Tame Digital Sprawl with a Digital Factory

Tame Digital Sprawl with a Digital Factory

Whenever I visit Acquia’s customers and the agencies who serve them, I feel privileged to get a firsthand look at the digital landscape they’re trying to navigate. From media companies to governments, nonprofits to pharmaceutical companies, they all face different challenges unique to their industry, but they all have a single pressing challenge in common: trying to keep up with the exploding demand for more digital content.

On a recent trip to Germany, I met with the regional head of a global digital agency who we work with often. After talking about a few engagements, he brought up a top-25 global consumer brand conglomerate he is working with. We had pitched the brand our unique approach to digital sprawl, Acquia Cloud Site Factory. We lost that deal because the brand decided to stay on its incumbent content management system.

Get updates

Receive the best content about the future of marketing, industry shifts, and other thought leadership.

The agency chief, who was not involved in our pitch, rued his client’s decision, telling me: “They’re still stuck with the same antiquated process they’ve always had, and the sub-brands and country marketing teams are really struggling to find a way to launch campaign sites faster and cheaper. They need to quickly spin up a site, and if the campaign does not take hold, spin it down again. If the campaign is successful, they would like to expand the site, with haste.”

Although I am fond of quoting the 2015 finding by Forrester estimating the typical enterprise had about 275 web properties to build and manage, I suspect the real number, especially for multinational consumer brands, is far higher and the situation is far more difficult than we truly know. Acquia has some select customers who manage more than 1,000 discrete digital properties on our multisite platform, Site Factory. Some of those customers have told me they have realized a six-fold improvement in the time it takes them to stand up a new campaign site. That’s an improvement in agility and scale that is only matched by the cost savings on each and every one of those sites.

The situation often gets even more chaotic as each one of those brands may have the budget and freedom to find their own agency to build and execute their campaigns. I see this firsthand with one of our customers, which has more than 200 beverage brands globally. (Ironically, we competed against the digital agency I mentioned above in this account - which is where they learned about our solution). Each brand needs a separate digital property, sometimes several for regional and language differences. Then add in digital campaigns for those brands, and the complexity of different agencies working on different properties. Welcome to the nightmare of digital sprawl. Marketers fear the branding risks, IT folks lament the maintenance burden, and everyone is painfully aware of the security threats.

Before unifying their digital production on Acquia’s digital factory -- Acquia Cloud Site Factory -- this customer running campaigns on a veritable tower of content management babel, disconnected, inconsistent, and difficult to modify let alone launch or take down in anything resembling a fast pace. Approximately 60 agencies go about their tasks concurrently, gaining the scale of that platform while retaining the freedom to build and deliver what they needed with unimagined agility and innovation.

My conversation in Germany wrapped up with my agency friend selling me on the fact that global brands and their agencies are now operating in a unique environment where the capabilities of the tools and techniques used for the first two decades of the web are failing to scale to today’s digital experience world, and they being replaced by a new set of technologies designed to integrate every business function, tie together internal and external systems and deliver to the customer sees a unified experience. Something he realized Acquia had the market lead on.

As the world of digital shifts from content management to customer journeys, the need for what McKinsey calls a “digital factory” approach becomes even more acute. Not a bundle, not a suite, not a proprietary platform -- but an open API-first model that allows brands and their agencies to plug in their preferred tools and solutions without sacrificing the agility they need to stay in front of their competition, but most importantly, at the front of their customers’ delight.

Thomas Erickson

Thomas Erickson

Former Acquia CEO, board member Acquia, Inc.

Tom is a founding director of Acquia, who worked with co-founders Dries Buytaert and Jay Batson to develop the company’s open source commercialisation model and recruit the early team members during 2008. Tom joined Acquia as CEO in 2009, following the sale of Tele Atlas to TomTom, where he had been chief products officer.

As he had done throughout a 30-plus-year career in enterprise software, Tom was focused on driving customer success and business strategy at Acquia. Tom also led the unique blending of open source, digital agency and enterprise software backgrounds, fostering a culture which he perpetuated through extensive travel to the 11 countries and five U.S. offices from which Acquia operated.

At Acquia, Tom guided the company to exponential growth based on a fanatical commitment to customers. Deloitte named Acquia the fastest growing private company in their 2013 Technology Fast 500. In 2012, Acquia was named the fastest growing software company in the U.S. in the Inc 500 list of private companies and received the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council Private Company of the Year award. Prior to Tele Atlas, Tom was the CEO of SOA governance leader Systinet, where revenue grew 5x in the 18 months prior to the sale of the company to Mercury Interactive. Tom led webMethods’ international growth from 2000-2004 at a CAGR of 90 percent in what was arguably one of the toughest periods for enterprise software ever.

Tom began his career in technical roles after graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a bachelor's degree in electrical and computer engineering. He has spent 14 years of his career living in Australia, England, and France.