ONLY A FEW FILMS assemble all the right pieces in exactly the right way. I’m talking cast, characters, plot, dialogue, droids… everything falls into place.
For me, the original Star Wars is one of those rare gems. Or, more appropriately, kyber crystals (consult Wookiepedia for that reference). Equal parts fantasy and science fiction, it transcends time and audiences with its action, humor, and visual effects – which still hold up IMO.
Star Wars is a classic Hero’s Journey. We all know the story (and if you don’t, may the flaws be with you). Darth Vader, the eponymous arch-nemesis, darkly intends to conquer the galaxy with the Death Star. Only one person can stop him: Luke Skywalker. As the film’s hero, we see his transformation unfold as he learns to conjure the Force to ignite a rebellion and save the day.
I can’t help but think that Mark Demeny is on his own sort of Hero’s Journey. Throughout his storied CMS career, he’s ascended monolithic peaks and careened through headless valleys, becoming a Jedi-level master in this market. Along the way, he’s been a restless challenger, learning lessons and stoking transformation.
Now, as the Director of Advocacy at Uniform – the defacto leader in a new breed of digital experience composition platforms (DXCP) – he’s battling glue code monsters at the outer rim of the composable frontier. Leaning on his experience and intellect, he’s cutting through market confusion with the elegance of a lightsaber.
Uniform is also playing the hero, helping enterprises and SIs make more informed decisions when considering a composable content management system. I recently spoke to Mark about a new CMS evaluation guide he authored, which I've read cover to cover. I wanted to know what makes this compendium so valuable – and how Uniform is leveraging it to plot a new course.
As a Star Wars fan himself, I expected to cover more than a few parsecs. And that’s exactly what I got: a thought-provoking exchange with one of the smartest people in the DX industry on his quest for a composable future.
When Mark joined me via Zoom from his remote office in the Canadian sector, I was greeted by a temple-like homage to Star Wars memorabilia, collectibles, and historical artifacts. A Lego kit sat in mid-build by his desk, and he was flanked by countless books that seemed to be climbing the shelves.
“This is very much the décor the industry expects,” he said lightly.
And he should know. Mark has spent his entire career in the web and CMS world, starting as a developer and systems analyst for agencies within the Canadian government. He later assumed the reins as the CMS development lead at SAP, where he implemented Alfresco (now part of Hyland).
Then came Sitecore. As a product expert and evangelist, he worked on various marketing programs, demos, and training materials. That led to a strategic director-level position, where he focused on the company’s product roadmap.
After Sitecore, he continued his CMS journey – first at Contentful on the headless side, then at Optimizely, where he worked with Deane Barker. During the latter stint, he shepherded the composed platform’s Content Cloud and supported its Welcome acquisition.
To say Mark is well-rounded on all sides of the CMS market is an understatement, and that’s precisely what made him an ideal addition to Uniform. As the company crystallized its positioning as a DXCP, Mark provided a unique perspective that spanned the entire landscape, understanding the discreet challenges from every angle.
Moving from product strategy to advocacy, Mark now focuses on knowledge, which is essential to the growth of the digital experience composition category – and Uniform. Market adoption doesn't happen at hyper speed, but his experience will undoubtedly accelerate the trip.
Knowing the importance of a CMS in the composable stack, it might be clear why Uniform is investing in tools to help with the selection. There’s an immutable dependency on the content layer, and the CMS evaluation process can still be confusing and cumbersome – especially with dozens of platforms to weed through.
But as a DXCP, why go so deep with a CMS evaluation guide? I’ll get to that. But first, a bit of background on Uniform will provide some helpful context.
As a digital experience composition platform, Uniform is increasingly valuable in the composable ecosystem. It enables enterprises and SIs to shed weeks or even months generating complex “glue code” to integrate a CMS, e-commerce, DAM, analytics tool, or even a legacy system – just by adding API keys to its signature Uniform Mesh.
Additionally, Uniform Canvas delivers the elusive visualization that bridges the gap between headless CMS platforms and multiple content sources, allowing marketers to preview their presentation layer without relying on developers to get the job done. The whole “publish and pray” phenomenon is mitigated, accelerating confidence, time to market, and greater independence for content creators. There's also Uniform Context, which delivers personalization at the edge to help maintain high performance.
