Why integrating with your CMS is about more than just plugging in your external tools
Can your content management system (CMS) seamlessly plug in and speak with the tools you need it to work with?
With the growing trend towards integration within the CMS market, these capabilities are no longer optional for CMS products. It’s absolutely critical that no matter what external tool you want to connect with, you can do so in a straightforward, maintainable and streamlined manner.
Indeed, according to Squiz Matrix product manager Bart Banda, although integration is becoming a vital prerequisite for CMSs, it needs to happen in a proper and ordered way that ensures functionality and flexibility.
“In today’s world, people want more than just static web pages and simple content,” Bart says. “There’s often additional dynamic data, and a lot of the time, you need to get this data from external sources.”
But if you’ve fallen into the trap of writing custom code to allow you to integrate these tools, your ongoing support and maintainability will become a huge burden – especially when it comes time to upgrade.
Your CMS vendor doesn’t know of the bespoke solutions you’ve written, and there’s a risk that the vendor will make changes to key components that will break this custom code.
“If your software has constant releases, you’re going to need to make sure these custom plug-ins and adapters are still functional,” says Bart. “Even if everything appears fine, you’ll still need to do additional and thorough testing and fixes – and this can end up being very costly.”
So, what do you need to know to ensure that your CMS can support your integration needs so you won’t fall victim to increasing maintenance costs?
Make sure your CMS has the capabilities to connect
Although many CMS products these days use dedicated connectors and bridges that aim to streamline integration with external tools, it’s important that your CMS can connect without these dedicated modules.
“A CMS needs to have the underlying technology to be able to integrate with and plug in to a number of platforms, even if a specific connector hasn’t been built,” says Bart.
Increasingly, third-party tools have these integration capabilities. Platforms such as Squiz Matrix provide common integration functions with these tools using application programming interfaces (APIs) such as representational state transfer (REST) and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).
“Using a dedicated connector is obviously going to be faster, but if you can use the tools that your CMS has to integrate with other platforms, then you won’t constantly be writing that underlying integration framework code yourself,” says Bart. And, when this technology is built into your platform, you can integrate in a supported and warranted way using industry-standard integration capabilities.
CMS platforms are responding to customer needs
The trend towards integration has seen a shift in prioritising and promoting a CMS’s connection capabilities. “It’s definitely something we’re seeing the big players in the CMS industry doing,” says Bart. “The way their platforms integrate with other tools is often one of the key features they’re pushing.”
It comes down to the kinds of third-party tools with which you want your CMS to integrate.
According to Bart, companies are taking greater note of these trends – the latest and greatest tools their clients are using – and building dedicated integration modules to cater to them.
“Many of our clients wanted to integrate with Google Analytics using our generic integration modules in Matrix,” Bart says. “So we decided to build a dedicated connector, because even though we could already integrate with it, we wanted to make that integration easier and more efficient.”
It’s this flexibility and ability to respond quickly and move with its customers that help drive the success of a CMS.
Stop trying to reinvent the wheel
Businesses need to stop trying to reinvent the wheel by building functionality into their CMS that it wasn’t designed to do, says Bart. “If your CMS can’t integrate with a system – whether it’s a discussion forum, e-commerce app, or calendar system – a lot of businesses instead try to build and shoehorn this within the platform. That’s what you should be avoiding.”
Use your CMS for what it was meant to do. “One single piece of software isn’t supposed to encapsulate all you need within a web space,” says Bart. “You’re always going to need to use multiple tools.”
As you incorporate more third-party tools into your repertoire, the aim is to make sure you’re using a CMS with the technology to ensure that they can talk to each other in a well-supported and maintainable way.
Stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Start using your CMS for the functions it was designed to carry out. Then begin looking at its future integration capabilities.