Home / Comment permalink

Why are Mid-Market Companies Still Looking at Adobe Experience Manager?

Since joining Acquia, I’ve been taking a close look at opportunities where we're competing against proprietary content management systems, often Adobe Enterprise Manager (aka CQ 5) and sometimes Sitecore.

While Acquia competes with Adobe and Sitecore across a variety of companies - from the largest in the world to smaller higher education institutions and non-profits - I’m most surprised when I see so-called “mid-market” prospects looking at Adobe CQ. Defining mid-market is a bit tricky, but I’ll default to Wikipedia, which defines it as companies between $10m and $1b in annual revenue. There are more than 200,000 companies and institutions that fall into the mid-market in the United States.

It’s no secret that Adobe CQ is the most expensive CMS. Adobe said during their recent partner summit that the average CQ deal is $450,000 in license with the total implementation cost of over $2m USD. Adobe’s focus is squarely on the largest companies who value their entire Marketing Cloud, with experience manager (CQ), analytics, targeting, social. These are often multi-million dollar transactions for Adobe and their implementation partners.

What about the companies who don’t need all the bells + whistles of the Adobe Marketing Cloud? I won’t argue whether or not Adobe CQ is a good product or not. It seems to be working well for many large companies, who can afford both its high license cost and more importantly, the significant investment it takes to implement and maintain a CQ site.

(Although we’ve seen an interesting trend where CQ customers are looking at Acquia Cloud Site Factory to spin up agile marketing campaigns… more on that in a future post).

But still, I wonder why many mid-market companies look at CQ? I suspect it’s because the Adobe brand carries a cachet with marketers, and CQ has been well received by industry analysts like Gartner and Forrester. Adobe is keenly aware of the value of its brand, and that some customers will pay a premium for it.

No One Ever Got Fired for Buying IBM? Or Did They?

This reminds me of how companies like IBM used to sell to CIOs back in the 80's and 90's. IBM obtained such a dominant market position that it was once said "No One Got Fired for Buying IBM". That mentality led to failed IT projects with out-of-control costs and complexity. I wonder if we're repeating that same thinking with Adobe? Here’s my take:

Adobe CQ and the Adobe Marketing Cloud are probably overkill for all but the largest companies with the most complex requirements.

That doesn’t make CQ a bad product. But it does mean that Adobe CQ is probably not the right fit for the mid-market. Don’t buy Adobe CQ because of an analyst report, or a flashy sales demo, or because some company 1000x the size of your company successfully uses it. Instead, look closely at your requirements and evaluate products that best match your needs.

And when mid-market companies take an honest look at their requirements, Acquia almost always wins against Adobe CQ because it’s simply a better fit for the mid-market.

The Complete Guide to Selecting Your Next Content Management System.
Find out why Acquia's been named a leader in this year's report.
Get Forrester’s insight on the leading solutions to help transform your digital experience strategy.


Posted on by Tony Byrne (not verified).

My prodigal son...you have returned!

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

Haha, you thought I disappeared? :)

Posted on by Arun (not verified).

Tom,I would like to point out a few more issues
1)Drupal being much more widely used has an army of developers available.
2)There are multiple providers for drupal installation which makes the whole drupal ecosystem more competitive
3)Drupal has been in use for longer period compared to CQ which allows us to make better informed decision about drupal.For CQ, same could be said few years down the line but not now.


Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

Excellent points, thanks for sharing!

Posted on by Jason Mitchell (not verified).

Hi Arun, just wanted to clarify your point#3. Hard to believe but CQ has been around since 1993. Check wikipedia.

Posted on by Jeremy (not verified).

Imteresting that you're putting so much emphasis on the _average_ deal cost. If you we're paying, what would you suggest is a better figure for mid-market companies? I did some maths based on an arbitrary 200K figure and it only took two 1M deals on top of 15 other deals (at the same 200K cost to make it easy to work out) to get to a little over 500K average.

I'd suggest that average is a great figure for both Adobe and competitors to focus on as it's likely to be a bigger number than the "usual" deal size, allowing for a couple of stellar deals. I'd be interested more to know the mode value (http://www.purpl emath.com/modules/meanmode.htm, in case you don't know what mode is).

Not that I'm arguing with the general sentiment of your article, just the way you use the data supporting your argument. Why not get the best if it both meets your current and future requirements, and isn't the budget buster you're suggesting it is?

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

> Why not get the best if it both meets your current and future requirements, and isn't the budget buster you're suggesting it is?

My point was that there is no *best* and, overpaying for software you probably won't use doesn't seem like a wise move. Adobe CQ is clearly great at solving a certain set of problems, but mid-market companies are often looking at it for the wrong reasons (analyst reports, flashy demos, brand recognition).

Posted on by Jeremy (not verified).

I'd written quite a long reply to your reply, but I was waffling so I ditched it ;)

In essence, what I was trying to write was that you seem to be mixing up looking and buying.

I agree wholeheartedly with this:

> Don’t buy Adobe CQ because of an analyst report, or a flashy sales demo, or because some company 1000x the size of your company successfully uses it.

But all of this not so much:

> I’m most surprised when I see so-called “mid-market” prospects looking at Adobe CQ.

> I wonder why many mid-market companies look at CQ?

> Instead, look closely at your requirements and evaluate products that best match your needs.

> mid-market companies are often looking at it for the wrong reasons

Why not look at Adobe? Surely the best way to understand if any product best matches your needs is to look more closely at it? No salesperson will engage with an opportunity if there's not a good fit on both sides (or at least they shouldn't - I have experience with another vendor where this often wasn't the case).

