Stockholm-based EPiServer flexes its Ektron muscles in its first major release since a private investor merged the company with Nashua, N.H.-based Ektron early this year, company officials told CMSWire.
They claim the latest version of the EPiServer Digital Experience Cloud “advances the strategy" established through the merger "by extending customer’s existing investments in advanced web content management, enterprise connectivity, enabling search and digital commerce."
“This is the first of several releases that will gradually evolve to adopt the best of both the Ektron and EPiServer world,” said James Norwood, executive vice president of strategy and chief marketing officer at EPiServer. The EPiServer Digital Experience Cloud now offers more breadth and depth than either of EPiServer or Ektron did before as standalone products, he added.
A Complex Goal
Private equity firm Accel-KKR ended two months of speculation in the tech world in January when it announced EPiServer and Ektron would merge under the former’s name. While the stated goal was to create a more complete digital experience platform, analysts concurred it would not be easy.
“A lot of content management vendors have tried to jump on the customer experience bandwagon, with varying degrees of success. KANA was ultimately unable to compete on its own -- and EPiServer faces much larger, formidable competitors,” explained Boston-based Nucleus Research Vice President Rebecca Wettemann. She said the merger at least provided Ektron customers a clearer view of where the company stands.
But S Karthikeyan, chief technology officer for Ektron partner Suyati Technologies, thinks EPiServer can challenge the big guns.
"This solution offers a unified single platform for digital marketing," he said. "The cloud centric technology now allows users not to worry about the infrastructure issues and spend huge amounts for support system. The strong e-commerce module, improved partner handling features and user friendly CMS framework can now directly challenge competition like Adobe and Sitecore."
He told CMSWire the only constant he sees is change. "And yet we all resist it," he said. "An easy migration roadmap communicated to the existing customers to ensure a seamless transition would help taking them in confidence."
Taking It to the Streets
The spring release, announced May 27, is like EPiServer’s Opening Day at the (digital experience) ballpark.
Mergers typically bring concerns about clients losing out on features. How would Norwood and EPiServer respond to that? He told CMSWire the provider just completed a 22-city, three-continent customer and partner roadshow where “we got in front of near on 2,000 people who were interested in just that.”
“Despite the market noise and the to-be-expected competitor (fear, uncertainty and doubt) FUD, our mission and our approach seems to be really resonating with our customers, who are excited about the combination,” Norwood added. “I have not really heard anyone say that it’s a bad thing. They just need to know we’ve got their back.”
He claims the company has listened to customers, partners and employees. “And we feel that any such -- understandable, yet unfounded -- concerns have been well addressed,” Norwood said. “If anything, we’re accelerating delivery of new features and we’re protecting existing investments as well.”
New Feature Set
The company boasts the spring launch “extends key features from the two product lines,” including:
- Digital Experience Hub: Allows connectivity and interaction with third-party systems. It supports new connectors to marketing automation solutions like Marketo, Hubspot, Salesforce Sales Cloud (Pardot) and Salesforce Marketing Cloud (ExactTarget) for personalization and integrates with CRM platforms like Salesforce and Microsoft CRM.
- EPiServer Find: Helps surface relevant content to individual visitors for one-to-one marketing
- EPiServer Commerce: Can be used parallel with the Ektron platform when creating digital commerce experiences
Other feature updates include catalog management tools, search functions, content staging, content editing, URL and SEO management and security.
The solution brings together web content management, digital marketing and digital commerce all in a Microsoft-based, cloud-first platform with a single user interface, Norwood told CMSWire. “In so doing, it provides an intuitive and easy-to-use, yet powerful, resource for marketers, merchandizers and web developers alike, and one that plays well with other systems. This means faster time to business value, greater productivity and higher user satisfaction for lower total cost of ownership.”
In the space where commercial .NET software addresses the upper mid-market to the enterprise, Norwood claims EPiServer wins. “No other offering has either our size, scale and has it all together on a single platform today, fully in the cloud using elastic SaaS subscription pricing,” he said.
“The important thing about this release,” he added, “is that it made functionality and concepts from Ektron and EPiServer available to users of EPiServer and Ektron; cross pollination if you will.”
Integration, he added, is “one of our real strengths and differentiators.”
“We make use of an integration-first approach,” Norwood said. “In other words, there’s a platform but it has been designed to ‘play well with others’ as opposed to integrate after-the-fact. This is what we call the Digital Experience Hub (DXH), which offers a standardized API and plug ‘n play approach to integration with numerous connectors for popular existing systems. You can use our platform or it can incorporate your existing systems easily.”
Norwood said EPiServer will release updates every three months with a major one this fall. The goal is to create a stronger offering, he said, noting that the company is expanding R&D worldwide.
“We’ve been able to accelerate our joint roadmap because both companies were essentially going to build many of the same things, and we’re also looking hard at predictive and behavioral analytics and advanced mobile capabilities, things our customers are telling us they want. We’re also going to advance our (Platform-as-a-Service) PaaS offering in the short term -- something that’s already more native to the cloud than the vast majority of our global competitors."
Title image by Mike DelGaudio.
Simpler Media Group, 2015