Find out in the candid interview with Petr Palas
Kentico Cloud was renamed Kontent, and the original EMS is now Xperience. Can you tell us what was behind the changes?
The previous names were confusing and overly complicated. We reached the point when we realized they had to rebrand to reflect the products better. People mistook Kentico Cloud for our traditional product—EMS—just in the cloud. As for the EMS rebrand, it goes hand in hand with the way the product evolves, and also what we see as current market demands. The original CMS solutions are gradually transformed into complex platforms that support digital experience as well as digital marketing activities in general.
It wasn’t easy. However, I believe that we are now more comprehensible for our (future) customers as well as the professional community and partners. Because, paradoxically as it sounds, not even industry experts could fully grasp the previous concept of the two products we had. From this perspective, our new product names couldn’t be any more self-explanatory—with Kontent being a content management solution, i.e. Content as a Service (CaaS), and Xperience simply the shortened form of Digital Experience Platform that provides content, commerce, and marketing capabilities.
You have also split the company formally into two product divisions...
While the rebranding was quite a challenge, we managed to carry out the actual split in six months only. We made the final decision in the matter in December 2019 and immediately started to implement the changes in January. The long and short of it is that we have 2 products under the umbrella of Kentico. Each product grows separately and independently of the other. Together with our way of work and company values, what connects the two products is our strong focus on helping customers become more agile.
The primary reason behind the division was the fact that each product has a different target group. With shared Product, Sales, and Marketing departments, we found ourselves in a rather schizophrenic position; we switched between the products all the time while our clear focus and ability to speak to certain people in the right way was inevitably getting lost in the mix. Such a situation wasn’t ideal for anyone, neither us nor our customers.
Now, there are two separate teams dedicated to the respective products, sharing Support, Security and other departments essential for the smooth operation of Kentico. Establishing the two divisions has brought about more flexibility, and better, easier communication. Simply put, each of the original 250+ employees on 4 different continents has become a part of one or the other 100-person division.
This is clear evidence that even a mature, 16-year-old company can reorganize swiftly and effectively. The fact that we are independent and therefore able to make our own decisions also plays its role.
Do both products now have equal opportunities and space to evolve and grow?
Absolutely. We see a great opportunity for Kentico Xperience to be the best choice for customers seeking a comprehensive Digital Experience Platform. At the same time, Kentico Kontent is the best choice for customers who look only for a content management solution and want to make it part of their digital experience stack.
Originally, this strategy was driven by our efforts to provide a cloud-based CMS.
It’s worth pointing out that we made this strategic decision as early as in 2010—we realized back then that cloud was the future. We experimented and made fully functional pivots—Kentico+, Kentico Draft, Deliver, Engage, Compose—that laid the foundations to Kentico Cloud. Step by step, we tested various options. Having said that, it’s important to emphasize that the time when Kontent was perceived as a start-up within the company is long gone. It’s been maturing very quickly and it’s now being used by a growing number of enterprise clients.
Today, we have a self-hosted solution (Xperience) and a native cloud service (Kontent). However, we’re going to add a cloud option for Xperience in the future as well.
Can you briefly outline the differences between the two products?
It’s closely related to the customers who use them. The difference is how much customers expect from us.
A typical Xperience customer looks for a platform on which they can build their digital experiences. They expect to get lots of functionalities from the platform, so that they don’t have to buy multiple tools and integrate them. They realize that integrating and operating multiple best-of-breed solutions would be overwhelming for their team. That doesn’t mean they cannot use other solutions—we provide many options to connect Xperience with their CRM, ERP, or other various marketing tools they may already have in place.
Kontent is a product aimed primarily at enterprise customers who create their digital experience stack using specialized solutions and are in search of the one essential piece to complement the puzzle and facilitate their content management. At the same time, it must operate smoothly with everything they already have in place.
Both these segments are growing steadily and both have tremendous potential—which is excellent news for us.
The positive prospect is likely to trigger big plans for the future. Can you disclose some of them?
With Kontent, we are on the mark, ready to catapult, figuratively speaking. In its market segment, Kontent is one of the top solutions available. Bart Omlo, our new Managing Director, will soon reveal the current plans and figures.
Kentico Xperience is currently going through a technology transformation. We are the very first DXP vendor switching to .NET Core.
It will allow developers to build websites and apps on a modern technology that is more modular and easier to deploy. This technological transformation also directly impacts CIOs and CFOs in their strategic decisions. They can now stand assured that, with Xperience, they are investing in the technology of the future.
Another big step for Xperience is a complete redesign of the UI to give the product a fresh look and feel, and to make it even easier to use.
We are going to enhance the Xperience headless API, so that it covers the majority of its functionalities, including commerce and marketing. That will make it easier to use for omnichannel scenarios.
We are about to expand the Xperience’s cloud story as well. It’s important to point out though that we are keeping the option to self-host Xperience even on-premise. We just want to extend the options to accommodate our customers. There is more in the pipeline but I can’t share everything at once. All in good time. :)
Looking at all these changes, it’s quite a bulk. How did you handle the shake-up as a company?
It was certainly a big change and it wasn’t easy. With two executive teams currently operating in Kentico, we had to find a way to attract and raise more leaders in the company while reshuffling the organizational structure. 6 months later, I can say it was well worth it—we have a stronger and more focused organization than we had before.
Can you elaborate on the company structure and tell us about your new key players?
I am still the CEO. :) We also have a Managing Director for each product and several shared roles for the Kentico as a whole—a CAO, COO, etc. In Kontent and Xperience, there are respective executive teams with their Managing Directors at the helm. In other words, we have two parallel Sales teams, Marketing, Product, and Customer Success teams. This model brings a fantastic opportunity for the teams to cooperate and share their know-how as well as best practices across the company.
Bart Omlo, who used to be a VP Sales, has been promoted to the role of the Managing Director of Kontent. He has been with us for 5 years. Apart from being an excellent salesman, he now proves to be a tremendous leader too. Antonín Moravec, our COO who has been with Kentico for 12 years, has taken up the position of MD Xperience. To start in the role of the VP Product at Xperience, we have Dominik Pinter re-joining us after a couple of years of gaining experience and expanding his expertise in other global companies. Gradually, we are hiring new talent, and complementing the management team with several outstanding colleagues who currently work in the company. It’s a very promising mixture.
Have the requirements for a candidate ideal for the company changed in any way?
A lot changed 18 months ago when we created the Kentico Playbook. It’s a material that describes who we are as a company, how we operate, and where we’re heading. What we endorse and what we don’t. We put emphasis on quality, not quantity—on bringing real value. Therefore, we also have high expectations of people, their performance and overall quality. We have set the bar high. But it’s fully aligned with the whole concept of the company—hire the best people in the market, minimize processes and increase the agility of the organization. As a result, become the best place to work.
With two strong executive teams now in place, I am looking forward to focusing on our overall strategy, culture and making Kentico a great company.
Can you tell us how these changes will benefit you or what they might take away from you personally?
In the past, I used to be really involved in many aspects of the company. Being really “just” a CEO will allow me to focus fully on our strategic planning and look out for the next market opportunities for Kentico. I always wanted to build a great, enduring business as Jim Collins describes in his book “Good to Great”. I feel like we’re half-way there, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.