cars, insurance, or banking. Practically speaking, this means instead of many people with knowledge of a single all-in-one system, you would resource a few experts on every technology that you use, i.e. multiple teams working in tandem.
We’ve created a guide with six steps that you should expect to follow.
Please note: good technical delivery that considers operational impact means doing steps simultaneously, and the amount of time and resources required at each milestone is dependent on the findings during the initial review.
1. Review your rationale for going headless.
First, you will need to answer the question, “Why do I want to go with a content platform?” Review the business benefits and define your ideal customer experience. From that, understand whether there are deeper functionalities (e.g., around search, content, personalization, etc.) and internal efficiencies (e.g., how long marketing teams spend designing emails or producing content), which you would like to address. Understand the future changes to your operating model before making a decision.
2. Set up a steering committee to oversee the project.
Define the roles that your developers, writers, editors and team leaders will play during and after the transition to a content platform. Running a training program will be critical to help IT and business teams understand the digital transformation and how their roles will change — both for business and technical personnel. Finally, define the SLAs to set measurable service goals.
3. Design the technical architecture for every stage of the transition.
Not only writing the technical documentation of “how” the technologies will integrate (the architectural design docs) and how each dataset will speak to each other (data structure specification), but the security and performance specifications to match. Deciding the order of which functionality goes first based on business priorities is key.
4. Effectuate changes to your DevOps, infrastructure and tools.
Plan an operational infrastructure that harnesses cloud technology and prepares for the use of multiple SaaS products. The operational structure of “tribes and squads” is typical to automate and manage the continual deployments and testing for multiple applications.
5. Design how the front end will look.
Customer mapping, UX flows and website wireframes are all used to design the look and feel for the end user. The UX team will integrate with the DevOps team to ensure alignment.
6. Measure the change with a clear set of key performance indicators.
Ensure that each department has set measurable goals that link to your business strategy. Empowering your staff with better business tools through composable architecture is also about enabling them to measure the change.
By going with a content platform, you set your company up for digital success both now and in the future. When it comes to implementing a content platform, careful consideration of business goals and required operational design shapes how your company wants to go. No digital-first journey is ever the same for this reason. But what is consistent is the careful consideration of operational impact throughout — how teams will be set up both during the transition and ongoing.