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

Thanks for the comment. I think for many mid-market companies looking at Adobe CQ is a distraction. They simply can't afford it, and probably don't need of all of the capabilities that Adobe will attempt to up-sell (e.g. marketing cloud).

Posted on by Jeremy (not verified).

If they can't afford it then no-one will try to sell it to them. Surely you could argue that Adobe talking to mid-market companies if a distraction because they (the mid-market companies) can't afford it? I'd be surprised if they were talking to anyone who couldn't afford it - that's just due diligence on the part of inside sales, or the account exec...

Posted on by ct (not verified).

A couple of thoughts.

CQ is flashy out of the box and sells well because the user can see a cool looking page being created using drag and drop components and content. It also has a well designed demo desktop and mobile site available after install. Authors can see pages in explorer context of sites that can make it easy to update.

CQ platform is a complex java services stack using a lot of open source including JCR, Apache Sling, Felix, Maven and the proprietary cq framework. It uses a lot of html5 style javascript, ajax and jason. They have some cool components for running marketing campaigns, site analytics, personalization and good support for internationalization.
You do have to know best practices in setting things up and writing custom components up in this kind of landscape.

I think drupal is easier to learn and you can do some great things. Versioning conflicts can be an issue.

Posted on by Jason Mitchell (not verified).

I teach computer science at an ivy league university and CQ5 is the most flexible and scalable CMS we found in market. Drupal is great but CQ is ideal for companies with 100s of web assets.

Posted on by CQ watcher (not verified).

I work for a company with a relatively large CQ installation. We're now on our 6th and 7th back end admins who are constantly 100+% busy keeping the system working.

Why anyone would choose a system based on the JCR is a mystery to me. Folks seem to love anything Adobe comes up with.

When I interviewed a person with a good bit of CQ rollout experience before our acquisition, his quote of wisdom was "Your authors will love it. Your admins will hate it." That has played out true.

Posted on by Anurag Gupta (not verified).

I think it will be good to have a fair, unbiased, non-Gartnerish comparison between the technical features of CQ and Drupal. It will make it easier for customers to decide between the two platforms. What are those "bells and whistles" that CQ provides but nobody uses? Which areas does Drupal fall short on?

Posted on by Dan Blackman (not verified).

No doubt both solutions have merit, but Drupal requires an army of developers in order to implement the solution. Remember, free isn't always free and Acquia being a services organization knows that all to well. I will say you are incorrect that Mid-market companies average licensing cost is $450k. I would also argue that implementations costs are FAR lower than what you describe for a mid-market or public sector customers.

Keep in mind Adobe is the leader in the WCM market for a reason. Adobe is developing a Marketing Cloud and employs an army of dedicated developers to building a unified platform far beyond that of Drupal.

Open Source isn't free

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.


Thanks for your comment. I totally agree that open source isn't free. Also, to correct you - Acquia is not a services company, we're a cloud company.

Posted on by Craig Bowman (not verified).

Having taught Sharepoint, developed in Java and Ruby, and stood up both Drupal and Joomla sites more than once, I can tell you that comparing Drupal to Adobe CQ5 is flawed from the beginning.

If you are comparing drag and drop web-based development platforms where the company wants templates to build fast websites, you should be comparing joomla and drupal.

If you are comparing Apache stack platforms with robust workflow, security, digital asset management, content targeting, and mobile delivery ecosystems.... then you will have trouble finding something to compare to CQ (just look at Gartner and Forrestor's report to see they agree - Adobe is the Leader in both reports).

I spent almost 18 years trying to get a system that is as well balanced as Adobe CQ5 across an enterprise. $500k seems cheap to me when I think about the half-dozen developers it took to build and maintain the sites we stood up for dozens of customers across multiple years.

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

Hey Craig, thanks for your feedback. Looks like you work at Adobe?

The point of this article was specifically that CQ / AEM is not a good fit for the mid-market, because of the complexity and cost. According to Loni Stark, the average AEM deal is over $2,000,000 which is well outside of the budget of mid-market companies.

Drupal often competes against Adobe AEM, and often wins, even in larger enterprise use cases. I'm not saying AEM is a bad product, it isn't. But it's certainly not the answer for everyone, and its increasing cost + complexity continue to narrow the pool of potential customers.

Posted on by Craig (not verified).

After 20 years of development, I decided to join adobe 3years ago based on my analysis of AEM and after meeting the inventors of the product.... Which also invented the Apache foundation and many apache products. While I can agree that AEM is not right for every customer (no product is), the lines you draw to make your comparison is flawed. It is the equivalent so, saying that a Volkswagen bug is often purchased over a Maserati; those customers were never in the market for a performance automobile.

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

I've met the inventors of Adobe AEM too. Really smart, great guys.

I've been selling + marketing web content management for 12+ years, having worked at Interwoven, Ektron, and now Acquia. So I've got a good understanding of the market, and how Drupal compares to AEM, Sitecore, and others.

I'd suggest you read Innovator's Dilemma by Clay Christensen. It's the blueprint for what is happening to Adobe right now. The functionality gap between what the vast majority of customers actually need and the AEM price is unsustainable in the long term.

If you took a closer look at Drupal, and I encourage you to do so since its open source and freely available (why is there no AEM trial, by the way?), you'd be pretty amazed by how close the two products really are.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Filtered HTML

  • Use [acphone_sales], [acphone_sales_text], [acphone_support], [acphone_international], [acphone_devcloud], [acphone_extra1] and [acphone_extra2] as placeholders for Acquia phone numbers. Add class "acquia-phones-link" to wrapper element to make number a link.
  • To post pieces of code, surround them with <code>...</code> tags. For PHP code, you can use <?php ... ?>, which will also colour it based on syntax.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <h4> <h5> <h2> <img>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.