Is Sitecore XM Cloud Right for Me?
So you’ve done your research on composable architecture, and you’ve decided that a headless CMS should be the content power source for your new web solution. You understand what that means, what you’ll be getting, what you won’t be getting, what you’ll be abandoning, and what you’ll be redoing. You’ve looked at the landscape of headless CMSs, and you probably see they break down into two categories:
Traditional CMSs that now support headless
The market for born-headless CMSs is fairly extensive as they are not difficult to build, however there are a few established players that have the most evolved offerings that you might consider:
You can find a longer list of headless CMSs on the web here and here. There are ones that are SaaS, ones that are hosted, ones that are paid and ones that are open source. There are ones that are specific to an industry and ones that are generic. There are ones that are someone’s side project and ones that are a real company.
Pretty much every traditional CMS now supports headless in some fashion. Some do it better than others and some have been at it longer than others. Sitecore was later to the headless party than its nearest competitors (Adobe and Optimizely), but they have supported headless in some fashion for over four years now. You’ll find most traditional CMS vendors attempt to take a “hybrid” approach that some of your web properties are good headless and some are better with the traditional model. This is how they can retain their current market while attempting to stop the losses to the born-headless upstarts.
Should I use my Traditional CMS’s Headless Capability?
The initial key question is: Do you have a traditional CMS that you care to leverage?
There are several elements to this question that may be relevant:
Do you have editors already trained in a traditional CMS such that using the headless capability of that cms will reduce training costs?
Do you already have licensing that covers both the headless and headed capabilities in your traditional CMS?
Do you have an IT department that already knows how to manage, maintain, and operate the traditional CMS?
Do you have websites that are a good fit for headed and others that are a good fit for headless?
If you have a traditional CMS, and the above answers are in the affirmative, then it makes sense to attempt to leverage the headless capability of your traditional CMS.
If the traditional CMS that you have is Sitecore then it, for sure, makes sense for you to consider XM Cloud as your headless option.
HOWEVER, there are a few things to note:
XM Cloud will be a different license/subscription than your current traditional CMS (Sitecore XP/XM). If you currently pay for Sitecore XP/XM, expect additional costs for XM Cloud as you make the transition (XM Cloud is SaaS-based). Once you are fully migrated to XM Cloud, you will no longer have XP/XM costs, and your subsequent ongoing costs may be higher or lower depending on your specific needs and traffic volume.
Your Sitecore XP/XM does indeed have the capability of doing headless on its own (it’s called JSS). However, with the advent of XM Cloud, this product has the potential to become a lower priority to Sitecore.
Other traditional CMS vendors have not bifurcated their product in the way Sitecore has. Theoretically, this allows Sitecore’s XM Cloud to be unencumbered by the legacy technology and more agile with new features, but it also means that for many customers who want to jump to XM Cloud, implementation costs could be high.
Not a Sitecore XP/XM Customer?
XM Cloud vs Born-headless
If you are not an XP/XM customer, you are able to evaluate XM Cloud on the merits against the other headless options from traditional CMS vendors, as well as the born-headless vendors. One of the benefits of Sitecore being late to the headless party, is they have seen what works and what doesn’t and have keyed in on that as part of their XM Cloud strategy. The key advantage that XM Cloud has over the born-headless CMSs, is the capability of inline editing. Born-headless CMSs will force their editors to edit content in a forms-based interface. If your editors have never used an inline editing interface, this may be acceptable, but most non-technical marketers prefer an inline editing interface. Sitecore’s heritage as a traditional CMS vendor has made this possible. Along with rich content management functionality that has been refined over 20 years that are also baked into XM Cloud, the inline editing is a key differentiator from the born-headless crowd.
The downside of this inline-editing capability is a loss of some of the promise of the headless architecture, which is complete decoupling of the head from the CMS along with complete freedom of the head.
XM Cloud vs Other Traditional CMS Headless
If you are comparing XM Cloud to other traditional CMS headless offerings, I suspect the comparison will be fairly straightforward on CMS editing and content modeling capabilities. Sitecore’s featureset with regard to editing and content modeling are sophisticated. However, this has not been a key differentiator for the Sitecore XP product for many years compared to other traditional CMS vendors. I believe this comparison may come down to:
Does the traditional CMS headless have inline-editing capabilities, and is that important to you? Even though inline editing is a standard capability of most traditional CMSs, not all have been able to make that work for their headless offerings.
Execution of the headless API; are you able to truly gain the benefits you seek in your headless solution from Sitecore’s XM Cloud vs other traditional CMS headless options?
XM Cloud (and composable / headless) may not be for every customer or every customer’s website. If you think it may be, you should consider your options prior to embarking on what could be an extended and potentially transformative journey.