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Section 2

The CMS features you need: Choosing capabilities

Read time length: 4-6 minutes

Which content management features do you need?

Choosing the right content management system is about what’s right for your organization.

Start by assessing your current digital maturity, and work upward, to ask questions such as:

  • What do we want to achieve by using content?
  • Where are we now and how far (and how quickly) do we want to move?

The Customer Experience Maturity Model®

The Customer Experience Maturity Model® breaks content (and context) marketing capabilities down into seven stages of strategic value. Find out where you rank and how you compare to others in your industry.


Once you’ve clarified the distance between your current customer experience maturity and your future ambitions, think about the features and available architecture that will help you close that gap.

What’s in a CMS?

You shouldn’t pick a CMS just by comparing features, but it is important to prioritize the benefits you need.

We’re going to take a whistle-stop tour around some common requirements, but for a more in-depth guide, take a look at the full version of The definitive guide to choosing a CMS.


The definitive guide to choosing a content management system

Choosing the right CMS can be really complicated, and really important. So we wrote a guide to getting it right.

Download the full-length guide

CMS Features

1. Editorial functionality

As a minimum requirement, a suitable CMS should give you the tools to easily create, edit, and deliver content.

2. Workflow, reporting, and content organization

Your CMS should also support the management of created content—from authoring, editing, and approval to publication, promotion, and reporting.

If your content operation includes a lot of multi-stage authoring and approval processes, look for CMSs that support highly adaptable and automated workflows.

If your content is subject to rapid change, choosing a CMS with strong organizational functionality—like link management—can help to preserve in-content integrity as it moves around your CMS.

Intelligent reporting tools and dashboards can help you keep tabs on different categories of content in your system, such as content awaiting approval and content per topic.

3. User administration

User administration helps prevent mistakes and reduce errors by ensuring only the right people can access certain functions and content.

You should choose a CMS with appropriately customizable user administration, with room to expand as your needs change.

4. Security

Some CMSs integrate with strong authentication mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.

If security is a high priority for you, look for a CMS that integrates well with your chosen enterprise security provider or third-party authentication systems such as Azure AD, IdentityServer, OpenID, and Oauth.

5. Multichannel scalability

If you’re going to deliver content to many different channels, devices, and interfaces, you need a CMS that helps you do that efficiently.

That may mean you need to be able to create once and deliver anywhere or have the extensibility to add new channels with ease.

That may mean you need to be able to create once and deliver anywhere or have the extensibility to add new channels with ease.

6. Global delivery

Delivering high-quality content experiences for different users across the world is more complicated than simply scaling up your publishing capabilities.

If you serve an international audience (or intend to at some point) it’s important to choose a CMS that supports:

  • Multi-language editing tools
  • Intuitive translation workflows
  • Information governance controls that comply with local regulations
7. Flexibility, scalability, and performance

Your CMS needs to be resilient and scalable enough to grow with your business as it changes.

Look at flexible, extensible CMSs that support an extensive range of modern APIs to increase your content’s reach across different channels and devices. Also consider that deploying your CMS in the cloud can reduce your time to market and deliver the agility to scale with traffic spikes and changing demand.

8. Personalization and analytics

Customers are coming to expect personalized, relevant digital experiences from the businesses they interact with online.

This requires a CMS that can collect and process interaction data in real time and which operates as part of a wider, centralized customer experience management platform.

This requires a CMS that can collect and process interaction data in real time and which operates as part of a wider, centralized customer experience management platform.

9. Content and commerce integration

As the online buying experience matures, and customer expectations evolve, content and commerce are becoming inextricably linked.

If your CMS needs to support e-commerce and digital marketing business functions, there’s a whole subset of specific features to look for. We cover them in detail in the full-length guide. They include:

  • A single-pane-of-glass interface
  • Migration tools to unify disparate data
  • Seamless and adaptable inventory handling
  • Next-step automation
  • Easy integration with payment, shipping, and tax providers
  • Testing capabilities

Why CMS architecture is important

While it’s not technically a feature, how a CMS is architected or put together is fundamental to your content operation, both in terms of what is possible and how it gets done.

In the full guide, we cover the basics of CMS software architecture, and explore two fundamental themes:

  • Page-based vs. item-based architecture, or how content is stored.
  • Headless vs. non-headless architecture, or how and where content is presented to the audience.
Content Management
Content Delivery
Content Presentation

There are some big differences between them and your choice can:

  • Dictate how you make content and where it’s presented
  • Require you to manually replicate content changes or edits in multiple places
  • Compel editors and developers to have to work together in specific ways
  • Restrict the channels to which you deliver your content
  • Affect the speed of delivery, and hence the experience of your visitor

We cover the individual benefits and trade-offs of CMS architectural principles in Chapter 5 of The definitive guide to choosing a content management system. It’s worth reading. Not only will your IT teams and developers thank you for it, you’ll learn how a CMS platform is constructed affects how it delivers personalized experiences on the web and beyond.