It is that time of year again when Gartner migrates those little dots around to guide companies that are in the process of evaluating a Web Content Management solution for their business, by providing an in-depth analysis of leading vendors. This article will not only discuss who’s in, who’s out, and who jumped from one category to another over the past year but it will also include exclusive comments from the leading vendors' execs on their inclusion as well as the cautions that the Gartner analysts pointed out. Here's a glimpse into the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management:
First things first, for those who are not acquainted with Gartner’s report, the “Leader” quadrant includes the vendors that are “prepared for the future with a clear vision and a thorough appreciation of the broader context of digital business. They have strong channel partners, a presence in multiple regions, consistent financial performance, broad platform support and good customer support."
Bloomreach is the New Kid on the Block
Last year, as you may recall, Gartner deposed OpenText, SDL, and HP from the leader's quadrant. This year, however, all the vendors that were named as Leaders, including Sitecore, Adobe, Acquia, Episerver, IBM, and Oracle, kept hold of their spots in this category. Have being said, there is a newcomer to the report and the Leader quadrant, as a matter of fact, a newcomer to the WCM market thanks to its acquisition of Amsterdam-based open-source Hippo CMS which already made a significant move from the Niche Players to the Visionaries quadrant in the Gartner’s Magic Quadrant last year. With the integration of BloomReach’s Relevance Engine into Hippo’s WCM, they have created the first self-learning, digital experience platform that learns from the context behind every customer interaction, whether is it online or offline, in order to utilize that knowledge to deliver personalization to any digital experience. The reason behind the vendor’s significant upwards movement in the report, in my opinion, is the fact that BloomReach DXP semantically understands content and comes with its own set of algorithmic intelligence and core data sets so users can understand demand expressed by consumers throughout the Web. According to the Gartner report authors Mick MacComascaigh and Jim Murphy, the merged capabilities of Hippo CMS and Bloomreach “resonates highly with selection scenarios for WCM in the current market, and will continue to be strong.”
Speaking to CMS-Connected, Arjé Cahn, CTO of BloomReach Experience said: “Being designated a Leader in this year's Gartner MQ for WCM is a great acknowledgment of our product vision and a confirmation that we have taken the right approach in focusing on building an open & intelligent platform. We are proud to be recognized for our ease of integration with third-party systems, our versatile deployment capabilities, and for giving both Marketing and IT teams the freedom and flexibility to innovate at the leading edge of digital marketing. Our product is built with a best-of breed approach in mind and interoperability at its heart, which makes it the right choice for any future focused enterprise.”
Bloomreach’s inclusion marked another change in the report, taking the reputation of being the only open source leader away from Acquia. Speaking of which, open APIs and open source have been very popular, especially among buyers who are on the lookout for a WCM that provides flexibility and interoperability to be able to rapidly create and move quickly. In fact, during one of our recent interviews with Chris Wiborg, Vice President of Product Marketing at Alfresco, he also told me about how important open source is becoming to develop solutions being designed to keep up with the pace of change and said: “Open source has become sexy all over again!”
On the flip side, working with an open-source software (OSS) requires considerable technical expertise thus organizations considering deploying an OSS should carefully assess their resources in advance of final selection.
The Returning Leaders: Acquia, Epi, Sitecore, Adobe, Oracle, and IBM
Since we started off with open-source technologies, let’s move on to the other open-source leader, Acquia who has been recognized by Gartner as a Leader in the 2017 Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management report for the fourth consecutive year. The compelling combination of open source and cloud has been the main driving factor behind the vendor’s unprecedented growth. Acquia’s winning strategy that focused on API-first delivery and secure cloud deployment landed the vendor in the “Leaders” category, in both Gartner’s MQ and Forrester’s WCM Wave.
On the hot heels of the report, I reached out to Christopher Stone, Chief Products Officer at Acquia, to inquire about the driving factor behind, as the report cites, “being the best-known provider of cloud capabilities”: “As the leading open source, cloud-based DX platform, Acquia continues to deliver best-in-class enterprise solutions for massive organizations around the globe. Beyond our core open source, cloud-based offerings, we’re also bringing cutting-edge personalization and commerce solutions to the market.”
Considering not all the comments cited in the report are rosy, I also wanted to pick Christopher’s brain on one of the pitfalls Gartner suggested that as far as a marketing strategy goes, the strong emphasis on its product's technological prowess and not enough emphasis on the business contexts may hurt marketing effectiveness. Here’s what he had to say: “The WCM landscape has evolved since Acquia launched 10 years ago. WCM buyers have shifted from technical leads to heads of marketing and the C-suite, a group that’s overwhelmingly concerned with the entire customer journey. Acquia’s sophisticated technology has been our differentiator from the beginning—it’s at the core of everything we do—and that tech expertise is more important than ever as we address the needs of the marketer. We’re continuing to adapt our platform for this market, and as we do the evolution will become clear.”
