Agile CMS: What that means and why Contentful is made for agile workflows

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January 6, 2021


Don't cringe at yet another label appearing on the landscape –– if you're using Contentful, you're already using an agile CMS.

Content management systems (CMSes) and Content-as-a-Service (CaaS) platforms are the latest products to jump on the agile bandwagon. Agile is replacing other CMS descriptors like headless or decoupled –– in 2021, it seems like it's agile or bust. You can read Forrester’s complete report on the topic. But, does that mean you have to race out and replace your CMS with one marked as agile? Is it just a clever marketing spin or a response to the agile trend? What exactly is an agile CMS?

In this post, we'll define the key characteristics and components of an agile CMS and explain why Contentful is all that and more.

What is an agile CMS? 

Forrester has defined the term. According to Forrester, an agile CMS should have these components: 

A content hub where you can access all of your content and content repositories  

Practitioners — people who work as content writers, marketers, campaign managers — need to have a unified content access point. If you’re a practitioner, you know that bouncing between different software and content storage tools (like Dropbox and Folder) can eat up precious minutes and hours. The single content hub aims to address this issue by aggregating all of your pieces of content into one place. And when we say all content, we mean ALL content; even tricky little doodads like logos and buttons. From the content hub, the practitioner can take stock of all of the content, use features to collaborate on creating content, and deliver it to wherever it needs to go. 

One of the best things about a single content repository is that you're able to understand what content exists already. Content reuse across channels and campaigns drives up the value of that content. When you have a content hub, you’re not only making organization, access and governance easier, you're stretching your content, which in turn saves you time, money and resources. 

Other significant benefits include brand consistency and competitiveness. If you can launch in new markets with all your brand assets, logos and content for any digital channels, you can make sure you enter with a recognized brand. This speeds up the time you get into a market much faster than competitors who don't have the technical infrastructure in place to do the same.

Operational friction should be at a minimum 

When we talk about agile, it's usually in the context of project management and software development. Agile project management prioritizes organizational efficiency, including quick feedback loops, collaboration between teams, iteration and intelligent workflows. 

An agile CMS takes those same principles and applies them to how people work and engage with the software. When you incorporate agile processes into your CMS, what you’re hopefully getting is faster, more efficient content operations, which will drive your costs down. 

Here’s an example: an agile CMS has features that allow for easy collaboration and planning between content teams and developers. Features could include items such as a project calendar, a checklist of tasks in the interface or analytics built into the platform. Or it might be a feature like Contentful APIs or environmental aliases, which allows teams to manage their CMS programmatically. Instead of the traditional waterfall approach to building — which requires long development phases and discourages quick iteration — APIs and aliases let you iterate quickly and stay flexible to evolving business demands. 

What the agile CMS does is take an agile principle — easy collaboration and planning — and turn it into a feature that will help teams create more digital products, faster.  

The practitioner isn't an afterthought

The poor practitioner has been an afterthought for years when it comes to CMSes. They've had to adapt to workflows created by developers and for developers. But, over the years, Contentful has come to realize that when practitioners are confident in the tools they're using, they’re more productive and happy –– who would have thought! 

In all seriousness, traditional CMSes, and to some extent, headless and decoupled CMSes, lacked essential tools such as analytic and tools that make omnichannel content delivery easier. The agile CMS aims to address this tricky little problem through an easy-to-understand interface, customization opportunities, tools and a workflow that suits.

Made for omnichannel  

One of the biggest challenges an agile CMS sets out to solve is omnichannel delivery. The customer experience isn’t just limited to a web page anymore. Brands are using social, apps, IoT devices and buying-and-selling platforms like Etsy and Amazon to sell their products and services. 

So, omnichannel isn’t just about delivering content to each of these channels. It’s about attracting the buyer exactly where they are with tailored and optimized content AND it’s the ability to fulfill from anywhere. Nobody is running a backend that is as simple as: create content, post content, sell. Instead, it could look like: customer sees a product on Instagram, buys it off Etsy, the product needs to be shipped from here to there, and so on.

While headless or decoupled CMSes made agnostic content delivery easier, agile CMSes take it one step further by providing tools and services that optimize both the user and customer experience at every stage. A CMS optimized for omnichannel isn’t just providing services for right now –– it’s also optimized for whatever is on the horizon. It’s ready for aspects of channels and devices that haven’t even been created yet. 

So, how exactly does it do all this? According to Forrester, a key characteristic of the agile CMS is the ability to create, manage and track content via API-first content services fueled by intelligence and governance. 

Is Contentful an agile CMS? 

Good question! As a content platform, Contentful goes beyond just providing a CMS. Instead, we’re providing a content platform which includes all of the features of an agile CMS with added services, tools, extensibility features and support. To give you a concrete example, here are some of the features that put us in-line with the agile-CMS category: 

  • Contentful is a hub for all of your content and provides an easy-to-use interface to view, organize and govern all of your content. It’s one single spot to find everything. 

  • Contentful is made for collaboration and planning. There are a ton of features that help you collaborate with people in your team and cross-functionally. These include tasks, comments, scheduled publishing, analytics with Optimizely and more. We know that workflows range from generic to tailored, and making any kind of workflow is possible with Contentful. We don’t box you into a workflow build for someone else; we let you build specific workflows on- the fly.

  • Workflows just work better with Contentful. 

  • Contentful isn’t just practitioner-friendly –– we go the extra mile to make sure practitioners feel comfortable and confident using all of Contentful’s products. Features that were especially created for practitioners include: learning services like our Practitioner Help center, the Contentful Certified Professional course, and solutions like our knowledge base app, which can be set up without any developer resources. 

  • Unlike legacy or monolithic CMSes, Contentful was built for omnichannel. We’re completely channel- and device-agnostic, allowing you to deliver your content anywhere it needs to go. 

  • Contentful offers API-first content services, which can be delivered intelligently, using data from any source, and governed across large-scale digital footprints, enabling global agility.

  • By offering tools and frameworks, such as the App Framework, to build anything on top of Contentful, the platform offers unprecedented agility across the enterprise. The app marketplace makes it possible to incorporate your favorite tools and services.

Are you interested in how agile ecommerce is transforming retail? Legacy tools don’t cut it for ecommerce needs. Read the whitepaper here.  

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