Risk is the word of the moment in the C-suite at most major companies in the commerce space. The competition for market share is hotter than ever, and the pandemic proved to many organizations that moving fast is not only possible, it’s necessary.

So how can companies de-risk the future and move faster? The answer is a migration to a headless CMS platform.

Many leaders in commerce organizations fear the risk of disruption to customer experience that a migration would entail, plus the disruption to the day-to-today activities of their business. However, a migration doesn’t have to be disruptive at all — and in fact, it can be completed in a matter of weeks.

There are three key reasons why a migration, completed in partnership with an agile-first consultancy like Rangle, is the strategic decision your business needs to make now.

1. It's the best way to manage risk

Headless CMS platforms offer what no pre-packaged enterprise CMS can: The ability to build a differentiated experience for your customers. As Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio and author of Ask Your Developer says, “You can’t buy differentiation. You can only build it.”

The risk you’re trying to manage with a headless CMS is the risk of your competitors eating up your market share with a differentiated digital platform that delights the market with greater brand experience and ease of use than your own. Your digital platform is the place to showcase your differentiated value proposition to the customer, and it’s increasingly likely to be the place they visit most often, rather than a physical location.

A common issue that arises when established brands try to build a digital experience is that it becomes a years-long project, scoped in advance and approached on a strict timeline. However, this is the wrong approach. This traditional waterfall process approaches building software as a known problem, one where all issues can presumably be solved in advance.

If you’re truly trying to build software that’s differentiating for your business (and if you’re not, you should buy the software and focus on the platforms where you can give your customer the most value), you must start from a point of iteration and be open to learning — or you’ll miss the lessons your customer wants to teach you.

2. It's the best way to get market learnings (that are integrated rapidly)

As noted, getting to market quickly with a piece of a product allows your teams to learn as they build more. But the speed and learning benefits continue even after your digital platform is launched. The speed of integration with a headless CMS solution increases productivity substantially. Integrating microservices is much easier with a headless CMS solution than with an enterprise CMS solution, creating unprecedented flexibility.

Best of all, the iterative, experimental approach to building the headless solution can keep your teams close to the customer needs, continually iterating on the product to improve the experience. The speed that an agile build produces means you can always be first to market with new experiences that improve customer experience.

Integration is not a light switch

An agile approach also manages risk within the migration itself. Many organizations have tried (and failed) to build their new digital platform separately from their existing experience, and then ‘flip the switch’ to the new product when the deadline drops. This approach causes significant risk. A project scoped in advance, built over the course of a year or more, and unleashed on the market without prior testing, is set up to fail. The best digital products are released early and often, and they are built on learnings from the market.

In this age of lightning-fast digital chance, you have to approach software builds as iterative. In fact, this is what’s best about software. It’s a product you can constantly change, and you don’t have to get it right the first time. In fact, you don’t have to get it right the first 10 times, as long as each time you release, you take the learnings from your customer interactions and make the product better.

When you build software as a back office ‘project’, you build significant risk. The market can move on without you, your competitors can release a better solution, or global conditions can change. When you ship early and often, you’re responsive to how the world is changing around you.

For this reason, we recommend the Strangler Fig pattern or a similar approach to building a new headless CMS platform. In our recent work with one of Canada’s leading banks, we are using this pattern to implement a headless, composable CMS architecture. The site performance on their new homepage, our first page launched in the new CMS, increased their site performance by 50%.

By decomposing their domain and moving it along in pieces, we are also ensuring a seamless experience on the frontend of the site, so that customer experience is not disrupted. This is preferable to a ‘big bang’ launch that can leave customers frustrated or confused by a new and unfamiliar experience.

3. It's the best way to capitalize on new opportunities

Migrating to a headless CMS in small, testable batches is part of a bigger pattern of initiatives that you can undertake in your company. Considering a migration as part of a larger digital transformation, a migration in an agile fashion is a series of small bets that add up to a change in how you deliver customer experience, how your teams work together and get to market faster, and how you create new digital experiences that launch in-market faster.

We call these small bets micro-transformations — they allow companies to build strength upon strength and position themselves to catch the next wave, along with whatever changes may come in the market.

Opportunity cost and the fear of lost value keep many leaders operating in an outdated waterfall mindset, making big bets on large initiatives, or not betting at all. But that approach quashes innovation. The most successful companies, Amazon among them, fund a number of small bets each quarter, knowing that many of them will fail, but some of them will succeed. Amazon’s Alexa was one of these small bets. When the company saw that users were interested, their agile budgeting structure allowed them to allocate funding to increase the investment in the product, fueling its success.

With a headless CMS platform, you have a flexible, infinitely customizable platform to generate your user experiences across all touchpoints, including the ability to automate and personalize experiences. The more your business can fund small experiments to improve how your customers interact with your brand, the more you can differentiate and win market share. A headless CMS is a step towards innovation that an enterprise platform just can’t compete with. Instead of a long planning cycle, start getting the value today.

The compound interest of innovation

“The ability to steer while you’re in-flight produces more value than just the ability to brute-force speed things up,” Don Reinertsen said on the Mik + One podcast in 2020.

As our CEO Nick Van Weerdenburg often notes, speed to market is essential, but speed of learning matters more. The rules for launching new products have changed because digital products are made of software, and software can and does change frequently. Long planning cycles with no releases no longer make sense, because the ‘materials’ of digital are so malleable.