Here at Acquia, we frequently are asked to compare ourselves to other proprietary systems that companies are evaluating side-by-side. These include Adobe Experience Manager (aka AEM).
Although Acquia does end up in comparisons with Adobe for companies of all sizes, the reality is that when compared to Acquia’s flexible, open, API-first architecture, these solutions are expensive, complex, and bloated for any size organization.
Their platforms are incredibly hard to extract value out of, even for the largest of organizations. Even with large budgets and dedicated teams, companies frequently struggle to get the value they expect from these alternative solutions.
Ask any CMO (or their procurement department) and they are likely to tell you that Adobe is the most expensive web CMS on the market -- ranging from $250,000 to $1 million and up. Gartner cautioned in 2015, “Adobe's WCM offering is one of the more expensive in the market, sometimes being twice the price of its nearest competitor.”
Forrester states in its 2016 Vendor Landscape that the average cost is $360,000. On top of that, Adobe customers often underestimate the effort and complexity of an Adobe Experience Manager implementation, especially in the initial phases. Adobe looks for companies who have deep pockets and value their entire Experience Cloud, with tools like Advertising Cloud, Audience Manager, Analytics, Campaign, Experience Manager, etc. In fact, Adobe requires a professional services implementation in order to get customers “stood up.”
It’s not just the price tag of any individual Adobe product or professional services offering that should raise eyebrows for companies looking at the bottom line. Consider how Adobe expects multiple products to be sold together to realize the benefit they promise.Case in point: Adobe just announced at their Summit 2018 event the “Smart Layout,” a shiny new AI feature. To play with this new feature, be ready to have the most recent versions of AEM Sites, AEM Assets, Target, Analytics and Audience Manager. That’s a tough pill to swallow for organizations with even the most well-funded digital platform initiatives.
I won’t argue whether or not Adobe is a good product. It seems to be working well for many organizations that can afford both its high costs and the significant investment it takes to buy all their other products.
But still, why do firms look at Adobe? I suspect it’s because the Adobe brand carries a cachet with marketers and designers, and has been well received by industry analysts like Gartner and Forrester. I give Adobe credit for parlaying the value of its brand created on the back of desktop software into something customers will pay a premium for. But seriously, how long should a company wait to recover the sunk costs of AEM?
No CMO got fired for buying Adobe
If you remember back in the ’80s and ’90s, IBM used to sell to CIOs and obtained such a dominant market position that it was said "No one got fired for buying IBM." That mentality led to failed IT projects with out-of-control costs and complexity because other, more appropriate solutions were never considered. (I doubt they got fired.) Why take a risk? Should we suspect the same dynamic is happening with Adobe?
Here’s my take:
Adobe Experience Manager is cost-prohibitive for all but the largest enterprises that are wedded to a single-vendor portfolio approach, the one that has the loudest marketing machine.
That doesn’t make AEM a bad solution. But it does mean that it is not the right fit for many organizations that aren’t in a position to invest in multiple products that represent a “rip and replace” solution.. Don’t buy Adobe because of an analyst report, or a flashy sales demo, or because some company 1,000 times the size of yours uses it. Instead, look closely at your requirements and evaluate products that best match your needs. Let’s break it down to the decisions facing many companies:
- Should you be making a long-term commitment with one vendor’s ecosystem (for which popular analyst firms and implementation partners report how customers struggle making Adobe products work together)? Or, do you need the flexibility to pick and choose from the best vendors and tools available for your business?
- Will you subscribe to the new digital mandate where best of breed and best of need dominate, versus the logic of locking one’s brand into one vendor’s set of solutions that make it hard to swap out or pivot to a more agile approach?
- How easy or hard is it to find the right people with the right talent and experience (and at what cost) to maintain your systems?
- What does your budget look like for software and implementation costs, both at the start of your project and for the next three to five years as usage grows?
- What’s your tolerance to be reliant on consultants to continually maintain your platform vs being able to have skills in-house?
My advice? Keep an open mind. Ask the hard questions about all of the costs associated with a solution over time. Be an educated buyer and ask the had questions about what life will look like post-sale. Look at the other systems you have in place and those you want to keep - can you integrate with them? Talk to other companies who are similar in size with similar budgets to yours.
Contact me, I’ll get you in touch with companies similar to yours. You may not need to worry about getting fired for buying Adobe - but you should absolutely be concerned about what that decision will mean for your business’ ROI and bottom line.