Among the many interesting talks at Umbraco Festival Deutschland 2017, I was intrigued by “The Future of CMS", by Janus Boye.  In the talk, Janus listed his top 5 key points on what lies ahead for the CMS industry: GDPR, AI, next-level SEO, multi-channel content and focus on business development. 

Digging a little deeper, I uncovered an industry in a state of flux. Buyers are focusing on risk, vendors are getting bigger and agencies are turning their sights to AI. The existing CMS pick-and-mix model is losing traction in favour of a more centralised architecture, a transition that engenders the following predictions. 

What a CMS will look like in 2020 

1. An integrated experience platform
2. Merged with CRM
3. On the cloud - but not a cloud system

Being a PEST

Janus' list can be refactored using PEST Analysis, a model used by business types to assess opportunities and threats resulting from changes in the Political, Economic, Social, and Technological environment. Here’s how it plays out for the CMS industry: 


In an attempt to deal with Tech Giants' increasing power, regulators introduced the GDPR, a regulatory regime that severely restricts how organizations collect and use user data.

The best we can hope for with GDPR is that it works, fostering a trust relationship between citizens and the digital industry. The trouble is that GDPR is quite draconian, perhaps over-compensating for the half-baked Cookie policy a few years back. Already the industry is fretting about a tsunami of claims akin to the notorious PPI in the UK and is moving into defensive mode.


As disruptive innovation sweeps across the economy, making the leap from retail and travel onto energy and finance, organisations rapidly adjust from “having a website” to “being a website”.

As the economic value of brochure websites diminishes, the industry can grow up and gain credibility. With very few new systems coming along, the industry consolidates around the established and more professional organisations. As this process gets underway, we must strive to maintain the collaborative spirit of open-source software, agile development and web standards. 


Social interactions increasingly occur on digital platforms, where content is cheap and fast. This torrent of data challenges our capacity to find relevant content, focus on complex concepts, and explore new ideas.  

The CMS industry is tasked with the job of connecting organisations with their audiences using content. Content must be findable, consistent, and relevant to the individual to achieve that. However, it is too easy to give into short-termism, indulging SEO charlatans and overusing retargeting and personalisation.


Following the commoditisation of Cloud computing, IT vendors are leading the democratisation of Artificial Intelligence, making tools like Cognitive Services and Machine Learning available to anyone who can use an API.

AI can introduce enormous benefits to the CMS industry by automating the process of creating, packaging, and distributing content. Using simple APIs, content can be personalised to match an individual's profile. But AI has been shown to feed on our prejudices, and without careful filtering, it can choke off diversity and innovation.

Three trends for the CMS industry

This back-of-the-envelope PEST analysis points to an industry in flux: CMS buyers are getting into defensive mode, vendors are consolidating, users are overstretched, and AI is just starting to enter the fray. Based on this, I spot three big-picture trends for the CMS industry over the next 3-5 years: 

1. CMS evolves into integrated experience platforms

Social, marketing automation, personalisation, commerce - modern websites have an astonishing array of integrations. As vendors consolidate and AI touches all parts of the CMS value chain, systems will move onto broader “experience management." It is no coincidence that many CMSs already promote themselves with phrases such as “all in one” and “single platform,” - which is also the driver behind our Pipeline DXS suite

2. CMS and CRM will merge

CRM integrations have been bread-and-butter work for digital agencies like ours for many years. Spotting that CRM becomes a baseline digital requirement, we did our bit to democratise it with Pipeline, our open-source CRM package for Umbraco. This trend will reach full maturity with GDPR: as digital teams are responsible for user data, we will start seeing a preference for hybrid or pre-integrated products.

3. CMS on the Cloud, not Cloud CMS 

The hefty fines of GDPR can cripple a company, even if the blame lies with a supplier. In response, many CIOs are investigating the repatriation of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications into corporate control. CMS will continue to run on owned Cloud instances, but a move away from multi-tenancy is already underway. 

The future is happening now

Technology goes through cycles of creating and solving problems. Technology-facilitated a cornucopia of content in this current cycle, so algorithms were deployed to help users use it. The CMS industry needs to adjust quickly as technology adapts once more to deal with our over-reliance on algorithms. 

The future of CMS is happening now. As CMS experts, we are on the front line of the upcoming changes and must adapt our services and products to meet the new challenges. We must train and advise our clients on CRM, AI, personalisation, and GDPR. The future of CMS is about a lot more than content.