How to Transition Your Digital Agency to a Cloud-based CMS

By Bryan Soltis in Cloud
·5 min read

In the CMS world, there is innovation every day. From new features and capabilities to entire platforms, the market can be volatile as vendors evolve to meet the needs of the industry. 

The emergence of the headless CMS is proving to be one of the most significant of these shifts, causing many organizations to rethink how they offer their products and services.  In this article, I’ll try to provide you some guidance for transitioning your business to adopt this new paradigm, and keep your profitability and sanity in the process.

The decision to shift your business to a new way of doing things is a bold move. Any organization willing to upend their processes and rethink their entire model is in limited company. But as it’s proven time and again, change is inevitable, and often necessary to survive when an entire industry shifts around you. For the unprepared, that change can be disruptive, and even fatal for the lifeblood of a company.

Those changes have a powerful ripple effect, as digital agencies are presented a challenging question: Should they adopt a Headless CMS for their business? If you’re currently considering making this transition, you may be pondering how to go about changing your processes, how it will affect your team, when to make the move, and possibly where you left your car keys. In this article, I’m going to try to help you answer most of these questions. For your keys, try the couch.

Understand the Differences

Before upheaving your agency’s business model to a headless CMS approach, you need understand the difference between the traditional model and cloud-based solutions. This means educating yourself on several aspects of the services, to give you a solid understanding of what’s in store for when you implement it. Here are some key points that you will want to make sure you know:

  • How will your pricing structure work with a SaaS model like a headless CMS?
  • What features will you be able to leverage to improve your business? What features may be missing that you currently depend on?
  • What technology is the headless CMS built on? How does that technology translate to your team’s skillsets?
  • What impact does using a headless CMS have on your development processes? Will your team have to adopt new methodologies and patterns to adapt?

If you’re able to have a solid understanding of these keys topics, you’re probably ready to keep going through this article. Without that information, you’ll be cooking bacon without a shirt on, and that’s never a wise move for anyone.

In a previous article, I detailed several of the key differences between traditional and cloud-based CMS’s. You can find out more here.

Assess Your Team

All right, so you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to keep going. Now that you know what a cloud-based CMS is (and isn’t), let’s talk about your current skills. You need to evaluate how your current personnel’s skillset relates to the new CMS you’re moving towards. You should evaluate what technologies you’re proficient in and try to align these with the skills needed to implement the new type of solution. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Does your team have the skills needed to impellent the new CMS?
  • What skills does your team have that will benefit transitioning to the new CMS?
  • Are there areas you need to address to bring your team up to speed?
  • How does the new solution fit into your current development model?

Understanding how your team’s current skills align with those needed will help you get a much clearer picture of your migration path. Perhaps your team has skills that are universal, and will allow you to implement much more smoothly than anticipated. Conversely, you may identify a specific area you need to focus on to ensure the transition is a smooth one. Planning that migration will be critical to ensuring your organization can adapt to the new model and still be productive.

Plan Your Transition

Once you know how developing using a headless CMS will affect your business, you’ll want to plan your transition to the new model. The biggest advice here is, do it incrementally! Your current model of using a traditional CMS is probably what is making you money, so you need to plan on continuing that business to ensure you have ongoing cash flow. Pick a small project to test out the headless CMS waters before jumping in entirely. This will help you work out any issues with the new model, while still being able to keep the lights on with your existing business.

Over time, your team will get better at implementing the new model, which will help you increase profitability and reduce overheads. Processes will become smoother, and your costs should go down as your team gets more efficient at leveraging the capabilities of the new platform. As you get new projects, plan for them to use the new model to ensure you maximize these savings. The key is to plan the transition over time, to give yourself (and your business) time to adjust.

Make the Shift, but Keep Planning

No one ever said switching your entire business model would be easy.  After starting your transition, the fun doesn’t stop there! As you implement more and more projects using a headless CMS, you will reshape your approach to fit your individual needs. You may also need to address any staff concerns. If you have people that are unable to make the shift to the model, you will need to make some decisions as to which ones are the right fit for your business moving forward. Chances are, your staff will be willing to adjust and keep the band together for the long haul.

Over time, you’ll want to ask yourself these questions, to ensure your transition is going smoothly:

  • How has our business been affected by the transition? How has our profitability been impacted?
  • What are the benefits we see with the new model? What are the weaknesses?
  • Are there areas of our business we can continue to improve to ensure we are implementing solutions efficiently?

While these questions are ones that digital agencies should always be considering, it’s especially important when shifting to a new model for your organization. Upending your entire way of business is useless if you’re not working towards a goal, and keeping your focus and team aligned will be crucial to ensuring success.

The Last Word

In the end, transitioning to a headless CMS is all about adapting to the changing industry. CMSs evolve, just like any other platform or service, and adopting these changes is crucial for solution providers to stay successful. While these changes are likely inevitable, they don’t have to be cataclysmic to your day-to-day life. With proper preparation and planning, digital agencies should be able to make the shift and still provide great solutions for their clients.

Have you started adapting your agency to a headless CMS? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

By Bryan Soltis in Cloud
Gartner report
We're a Challenger again in the
Gartner Magic Quadrant for WCM!