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The rise of multi-CMS and WordPress in the enterprise

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Building an engaging digital presence has never been more important. Nearly every business is moving as quickly as possible to get digital or go virtual if it isn’t already. But what do you have to do once you’ve got that digital property? It turns out - a lot!

Speed and scalability are major factors in a great user experience. Further, that experience increasingly must be engaging, personalised, and intelligent. At the same time, these experiences must be secure and reliable. It’s a big task, and for an enterprise organisation, the content management system (CMS) it uses can make or break the digital experiences it’s able to provide. 

WP Engine commissioned a report exploring the rise of multiple CMS use in the enterprise and what the future might hold for the CMS market and the digital experiences of tomorrow. 

A tale of two platforms: CMS use in the enterprise 

Today, the two most widely used CMSs in the enterprise are Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), a proprietary CMS, and WordPress, an open-source CMS. The use of the two is almost evenly split, which was clearly visible among survey respondents - 68% said they use AEM while 66% said they use WordPress. While both platforms continue to see an increase in usage over time (AEM sat at 60% in 2017 while WordPress sat at 57%), WordPress has witnessed a greater percentage increase. In fact, WordPress saw a 16% increase and is on track to become the first choice for enterprises. 

Why does the enterprise use WordPress?

Today, WordPress powers more than 35% of the entire Internet. This is due in part to the ease-of-use WordPress has become known for, but it’s also because WordPress is open source, and supported by a dedicated community of collaborative developers contributing to its core software. Proprietary solutions are unable to offer that type of community approach. 

Another factor that’s won over the enterprise is the functionality of WordPress itself, which has greatly expanded in recent years thanks to rigorous development, access to powerful APIs, and increased adoption by the enterprise. The survey found benefits include security (46%), analytics (46%), scalability (44%) time to market (41%), and ROI (38%) just to name a few.

Today, WordPress is the go-to solution for organisations of all sizes looking to quickly build anything from corporate websites and brand or product pages to headless configurations and eCommerce stores. Particularly now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many enterprises are relying on WordPress to quickly spin up everything from sites that can transact online to business continuity and communication sites for customers. No other CMS platform and none of the “site builders” can match the speed in getting a WordPress site up and running (time to market) or its scalability.

The rise of multi-CMS

Historically, organisations using a CMS relied on a single solution, be it AEM, WordPress, or another platform. As the above trends have played out, however, and time-to-market has increasingly come into conflict with the slow development cycles and heavy IT involvement inherent in proprietary systems, a growing number of organisations have had no choice but to find new, innovative ways to use multiple CMSs in unison.

It is noteworthy that this trend is not the abandonment of one platform for another. Rather, given the demands placed upon organisations today, their legacy CMS is often left intact, and additional platforms are used for new projects, such as a campaign or product launch, or a mobile-responsive website. 

Reinforcing this idea, organisations can potentially experience improvements in their agility (48%), as well as greater ease of use (47%), and faster time to market (43%) when working with more than one CMS. 

Nonetheless, the multi-CMS approach is not entirely free of potential downsides. An increased need for training (28%) and/or room for error when working across multiple systems (24%) are quite feasible for organisations that branch out into multi-CMS territory. But, crucially, these risk factors are far less likely to be surfaced in 2019 vs. 2017 (33% and 37% respectively). 

It seems that fear falls away with familiarity, and as the use of multiple CMSs becomes more normalised in organisations, and as CMS users become more confident using multiple platforms, many of these risks are becoming less of an issue.

WordPress plays well with other CMSs

For organisations that are using more than one CMS, WordPress has emerged as the favourite option. The vast majority (88%) of respondents whose organisations are already embracing a multi-CMS approach highlight WordPress as part of that mix - more than any other CMS. 

This is undoubtedly due to the wide usability of WordPress and the open source qualities listed above, but WordPress is also recognised by many as a CMS that has the capacity to work well with and complement other CMSs effectively as well as acting as a standalone CMS.

The new multi-CMS normal

Today, the digital presence for every business has become too critical to manage passively. Everyone is expected to move quickly, and at the enterprise level, moving quickly can be a major challenge or a major opportunity. But the multi-CMS approach offers the speed and agility large businesses need to go to market faster, without replacing legacy systems. 

It’s a close battle at the top between proprietary, closed software and open source solutions. WordPress and Adobe Experience Manager are neck-and-neck, but this research indicates that there is a trend showing WordPress could soon be the frontrunner in terms of enterprise organisation use, and it’s already the CMS of choice when used in multi-CMS configurations.  

Fabio Torlini is the EMEA MD at WP Engine.


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