What is an enterprise CMS and who needs one?

What is an enterprise CMS and who needs one?

In terms of function, an enterprise content management system is just like any other CMS. It is a software application used by editors to create and manage digital content. However, as the name “enterprise” indicates, it is specifically designed for medium and large-sized businesses. It gives you more options and makes it easier to handle an ever-growing content base. Whether you already have a lot of content or plan to create more in the future, it will be worth considering using an enterprise-level CMS.

Enterprise Content Management Systems
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Enterprise vs small-scale CMS 

WordPress is by far the most popular CMS with an impressive market share of 61%. Does that mean that it is the best CMS? It might – but it depends on your needs. For blogs and simple private and business websites, it is certainly a good option. WordPress or Joomla are both open-source CMS software, available for free, easy to install, and ready to use. They support essential features as site pages, templates and design customisation. If you need more functionality, you can install plugins. This will work perfectly up to a certain point. But as your business grows, your website will need more and more functionality – and therefore more and more plugins. At some point, your website will become bloated and eventually slower. And this is not the only limitation of small-scale CMSs.

When companies grow, sooner or later there will be more stakeholders, more traffic and more content, often in several languages and for different markets. The digital content volume is likely to increase, and the information architecture will become very complex. At this point, it will become very difficult to manage content with a small-scale CMS. It is then advisable to give high priority to a digital transformation and consider an enterprise solution in order to stay competitive.

Customisable architecture, a key to success 

We live in a world of distributed systems which are interacting with each other. An enterprise CMS is usually not only a plain content management system, but a hybrid solution that can communicate and exchange data with your existing external systems. This includes well-known tools such as Office365, Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter, traffic analytics and online shops. A modern enterprise-level CMS will probably have the relevant modules for integration ready. If not, the architecture is flexible enough to be customised.

When one of our clients, a large food cooperative in Sweden, was expanding their business, they needed to integrate an external e-commerce system as well as a customer loyalty program into their CMS. The aim was to use e-commerce and members’ data they already had to create customised content. That was the moment when the advantage of an enterprise solution became clear as never before. Thanks to their customisable CMS architecture, it was possible to integrate these external systems while editors could keep on working with their familiar tools. Today, this client’s platform has more than two million users and handles millions of requests every day.

Unified platform 

Organisations often administer and launch several websites at once, which can be challenging. Duplicated or unsynchronised content are common problems. Especially when separate companies join forces, you may end up with several websites that require different logins.

An enterprise-level CMS allows you to keep all your content in one unified platform. There you can create, preview, test and publish content for different brands and languages as well as for different purposes like newsletters, social media, CPC campaigns and even external applications. You can share resources, digital files and templates across different channels. You have everything in one place, so editors can access all kinds of content with a single login.

For one of our clients, an international non-profit organisation, we redesigned the user interface of their website. It had more than 100,000 pages and several teams of editors working on it. All content had to be migrated to the new design. Even though most of the migration was done automatically, the editors saw a welcome opportunity to review content and make corrections where necessary. Luckily, their CMS had built-in tools that enabled a smooth migration process. The editors could easily preview the new design and navigate through different versions. With a single click, they could switch each page to the new design when they were ready.

Simpleview CMS
Editing content in CMS, photo by Making Waves

Personalise your content

Personalisation is a true booster for user experience. Especially if your website has a lot of visitors, it’s highly recommended to segment and show each user group a different version of your content. With an enterprise CMS you can easily create visitor groups who will see personalised content based on their interests. Certain CMSs like Episerver have a criteria system built in. This enables you to create very complex personalisation scenarios and define which content each user group will see.

For example, you may want to display certain content only to users with three criteria: users aged 25-30, users who are members in a bonus program and users who haven’t purchased any promotional offers yet. With a little bit of programming, it is possible to drag these data from external systems into the CMS. This enables editors to immediately use these criteria, to create user groups and to personalise content accordingly. This is especially useful for content of e-commerce websites where it is common practice to address user groups like returning customers and new customers differently.

Flexible CMSs are more future-proof 

There will hardly be a ready-made solution that is perfectly suitable for all business goals. Each company is unique and requires different functionality from their CMS. If you want to stay small, a basic CMS like WordPress / Joomla will make it. But keep in mind that business goals and requirements of a CMS may change significantly when organisations grow. At some point, you may need to adapt and customise your CMS according to new circumstances. That’s when you are better off with an enterprise solution. With the right CMS it is much easier to maintain a lot of content on a complex website without letting it slow down. Even if the change might not come now, in the long run, working with an enterprise CMS will save you time and money.

Content editors editing digital content in an enterprise content management system
Content editing, picture by Jakob Nylund

Conclusion: Plan ahead

Think twice about your CMS choice. One day, you may want to offer many different products or services in different markets. It may then become difficult to maintain your corporate website with a basic CMS like WordPress. Keep in mind that your CMS is not just another part of your digital ecosystem, but the heart of your content strategy. It is the one place where all your content and data are processed when creating value for your business. The more flexible your CMS architecture is, the easier it will be to grow as a company.

You may want to get familiar with the topic of content migration from one enterprise CMS to another as well.

Co-author and editor: Carina Glinik