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Is your organization dependent on an older CMS? Legacy CMSs are increasingly limited, especially for omnichannel content distribution, and increasingly costly to support. 

Depending on your needs, now may be the time to optimize your content management tech stack to a newer, headless CMS that can feed your content to multiple channels with a lower support cost. There's simply more you can do with a newer CMS, as you'll soon discover.

Key takeaways

  • Legacy CMS platforms can only deliver content to a single channel

  • Legacy CMS platforms are slow, inflexible and don't support new technologies

  • Legacy CMS platforms require manual management, are impossible to update and are error-prone

  • Updating from a legacy CMS to a newer headless CMS can solve all of these issues and save your company money

Signs you need to migrate from a legacy CMS

Currently, the majority of companies use a legacy content management system (CMS), such as WordPress. Newer headless CMS platforms, such as Optimizely's Content Cloud CMS, are slowly gaining ground, and your company might benefit from upgrading. 

Major players' share of the CMS market


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A CMS isn’t just meant to streamline the internal workflow of your content creators and web content management team. A legacy CMS might be negatively impacting the customer experience.

Check out these seven signs that it's time to migrate from your legacy system to a more modern CMS.

1. Your current CMS can only deliver content to a single channel or you maintain multiple CMSs

With the increasing move to omnichannel marketing, content distribution and ecommerce, you need your CMS to function as a central repository for content that you then feed to multiple channels and websites. If your legacy CMS can't do this, you either have to store your content in multiple data silos, employ multiple CMSs or upgrade to a headless CMS.

A recent study found that 48% of companies surveyed were using more than one CMS. Half of the companies were doing so because either their current CMSs only supported a single channel, or they needed a new tech stack not present on their initial CMS. 

Unless a traditional single-target CMS, a headless CMS can feed any number of targets. You create your data once and store it in a central database, then other "heads" draw upon that content for their own uses. A headless CMS can feed that central content to your website, affiliate websites, multiple blogs, social media and more. If this is what you need, it's time to upgrade from your legacy system to a headless CMS.

2. Your current CMS is too slow

Another pain point for legacy CMSs is speed. If you're becoming increasingly frustrated by the amount of time it takes to access your content and feed it to your website, a newer CMS might be in your future. 

Your CMS needs to be able to deliver new or changed content to users when they need it. Unfortunately, most older CMSs were not built with publishing speed in mind. Updating content on most older systems is slow and overly reliant on overburdened IT staff, creating unacceptable publishing bottlenecks. According to the Content Marketing Institute's 2021 Content Management & Strategy Survey, 45% of companies say that content production workflow is a major challenge.

Newer CMSs, in contrast, are designed to let individual users quickly update existing or add new content. They don't need to put it in a queue for IT staff to address. They make a change and the system is automatically updated and the new content is pushed out to all the channels serviced.

3. Your current CMS won't adapt to your way of doing business

You want a CMS that adapts to your business, rather than having to adapt your business to the way a CMS works. Traditional CMSs are notoriously inflexible, forcing businesses to use their in-house solutions, even if those solutions don't fully meet business needs. Newer headless CMSs are considerably more flexible, letting you design your own front end(s) to serve the content hosted on the CMS's single back end. 

4. Your current CMS doesn't support new technologies

Another problem with inflexible legacy CMSs is their inability to support new technologies you may want to adapt. Trying to retrofit artificial intelligence, machine learning and other cutting-edge technologies onto a legacy system is a fool's errand. In most cases, you just can't do it, even with extensive manual hardcoding. 

Newer headless CMSs, however, are much more modular in their design. This allows you to add whatever new technologies you need to keep your system up to date. If you want to keep your system competitive, you need a newer, more adaptable CMS.

5. Your current CMS requires too much manual work

Legacy CMS platforms require an increasing amount of manual labor to manage on a day-to-day basis. The majority of legacy CMSs lack automation features, which means you have to manually produce, manage and distribute your content. 

Newer systems automate much of this process, reducing the amount of manual labor required. If you find your staff spending most of their time managing your CMS, it may be time to move to a newer, more automated system.

6. Your current CMS is impossible to update

Keeping a legacy CMS up to date can be both time-consuming and expensive. In some instances, it's next to impossible to update an older CMS. It's kind of like dealing with an old car: the older your system gets, the more work it requires just to keep it up and running. In the case of a legacy CMS, that means applying more and more software patches to keep up with new technology and new cyber threats. There may come a time when it costs less money to move to a new system than it does to keep the old one chugging along.

7. Your current CMS is plagued with errors

Older CMSs are more likely than newer ones to cause errors. This is especially true when you have content being created in multiple departments and locations—all that manual input and handling increases the risk of simple human error. 

Multiple instances of the same content can also cause major issues, making it more difficult to track changes and make sure the right version is being used. The more errors you find in your content and its distribution, the better a more centralized and automated CMS will look.

Benefits of a modern CMS

Most modern CMSs are headless CMSs, meaning that the front end and back end are decoupled. Content is managed from a single centralized location and then fed to multiple front ends as needed. The entire system consists of three components:

  • Content database

  • Content management back end

  • Headless API to distribute content to multiple front ends

Comparing traditional and headless CMSs

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The headless approach provides numerous benefits, including:

  • Reduces manual management

  • Automates content publishing

  • Reduces errors

  • Eliminates content and data silos

  • Enables immediate content updates

  • Enables omnichannel distribution

  • Enables flexible and personalized user experiences

  • Quickly responds to changing technologies and customer expectations

  • Reduces costs

A headless CMS can be housed either on-premises or in the cloud. It's certainly more flexible, more reliable and easier-to-use than a traditional coupled CMS.

Let Optimizely help you move to a modern CMS

When you want to move to a modern CMS solution, turn to the experts at Optimizely. Our Digital Experience Platform offers a full set of APIs that can be used for both traditional and headless CMS, and our Content Cloud headless CMS lets you connect your back-end content to a variety of touchpoints across multiple devices, websites and platforms. It's best-in-class content management that will help your organization stay competitive in today's ever-changing environment. 

Contact Optimizely today to learn more about our headless CMS solutions.