A couple of years ago, the CMS industry was shaken up by the news of the Accel KKRs acquisition of Ektron and Episerver vendors. The announcement that the 2 companies would be merged into a single entity was somewhat less surprising, as this was not an uncommon practice within the space and software industry in general. However, the mixed, unclear and at times misleading announcements made by the management teams of the 2 companies left the vast customer base, of these two products, uncertain and concerned about how this merger would affect them and the investments that they had made into their websites and underlying technologies.
Perhaps the most misleading/optimistic claim made at the time, was that the two software platforms would be merged into a single super-CMS solution that would encompass the strengths of both Episerver and Ektron CMS platforms and that the clients would benefit by seamlessly upgrading to the new all-encompassing platform and would be given superior functionality without having to rebuild their websites. Having worked for Ektron for several years and having great insight into the architecture of that technology, it was known that this would be technologically impossible to do and would simply not be feasible or financially viable. It was quite obvious to us, as veterans of the industry that the main objective of the merger was to increase the market share of the new organisation which would continue to operate under the Episerver brand. This meant that in all likelihood, Ektron CMS would be discontinued and efforts would be made to encourage the Ektron client base to move to the Episerver platform. At the time, we felt obliged to publish our thoughts on this and unlike the majority of other agency partners we simply refused to mislead our clients by being economical with the truth and reiterating the spiel that was concocted by the Ektron/Episerver Marketing and Sales teams. Needless to say that this didn’t go down well with the Ektron UK Sales team at the time, as they were desperately trying to minimise the impact of the news of the merger on their existing client base. It quickly became evident that maintaining a partnership with Ektron would come at a cost, and we found ourselves at a cross-road as a business – work to maintain our partnership status with Ektron, or to stay true to our beliefs and to maintain our integrity as an agency and our loyalty to our own client base. We opted for the latter and despite a number of aggressive corporate bullying tactics that were undertaken by the Ektron Europe Management at the time, we refused to retract or negate our already published points of view.
A couple of years on, we reflect on what has actually happened and where the users of the Ektron CMS platform find themselves today. It’s important to state that our views are based solely on our own experiences and the feedback that we’ve received from the numerous Ektron clients who we continue to support. The fact that we have been involved in more implementations than any other non-US agency, we feel gives us credibility and a valid point of view. We will however, in the near future, be conducting a broader survey into the experience of Ektron’s European client base in order to provide ascertain a clearer and more statistical view on this matter.
Since the merger, there have been some positive developments. Firstly, the fact that Episerver have acknowledged that there will be no technical merger of the two platforms is the most encouraging development. A streamlining of the management teams and clarification of the Episerver CMS roadmap, has also helped to alleviate uncertainty within the Ektron client base.
However, the experience that most of our clients have had (and are still going through) has left a lot to be desired. The negative experiences and feedback we’ve heard first hand have been primarily focused on the lack of proper account management and customer care. This is especially true for small to medium organisations which don’t necessarily have pockets deep enough to warrant the basic care that any organisation expects from the company/vendor they’ve based their digital strategy on. Some of our clients have not been contacted in any way whatsoever by their new account managers, whilst others have had little more than a suited and booted, enthusiastic and aloof salesmen knocking on their doors trying to up-sell the license and/or chasing maintenance renewals. Some of the bigger (and therefore potentially more lucrative) organisations on the other hand, have had the ‘pleasure’ of being contacted by the Head of UK and Ireland Sales personally, in order to be convinced to migrate to the new Episerver platform. There have been offers of free licenses for the Episerver CMS – however, in cases that we’re aware of, these licenses have usually been quite high value licenses which at first sight seems like very generous offer. The fact that these ‘larger’ license packages will carry a higher maintenance cost that the clients would be tied to for several years is not mentioned and we feel that some organisations are in for a rude awakening when it comes to the Total Cost of Ownership. No doubt, those who have the budget to purchase an Episerver CMS license and to re-implement their websites will be looked after and glad-handed in conclusion, the majority of the negative experience that our clients have had has been focused around the customer service side of things rather than the technology itself. We have had no negative feedback about the Episerver platform and have no reason to believe that the platform itself has any significant shortcomings.
Our advice to all Ektron CMS customers is to realise one simple thing; whether you’re planning to migrate to the Episerver platform or not, this is a migration of your website and will require a complete re-implementation. It is therefore imperative to conduct the minimal due diligence and to perform a CMS Review, looking at a number of platforms and total cost of ownership in order to ensure that the technology you’re betting your digital strategy on for the next 3 – 5 years, is the right fit for your business. Failing to do this may result in a very costly and painful process that could easily have been avoided. If you are currently on the Ektron CMS platform and are unsure how best to proceed, we’d be happy to provide you with a free consultation to help and guide you through this process.
Get in touch if you’d like to share your experience or if you simply want some impartial advice on what your options are.