On the other hand, according to my understanding from the recent reviews of the most respected reports like Gartner and Forrester and user forums, organizations have lately found Acquia's marketing geared primarily toward the digital marketing effectiveness use cases.
Episerver retained its spot on the leaderboard, once again. In my opinion, Episerver’s recognition as a Leader in the report for the third year in a row mostly comes from the vendor’s significant investments in social commerce and machine learning-based personalization technology as well as its laser-focus on digital marketing effectiveness and delivering highly contextualized experiences. The Stamford, Conn.-based research firm also acknowledges Episerver’s “timely and well-executed acquisitions” in the report.
“We’re super proud to be recognized as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for WCM for the third year running, which aligns with our high-growth trajectory over the past few years, as well as the delivery of our vision to infuse our content management applications with intelligent personalization and omnichannel capabilities,” James Norwood, Executive Vice President Strategy, CMO at Episerver, told CMS-Connected. “It’s also good to be credited by Gartner for timely and well-executed acquisitions and for doing more than most WCM providers to equip, encourage and enable customers to exploit the cloud. However, we feel it’s our laser focus on delivering transformative digital experiences for business as opposed to technology that has resonated most with the Gartner analysts and our customers.”
One of the caution points that the Gartner analysts cited in the report, claiming that “Episerver requires considerable product-specific and .NET expertise.” I was also curious about James Norwood’s take on that one, and he splendidly addressed Garner’s comment with all of the transparency we know him for. “Episerver’s platform provides a comprehensive WCM solution for mid-sized to larger organizations and so does require an implementation partner or internal technical resource to help implement. However, once it's up and running, one of the biggest benefits of the Digital Experience Cloud is that it's easy for marketers and merchandisers to use. We strive to empower people at each of our customers to be the digital heroes of their brands, so helping them to be super-productive is what we are all about,” said Norwood and added: “In fact, you would expect digital commerce WCM use cases to be the most involved, just by their very nature, yet Gartner stated that 'a large majority of reference customers found it easy or very easy to implement and customize, whereas all reference customers reported high overall satisfaction with both Episerver and its digital commerce platform,' as recently as this April. It’s reasonable that customization would require some degree of technical expertise, although configuration once a marketer is trained is straightforward. At the end of the day, content marketers can be productive with Episerver in a matter of hours.”
Gartner also gave Episerver credit in terms of its cloud strategy, indicating that Episerver is standing out from most WCM providers when it comes to encouraging and enabling customers to exploit the cloud. Given the vendor has recently rolled out a new set of data connectors between Episerver Commerce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP solutions, all of which can be deployed to a single cloud service in Microsoft Azure, Gartner's accolades for Episerver in its latest report seem to be spot-on.
It is time to move on to another vendor that has recently expanded its partnership with Microsoft is Sitecore which has landed in the Leaders’ quadrant for eighth consecutive year. What’s more, Sitecore, once again, won Gartner's heart for "Ability to Execute" which rates how well a vendor sells and supports its WCM products and services globally, according to Gartner.
Speaking to CMS-Connected ahead of the recognition, Ryan Donovan, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Sitecore, said: “At Sitecore, we are honored to be placed as a leader on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for WCM for the eighth time in a row. Over the past year, we’ve worked hard to ensure our platform remains the most effective and equips our customers and partners with the technology and insights required to meet their evolving needs. One of the ways we’ve done this is by re-architecting our platform to run natively on Microsoft Azure in a server-less PaaS deployment model. This results in much faster time-to-market, easier and quicker deployment, as well as the ability to scale automatically as needs grow.” He also added: “The biggest customer impact is ensuring that PaaS is the right answer for them. Some due diligence is definitely needed, however code-wise unless someone has taken some egregious Windows dependency in their custom solutions, our structure should continue to run without change.”
Previously, many analysts have been critical of Sitecore’s cloud strategy as they claimed that the vendor has fallen behind its competitors in their shift to the cloud. However, Sitecore has lately stepped up its game so the latest enhancements seem to have a potential to put them further along. Additionally, their expansion of a longstanding partnership with Microsoft has built a solid ground for their ongoing cloud strategy as the new expansion addressed many challenges that customers are faced with, including time to market and scaling. In an another interview, Ryan Donovan told CMS-Connected that the vendor has removed a number of the pieces and parts from the stack by going native Azure Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) which results in “a significantly simpler infrastructure for customers and partners.” Being one of the earliest vendors to focus on the customer journey, Sitecore has a laser-focus on meeting their customers’ need for greater speed and agility for businesses.
Adobe has been running neck and neck with Sitecore in the ‘Leaders’ quadrant, to earn the top spot in the Web Content Management space for the past eight years. This year, once again, Adobe has been named the top leader in terms of "Completeness of Vision" which focuses on the vendor's potential and points to its future chances of success.
