The modern marketing world demands faster release schedules, compressed go-to-market timelines, multichannel and omnichannel strategies, and a general need to reinvent how organizations operate. Amid the increased pressure, many disruptive technologies and platforms have emerged with a promise of alleviating stress. One of the more-common buzzwords is “low-code” or “no-code,” whose low-effort concept is definitely attractive. But are these environments as good as they promise they are? Yes and no.
Low-code and no-code platforms come with a standard set of functionalities. As long as they offer what the enterprise needs, they work. Sometimes, businesses may even change requirements to fit into the platform’s paradigm. Yet the promise of not needing professional developers is not entirely true; these platforms require a certain level of programming at some stage, and the need for an architect cannot be discounted. As a result, true enterprise-grade, customizable platforms are seldom low code.
Some would say that Adobe Experience Manager comes close to disproving that statement. AEM is a full-scale experience platform and offers various functionalities that have become benchmarks for web content-management systems across the content lifecycle. However, although it’s prevalent in the experience-platform space, is Adobe Experience Manager really a low-code / no-code platform? Let’s break it down by functionality.
AEM handles content creation using components and templates. Its core components enable basic functionality, its base template addresses most common needs, and metadata screens and schema can be managed directly without engaging IT. However, most customer-specific needs require extensions, and layouts and styling will need revising to ensure they fit a company’s style. So, unless a site is extremely static and does not need anything specific or dynamic, companies will need to do some coding on the backend or frontend, or both.
Digital Asset Management
Asset management in AEM involves AEM Assets, while asset distribution uses Dynamic Media. AEM offers rendition creation dynamically out of the box, without mandating pre-creation, and performance is maximized by serving the right assets to the right channel via the right edge node. It also offers mixed-media capability that’s completely authorable and controlled by marketers. In terms of “web” digital asset management, AEM DAM is essentially low-code.
AEM’s workflow capabilities allow marketers to manage content through well-defined business processes that are specific to the organization. Workflow models can be created by power users without IT involvement, as long as there are no complex requirements that require IT to create workflow Java classes. Complicated tree branching is possible during workflow modelling, though complex custom screens need coding by IT. So, as long as the workflow requirements are not complex, and there is no need for large custom screens, AEM’s workflow functionality is sufficient out of the box.
Content Translation and Localization
AEM is very strong when it comes to localization and translation. Content hierarchies, relationships and syncing are handled using multi-site management, and translation and localization projects can be run with the ability to copy language. AEM also integrates with many translation vendors via translation brokers like Clay Tablet from LionBridge, complete with integrated billing – all without any IT involvement. In short, content translation and localization is truly a low-code/no-code activity once the integrations are configured.
AEM offers many out-of-the-box reports that assist system administrators, content administrators, and power users. There are also many extended reports as a part of ACS commons that can address functionalities not covered by default. For anything more complex, custom reports need to be created.
AEM equips system administrators with a lot of tools and consoles to perform various activities. However, administration is never a fully low-code venture.
As a cloud service, AEM enables complete end-to-end code-propagation. Code commit, static code analysis, style checks etc. can all be configured. CI/CD across various environments is also enabled as a part of the cloud service. Scalability is configurable via cloud service admin console based on various parameters. While powerful, these all require a modicum of coding effort.
Integration with Marketing Products
AEM seamlessly integrates with Adobe marketing products such as Target, Analytics, Campaign, and DMP. While some of these integrations are product to product, most of the integrations are managed via Adobe Launch. Most needs can be managed without coding, though complex needs must be coded, mostly as scripts into Adobe Launch. Integration with other marketing products is possible, but the integration ecosystem via Launch is currently limited. Integration is possible using other products (e.g. Telium), but it requires some level of scripting. As long as the requirements are straightforward and integration is with other Adobe products, very little scripting is required. For anything complex or business-specific (or non-Adobe), scripting cannot be avoided.
Is Adobe Experience Manager really a low-code / no-code platform? Sometimes. The truly low-code parts are digital asset management, content translation/localization, and maintenance on AEM cloud. If the requirements are not very complex, reporting, workflows, and integration with marketing products can also be low-code. However, creating components for the web will, more often than not, require custom coding from developers. A robust enterprise content platform like AEM offers a high degree of customization, which makes it challenging for it to be a completely low-code/no-code platform. But the sheer power it holds for organizations, even if some of it requires coding, is why AEM remains the CMS of choice for marketers and IT professionals alike.