CMS Flexibility: Best-of-Breed vs. Suite-Based Platforms

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail that I recently sent a client regarding the importance of architectural flexibility in their CMS selection criteria. This was early in the project, and the client’s view of the market – and the particular products (and types of products) it was considering – changed over the course of the engagement. I thought the considerations below might be helpful to companies in the throes of evaluating their CMS requirements. I’ve removed the client’s identity, but the rest of the paragraph remains intact.

It is clear from the feedback that we have received from multiple members of the [Client] team that the API, platform flexibility, and ability to integrate with third-party applications are among the most important evaluation criteria in the selection of the CMS platform. Closely related to this issue is the question of a vendor’s/platform’s suite vs. best-of-breed development approach. The most flexible CMS platforms on the market are those with true systems-oriented architecture (SOA) – that is, designed with SOA in mind from the ground up. These platforms almost always have a best-of-breed versus a suite-based approach, in that they are designed to integrate into heterogeneous IT environments with large numbers of enterprise applications. This is not to say that suite-based products cannot be integrated into such environments, but that they are not developed with this consideration as top priority.  Suite-based platforms can be flexible with respect to APIs, but they usually demonstrate a marked affinity for integration with other products in the vendor’s own line-up.  On [Client’s] shortlist, Adobe and OpenText are examples of suite-based products, while Magnolia is an extreme example of a best-of-breed product. SDL Tridion tends toward the best-of-breed end of the spectrum, but rests somewhere in between the two ends represented by Adobe-OpenText and Magnolia. Of course, you can find large enterprises that have integrated all of these products with large numbers of third-party applications, but we firmly believe that [Client] would resist (or even resent) pressure from the suite-based vendors to purchase other products in their line-ups as a means of increasing purchase prices.