Last April, the vendor rolled out a new umbrella product, called Adobe Experience Cloud that is comprised of Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe Advertising Cloud, and Adobe Analytics Cloud. When we interviewed Adam Justis, Director of Product Marketing for the Adobe Experience Cloud at Adobe to discuss the differentiating factors of newly announced Adobe Experience Cloud, he said: “The ability not only to have the tools delivering personalized experiences in real time but to augment and accelerate those through artificial intelligence capabilities. When you look at Adobe, we probably have over four dozen algorithms driving functionality in Adobe Experience Cloud today. That’s our differentiator.” According to Adam, the platform allows people to fuse content and insight together so not only they have insights but also they are able to take actions on those insights and have a meaningful way of delivering those compelling experiences. Therefore, he believes, that kind of continuum has helped Adobe get recognition for being able to enable our customers to satisfy their customers in the digital age.
Adobe has recently released the latest version of its web content management system, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) 6.3 in an effort to help organizations deliver experiences through “affiliated properties” like partner websites, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and mobile apps. Additionally, Adobe also announced a Fluid Experiences for Retail capability through its Adobe Experience Manager, in order to enable retailers to create and manage omnichannel experiences across any touchpoint, including in-store associate apps, social channels, physical signage, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and smart-screens. Fluid Experiences automatically edits and resizes images and copy based on the channel, so the content gets optimized for each touch point. On that note, Garner warned organizations considering this solution to devise a thorough sourcing strategy and not to underestimate the effort and complexity of an Adobe Experience Manager implementation, especially in the initial phases.
Among the returning leaders, Oracle had the most significant change in its placement over the past year as the Redwood City, Calif.-based vendor surged forward from IBM and Episerver compared to the last year’s report and narrowed the gap on Acquia in terms of “ability to execute.”
The company has also introduced a new digital experience platform, the Oracle Content and Experience Cloud to help organizations manage and deliver content to any digital channel so enterprise content marketers can initiate more effective engagement with customers, partners, and employees. In conjunction with this release, Oracle also announced a plethora of AI-powered capabilities across key Oracle Customer Experience Cloud offerings, including Marketing, Service, Sales, and Commerce, in an effort to enable users to deliver better, faster and more personal experiences. With its new single cloud-native platform for content production, management, and delivery across all lines of business, to me, Oracle seemed to take on Adobe’s Experience Cloud. What’s more, integrating Data Cloud into other Oracle products is a smart move, considering there are a collection of more than 70,000 attributes and six billion consumer and business profiles available in the Oracle Data Cloud. Due to all these enhancements, Gartner gave Oracle significant credit and also cited that “Oracle's strategy moves beyond the typical role of content management.”
A Dual-Product Strategy Dilemma
IBM has again been named a leader in the Magic Quadrant report. However, according to Gartner, IBM’s dual-product strategy with its Watson Content Hub and IBM Web Content Manager creates some confusion on the buyers’ end, mostly because of the significant difference in product maturity. Have being said, the research firm also acknowledges IBM’s efforts to integrate Watson Content Hub into Web Content Manager, and moving forward, Gartner expects IBM to pursue this hybrid approach.
Speaking of a dual-product strategy, Kentico, which is referenced in the MQ report as a Challenger for the second straight year, is another vendor that Gartner concluded, the company’s dual-product strategy with Kentico EMS and Kentico Cloud creates “a dilemma rather than a useful alternative to current customers and prospects.”
To elaborate on this comment, I reached out to Kentico’s CEO Petr Palas, and he thoroughly explained me: “I understand the dual-product strategy may look confusing at the first sight. In the past, we saw several CMS vendors acquiring competing solutions and offering them side by side. However, this is a very different situation. The CMS industry goes through a major change as it‘s finally moving towards a true SaaS model and looks for a better way how to manage content for all the newcoming channels and devices. The traditional CMS vendors cannot adapt to such major change by making incremental changes to their existing monolithic products.” He also added: “As I see it, Kentico, together with IBM, is the only traditional vendors who react to this major shift and decided to invest into developing a new solution to make sure they have a strong offering for today’s innovators. These customers think cloud-first, content-first, API-first and want to build their applications using a modern microservices architecture. This is no mirage – we talk to such innovative customers every day and they say a traditional CMS architecture doesn’t meet their expectations anymore. In short, having such a dual strategy is not about having two competing solutions, but about giving a choice to customers with different preferences and different stage of innovation.”
I certainly agree with the conclusion MacComascaigh and Murphy made in the report: “The WCM market isn't what it used to be.” Have being said, the MQ hasn't changed much over the years. I think the reason behind it is the fact that none of the major vendors in this space rests on their laurels. They all keep innovating, acquiring, and teaming up to make their platforms more modular, granular and atomic. Below I put together the past four Magic Quadrants as a brief demonstration of how little change has happened in the report over the past four years.