No doubt, these benefits are game-changing. But for Uniform and other DXC technologies, the challenge is developing awareness for a still nascent technology category. I asked Mark if prospects were coming to Uniform through RFPs – or was it still leading a horse (or tauntaun) to water?
“It’s about 50/50,” he replied. “For us, this really sums up the two personas we talk to: in one camp, people who know headless and know the differences. Then the other camp is maybe on an older legacy platform, and their partner is saying ‘you need to move to composable.’ But then they say, ‘I have no idea what that is.’ That’s why we created this composable CMS evaluation guide – more for the audience that's just starting to come into it.”
Between confusion and a lack of visibility, DXC faces considerable challenges. One factor for Uniform is that they’re typically being considered after the CMS evaluation when the limits of a headless system might rear their ugly head.
“Up to now, a lot of people looked at the CMS first, and then looked at adding Uniform,” Mark explained. “But we want to [build awareness] earlier on because there’s a lot Uniform can do to help with the CMS evaluation process. For example, we can make it easier to test different solutions, swap content sources seamlessly, make it easier to migrate, or have new content working alongside existing content. We really built this asset to get that idea in front of people first.”
Getting prospects to think about DXC alongside a composable CMS makes a lot of sense. I asked if this help he described was coming from more consultative engagements. It sounded hands-on and, ergo, less scalable.
“We don’t want to consult,” he clarified, “but we do want to get in front of partners that think more holistically, where Uniform can help with these tools. We want to automate that process with a guide like this and make it all easier.”
Uniform’s Composable CMS evaluation guide is a testament to Mark’s masterful analysis of content management for composable architectures.
Despite clocking in at 63 pages, the e-book is well-formatted and a surprisingly easy read. It covers every leg of the CMS eval journey, from performing background analysis to avoiding strategic pitfalls. It dives deep into core criteria for assessing vendor capabilities through the right lens and details numerous considerations for building a composable stack.
The guide also outlines functional areas like pricing models, preview/editing features, DevOps, APIs, and CDN – and directs readers on how to evaluate personalization, commerce capabilities, search functionality, and more.
As Mark pointed out earlier, the key function of the guide is to help people understand the base criteria. But even within that, he said, you need to be circumspect with that criteria – and truly understand what’s important to you and your organization.
“A consideration could be the number of SDKs,” he relates. “One vendor might have the basics for Next.js, while another provides a deep set of resources and videos for the same framework. Does that mean one is better than the other? Maybe not. You really have to know what’s important to you as an organization. If it’s content authoring, look at Sanity or Contentful. But if it’s less important and you want a GraphQL repo, look at Hygraph.”
To that point, one of Mark’s favorite CMS platforms scores less on certain criteria due to their focus. This underscores the need to dig deep – which is precisely what the evaluation guide assists with.
“I spent the first third [of the guide] nailing down what you really need because there are so many vendors out there, and you have to be clear about what’s important. It’s like buying a car: every model on the market is decent, so it’s hard not to go wrong. You have to know what you’re looking for upfront and not fall into high-level criteria right away.”
The analogy with the car is intuitive, but it also evokes the troublesome reality of commoditization. If all CMSes have cupholders and cruise control, the differentiators are being cemented (at least in part) by intangibles, or what Mark calls non-functional criteria.
“I have a whole section on this,” he said. “What’s [the CMS platform’s] geographic footprint? What’s the community like? How easy is it to evaluate their software? Do they have a partner network? What about support? What’s their reputation like, and do you like doing business with these people? I put a big emphasis on non-functional criteria.”
While commoditization is inevitable, Mark did specify technical areas where variation continues to differentiate CMS vendors. One, in particular, is workflow.
“There are a lot of vendors that don’t have good workflows,” he pointed out. “That eliminates a lot of contenders right off the bat. For every criterion, there will be advanced stuff that a customer needs to figure out upfront. They may be small, but they're important. There’s a lot of differentiation, but it tends to be more at the edges.”
“Composable” has become a ubiquitous yet confusing term in the digital experience lexicon. It originated from a Gartner article in 2020 called “The Future of Business Is Composable,” and it’s been wreaking havoc ever since. While “composable” has been championed by headless platforms as a strategy for building open and flexible tech stacks, all-in-one DXPs are also using it to market their growing flexibility.
