As most technology vendors do, SDL has been working with the analyst community for many years to ensure our products are covered and well represented in their key reports. For more than a decade we have worked with a wide variety analyst firms, large and small, to brief them on our solutions, discuss markets trends, explore customer cases and gather competitive intelligence. It’s an interesting dynamic between vendors and analysts – a bit like a forced marriage in which you cannot really live with or without each other.

The art of predicting market trends

Of course in hindsight it’s always easy to see which analysts predicted the right market trends. Many of you will remember how back in the days Web Content Management (WCM) was no longer considered a viable market category, as it would be absorbed by all-encompassing ECM (Enterprise Content Management) suites. However, WCM as a category turned out to be more persistent than anticipated by the analysts, and it was revived a few years later.

More recently we have seen the emergence of Digital Experience Platforms (DXP). Loved by some (Gartner, Forrester), hated by others (e.g. RealStoryGroup), we’ll see how long they continue to be covered as such by the analysts.

SDL’s take on DXP

At SDL we fully support the notion of an eco-system of digital marketing systems working together in a nicely joined-up way, helping marketers deliver against always increasing customer expectations. We don’t believe however that for large enterprises (our target market) such a system can and should be delivered by a single vendor. It’s just not realistic.

Companies have invested millions in existing systems for CRM, marketing automation, commerce and so on. The key characteristic of a future proof technology stack is interoperability, which leads to better business agility. Our customers want to be able to rip out one system and replace it with another. Scott Brinker’s MarTech supergraphic shows you why such an approach is needed – the martech space continues to evolve at an incredible pace.

Moreover, speaking to our own customers we hear how reluctant they are about being exposed to vendor lock-in. That was also reflected in a Digital Clarity Group report from 2018 about DXP buying strategies (report available on the SDL website).

Interestingly, in spite of DXP promising a more integrated platform, Gartner reported in its second Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Digital Experience Platforms (login required) that through 2021, a staggering 85 percent of effort and cost in a DXP program will be spent on integrations with internal and external systems, including the DXP’s own, built-in capabilities!

SDL coverage in the DXP reports

SDL participated in both the Forrester and Gartner DXP reports when they first emerged. However, more recently we have decided that we will no longer participate. Over time, the scoring and weighting criteria have changed heavily in favor of vendors who own all the technology pieces that make up a DXP (WCM, commerce, analytics, email, social, CDP, the list goes on), at the expense of vendors who follow an integration strategy. It doesn’t even really matter much how well those (acquired) technologies are integrated (see the Gartner stat before). By just having them in their portfolio, the vendor is already awarded points. The notion of a DXP-suite simply doesn’t align with our strategy. We believe in strong best-of-breed solutions, built to be interoperable.

Second time killing WCM – and what’s next?

Both Gartner and Forrester recently decided they will no longer cover Web Content Management in dedicated MQ / Wave reports. While Gartner continues with just DXP as far as we can tell, Mark Grannan at Forrester has introduced the notion of an “Agile CMS”, 2018, which is the next generation of CMS that combines the best of traditional Web CMS, headless CMS, and Experience CMS.

It’s still early days to tell if the concept is going to fly, but in a recent consulting session we had with Forrester we had an opportunity to dig a bit deeper into the concept. The definition currently says: “Agile CMS: a solution for collaboratively curating, creating, and delivering content across channels and campaigns via iterative development and deployment processes.”

The interesting part this concept is that the upfront content planning and orchestration are part of an Agile CMS. An area that was traditionally covered by separate project planning tools, MRM and Content Marketing solutions.

Content as a Service (CaaS) and Agile CMS

We do see the trend towards CaaS within our own install base. Companies want the CMS to act as a Content Service (deployed using microservices). The Content Service typically feeds into a middleware layer that acts as the glue with a whole bunch of other enterprise technologies. The middleware layer subsequently feeds the various touchpoints. Forrester provides a simple definition of CaaS.

CaaS = {content authoring + management + API delivery}

CaaS is similar to Agile CMS given the channel-agnostic authoring, but it lacks the omni-channel orchestration aspect that will be a game-changer for digital experience pros. The good news is – SDL are looking into the content planning and orchestration part as well, through integration with best-of-breed players in that space. Watch our blog for more information on this in the near future…

Closing thoughts

Let me emphasize that we believe analysts play an instrumental role in educating both buyers and vendors, and describing market dynamics. At the same time, the future is hard to predict, and sometimes things move in unexpected directions. For us that is even more a reason to stick to our best-of-breed strategy for our Content Management technologies – it gives our customers the agility they need to respond to the unexpected, and the ability to integrate with whatever works best for them, now and in the future.
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