Skip to main content

Just last month, Salesforce acquired productivity tool Quip in a bid to compete against the likes of Microsoft Office, according to a number of reports.

The move had a lot of the industry talking. Not only because it was a big punch in the face for those such as Microsoft and Google, but also due to the implications it would have on the wider collaboration and customer relationship management (CRM) market.

As Docurated’s Alex Gorbansky pointed out, the acquisition means that Quip could help Salesforce and its customers understand what content is driving deals. This convergence of content, collaboration and document management will connect the dots between data generated by different parts of the marketing workflow, feeding data back into the CRM.

This makes me wonder about the future of content management systems (CMS). They’re expensive, inflexible, difficult for non-technical users, and they often add unnecessary complexity into business processes.

In fact, Marc Gowland, Executive Technology Director at Deutsch recently argued that content management systems are “killing creativity.” In his VentureBeat op-ed, he pointed to the well-known flaws in these expensive and difficult-to-integrate systems.

First, the CMS decision for a project is usually made in advance of the design. When the tech team makes these decisions without understanding the creative objectives, it can lead to creative impasses later. Creative has a brilliant idea, but “the CMS doesn’t work like that.”

Second, once installed, it can be difficult to update them to meet fast-moving digital and marketing trends.

What is taking their place?

Drag-and-drop website builders: Many small businesses are taking advantage of build-your-own-website services like Wix and Squarespace, according to Gowland. is another example; it was rated one of the three top CMS for web content by G2 Crowd.

Mobile apps: In addition, as other online platforms become more sophisticated, they have begun to serve as ad-hoc CMS. Take the example of the Hindustan Times. Journalists in its newsroom rely on mobile phones with a plethora of operating systems. Snapchat continues to make big investments in advancing the platform, and the staff leverages this innovation in interesting ways.

Times Mobile Editor Yusuf Omar told that thanks to the app’s cloud storage of video, footage shot on phones is immediately available, without having to be stored, transferred or manually uploaded. At the same time, the geo-tag filter provides time stamps and location tags, which is helpful for verifying authenticity of images and video.

CRM systems: Many cloud-based CRM systems can host entire websites. This allows a company to merge CRM information with the website. Web form information is written directly into CRM forms, and, going the other way, CRM data can be used to personalize web pages.

Marketing automation platforms: Writing in CRM Switch, Steve Chipman notes that HubSpot now offers both content management and CRM functionality. We’ll see more MarTech companies going this route, I believe.

Data management platforms (DMPs): As Nathan Carver of Accordant pointed out on MediaPost, marketers are already using DMPs to segment their audiences for programmatic ad buying. The real opportunity is in using a DMP as the switching station to coordinate multiple channels.

Theoretically, a DMP can be like a CMS on steroids: The data management platform can push data to ad servers or to the email service provider’s platform, letting a marketer hit the right segments via either or both channels.

Do you need a CMS?

The marketplace is still evolving – and spending on CMS systems is expected to grow to $8.25 billion by 2020. However, for small to medium-sized businesses, I think that there are enough alternatives available right now that they can jettison the expense and complexity of adding this piece to the marketing stack.

Large enterprises certainly will still need a platform for managing content and data. That may be a CMS, for now. Or, it may be a more robust DMP.

The most important decision point is whether a company’s first-party data is easily available to every marketing application that could use it, so that marketers can connect with consumers across channels in the ways that work best.