If you’ve read my previous interview with Darren Guarnaccia, Uniform’s president and an influential leader in the CMS community, you might recall his MACH Haus presentation on “The Death of DXP.” This rhetoric has a hype factor, but is being a headless hybrid composable DXP the next evolution? Or is the Death Star being blown up?
The MACH Alliance – a member group that advocates for open, best-of-breed technology ecosystems – offers a counterpoint, reinforcing composability via strict principles of MACH (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, Headless). By their definition, legacy DXPs like Sitecore and Adobe might say they’re composable but don’t meet their core criteria.
But hang on a parsec: as legacy DXPs drift towards their own composable position, headless CMSes have also expanded, integrating new products into their platforms. Are they evolving, too? Is everyone becoming some permutation of a composable DXP?
I asked Mark to chime in on this debate. After all, he’s worked both sides of the fence.
“As always, the devil’s in the details,” he said. “Bloomreach came from open source with Hippo but is now MACH certified, so they've embraced it. On the composable vendor side, they’re acquiring things. [For example] commercetools acquired Frontastic. Ultimately, this idea of having multiple things within a suite under a composable umbrella isn’t bad, but it’s the details. Do they integrate? Do they work together? Do they play well with others? The answers vary considerably. Some vendors are talking about openness but really aren’t.”
Ah, confusion. Is that the real “Dark Side” to all this? MACH certainly helps codify some of the requirements in a very narrow corridor. However, it’s still up to every enterprise considering a composable architecture to do the necessary work and ascertain what’s required. This is where eval guides and tools like the MACH Maturity assessment can help.
Despite the debate, Mark sees a place in the market for traditional all-in-one platforms depending on the needs and goals. The key question: what’s the value?
“I was chatting with someone at a really large global agency about their new projects, and 50% are traditional DXP, but 50% are composable,” he relayed. “There are use cases where you might want AEM – where you need a page builder – and that makes sense for an organization. A lot comes down to cost and return. Sitecore comes with ten things out of the box. If you’re an org that needs only two, do you feel you’re getting the value out of what you put into it? That question drives more of the decisions than the technology.”
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… selecting a CMS seemed, well, a little more predictable. There were fewer vendors, no headless varietals, and no talk of composable. A web API seemed good enough for everything, and one channel was all you worried about.
That might sound idyllic, but the universe has shifted. Vendor lock-in and overbuying created a demand for greater freedom and flexibility – and complex, connected, omnichannel strategies changed the game.
As Mark noted, more agencies and orgs are pursuing composable architectures, and with that, composable CMSes. Understanding how to evaluate these vendors is where the “new hope” lies, and knowing how DXC is a force multiplier can be crucial.
While assets like a CMS evaluation guide are helpful, so too is the enrichment of partner channels, which has taken on a greater value dimension in this composable era.
“Partners have always been really important in the CMS space, and in composable, even moreso,” he said. “Look at the math behind it: in the past, you would go to a partner with domain or framework expertise in Drupal, or Sitecore, and off you go. But now, [with composable], those partners need to evaluate 36 vendors. Instead of focusing on a single vendor, that expertise is wider and shallower, and you need to know how the bits fit together and where there might be gaps.”
With so many sequels in Mark’s saga, it’s safe to say the journey might never be over. But that’s a good thing: innovation never rests, and that keeps him challenged. As we ended our conversation, I did ask how he balances this reality in an ever-changing digital landscape.
“I think the moments when you can disconnect and reconnect with nature are really important,” he said. “That’s harder and harder today. Teams are remote, working worldwide. There’s constant pressure from VCs to hit KPIs. A lot of people are struggling. I live rurally now, and that’s nice, but I used to live in London for a while, and I still managed to carve out that restorative space.”
Good advice for any weary space traveler.
So, what’s next at Uniform? There are some new features in GA for Uniform Canvas, including Dynamic Pages – which enables greater control for building custom visual experiences – and Redirect Manager to help enhance SEO. Mark also mentioned some early experimentation in AI and automation, albeit measured at this point. His real passion is solving the problems at hand and guiding the future of composable, which relies equally on mindset as it does on technology.
“It’s more complicated, but there’s also more opportunity,” he said.
For years, I’ve marveled at Mark’s encyclopedic knowledge of CMS and his prescient insight. He sees things others don’t and brings unmatched wisdom to every conversation.
I wonder if there's an invisible Force guiding his path.