Scaling Digital Channels: Is Content as a Service the Right Choice for your Organisation?

Written by Rick Madigan
April 29th 2020

4 minute read

The COVID-19 crisis has presented companies with the critical challenge of having to quickly scale their digital channels to meet customer demand for the longer-term survival of their business. The weaknesses and frailties of their digital landscapes are being exposed like never before.

For some, demand has significantly dropped during this period and unable to scale down quickly, they are having to continue to pay huge license and hosting costs. Others have been unable to quickly scale up to handle a rapid explosion in demand online. Finding a swift and effective solution to this challenge is business critical and a Content-as-a-Service (otherwise known as headless CMS) approach can often be the ideal choice, but how do you know that you are making the right decision?

Content-as-a-Service is not a new concept and has become a viable alternative to the long-standing, traditional CMS platforms. They are very different offerings, with traditional vendors (e.g. Sitecore, Episerver) providing an “everything under one roof” solution while the lightweight Content-as-a-Service CMS (e.g. Contentful, Kentico Kontent) focus purely on the creation, management and delivery of content, leveraging additional software to provide the functionality required. 

To help you determine if Content-as-a-Service is right for your organisation, here are our five recommendations to get you started.

#1 - Understand the bigger picture

Content-as-a-Service has a specific focus (content) and therefore requires other software (e.g. headless commerce, identity access management, personalisation) to deliver your more complex solution.

You need to step outside of the focus on CMS to understand the wider context. Be clear on what you are trying to achieve and articulate a vision (business, technical, etc.). This vision is crucial in analysing what your solution would require, especially for the Content-as-a-Service approach where other software will need to be considered.

In addition, start to formulate implementation plans for each option. A “big bang” implementation is unlikely, and we would strongly recommend against this anyway. An iterative and considered implementation is ideal but the nature of the implementation will differ between approaches and bring with them their fair share of considerations.

#2 - Map out your digital landscape

It is likely that you have accrued several systems across your digital landscape, (e.g. online examination software or an information hub). These systems are usually accompanied by varying degrees of technical debt. 

Understand the systems in play, their purpose, their necessity (importance to organisation operations), the data they hold and their dependencies on other systems, as well as identify the impact of their removal or replacement. This information will inform your revised technical vision, which in turn will influence your decision on whether to adopt a traditional CMS or a modern, headless architecture. 

In addition, start to formulate implementation plans. An iterative and considered implementation is crucial so you can chip away at technical debt and set yourself up for future success.

#3 - No man is an island

To achieve a decision that works for everyone, you will need to draw on stakeholders and subject matter experts from across the organisation. This can of course be supplemented with support from strategic delivery partners (e.g. technical consultancies).

Your core team should engage with these stakeholders and experts to tease out the details around processes, challenges, needs and objectives within different departments. The information gathered from this process is vital in not only building your vision but also in building a more informed decision around the right CMS route for your business.

#4 - People are as important as technology

Go back a few years and a typical CMS review would often be relatively technical, focusing on features and functionality. When considering Content-as-a-Service, our review becomes far broader. The technical aspects of the solution are important and still have their place, but we must consider the wider impact of such an approach, specifically regarding your people and your organisation. The removal or introduction of systems can impact upon business processes, introduce training requirements and incite cultural change.

#5 - Don’t be short-sighted

One of the core parts of your decision making will be around the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). A common misconception is that Content-as-a-Service has a more expensive TCO due to the need for multiple pieces of software. The reality is never that simple and a more detailed view is required.

Consider not just the licences and subscriptions but the additional elements of expenditure. As a minimum, consider costs for hosting, DevOps set up and configuration, training and support, maintenance and upgrades (relevant to traditional CMS primarily). 

Then consider the costs over five years. At a simplistic level you could calculate the costs per year assuming you had the full set of products from Year 1. However, if, as I flagged earlier, you have pulled together implementation plans, then map your costs to these to get a more accurate view of TCO.

Getting Started with a Headless Assessment

To help determine whether a Content-as-a-Service approach is right for your business, our Headless Assessment is an ideal place to begin. As consultants and strategists, we are experienced in guiding clients through this process and a review will enable you to quickly understand your challenges, assess the feasibility of going headless and provide you with recommendations. Click here to find out more or drop us an email at


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