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How to plan for CMS integrations

Your organization’s CMS website will likely need to integrate with multiple third party technologies in order to create a great online experience for your constituents. If you approach this process without planning ahead, you’ll likely find yourself running into unexpected costs, and lacking needed data and relevant insights. 

Planning for CMS integrations requires identifying the business goals for your CMS site that will require outside integrations, your budget, and what you need from data. 

Consider business goals

“What do I need my CMS website to do?” is a big question. The answer will have a direct impact on what kind of integrations you’ll need. Your overall goals, such as increasing personalization of your site content, a user-friendly e-commerce experience, or more trackable marketing campaigns, all require well-designed integrations.

We guide our clients through this process by helping them first define their strategic and operational goals and then leading them through a series of workstream meetings in order to rigorously document their integration requirements - resulting in a detailed integration requirements matrix that aligns with those goals.  

When you consider which integrations are most relevant to your organization, you’ll also need to take into account your teams’ specific needs and budget. 

Consider budget needs

Cost is a very important consideration for organizations when they want to read from or write to other resources. Each 3rd-party platform or service that you want to integrate to will have different methods for providing access to their data, and each one will have different pricing structures related to those methods. For example, most search engines, especially cloud-based, determine costs by how many searches are executed and/or how many pages are in your search index. In other words, the more pages that you're asking it to go and look for, the higher your cost will be over time. 

That’s something you have to figure into your planning. We often see RFPs that say, “we want to federate all of our third party products, including these three publications into our search results.” The organization likely doesn’t realize how much it costs to get those third party vendors to participate.  Some will charge for access to their APIs, others will charge for customizing access to their content, and others may have already built that cost into the service you already have.

At Brightfind, we maintain a collaborative approach even during the RFP process, to help you determine what you really need and want to do as an organization, and how much it will cost to reach your goals.

Consider your data needs

Traditionally, the source of truth for all data related to membership, prospects, and constituents was the AMS. All the other data you collected on your constituents and members was fed into the AMS from other systems, whether it was their learning experiences in an LMS, their research experiences with a publishing platform, the meetings they attended, etc.

What most of the industry has come to realize is that using the AMS in that way doesn’t work as well as cloud-based data repositories such as a data warehouse or even data lakes. Data lakes are systems that collect and store raw information about your users and their interactions into a central location. All your systems can retrieve data from that central data lake.

That includes your analytics data. A data lake can pull from and send information to your analytics systems appropriately. Data lakes are still in the early adoption stage in our marketplace, but most of the enterprise class CMS solutions now have data lakes associated with them. 

Typically data lakes are cloud-based. You can store all the information from your marketing activities, your e-commerce activities, your learning activities, your CMS activities, etc. in a single profile that is available to the CMS (and all the other connected applications). That information can be used to do an incredible amount of highly effective personalization and targeted marketing. 

Consider analytics needs

I've been on a personal crusade for the last 10+ years to bring analytics into the conversation about integration. One of the easiest things to do, which most organizations are still not yet doing, is creating common analytics data based on the user experience in your website, your e-commerce solution, on your LMS, and in your community platform. 

Right now, organizations can look at their Google Analytics to find data for each one individually. It's relatively easy to create an analytics framework that tracks a user from the website, into the LMS, through e-commerce, and across their digital journey. That analytics framework is an important part of planning for CMS integrations because it allows you to measure success and accurately assess the true return on investment for your website integration efforts.

When you don’t track that user path, you don’t know how much revenue that campaign produced, how that user ended up in that particular course within your LMS, etc. 

That's an important part of integration where lots of organizations lose out. They might have robust integrations that provide a pretty personalized experience, but don’t know why their campaigns are successful or not or why some segments of their audience find what they want and others don’t.

Aggregating your data into a central location is an important step to achieving personalization goals. Creating a breadcrumb trail that tracks how your user is traveling through and interacting with your CMS website and beyond gives you insights into how well it’s working and why.

Planning for the future

The future of this technology is using artificial intelligence to automate, personalize and target, based on that aggregated data from all your different vendors. As we know, the more data that an artificial intelligence engine has, the better outcomes we'll see. 

For example, our users should be able to visit a website’s homepage and right away have an experience where elements of the homepage have been dynamically updated to deliver more targeted information. 

Even before they've logged in, we know generally where they are located geographically through IP address information. We can use that information to say, “Oh, we have a live event coming up in your area, it's local, take a look.” 

That kind of integration is pretty exciting and pretty valuable to your constituents. You should be able to do that right from your homepage, delivering geo-targeted information and topic-based content based on historical browsing patterns such as when this person last visited the website, or how they got to the website.

Without a login, we can use that same knowledge to get information from the third party systems or community environment to deliver a more personalized experience. As we all know, showing more relevant and useful information is a key component of member engagement and retention.

With proper planning, we can do a better job of creating opportunities for a constituent to access content that's valuable to them, and highlighting products and services that have a higher likelihood of addressing their specific needs in the moment. 

Brightfind can help you plan your CMS website from the inside out. Contact us today to get started.

Frank Klassen

Topics: CMS

Written by Frank Klassen