Anyone looking for a major shakeup in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (WCM) like last year will just have to wait.

Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner published its yearly report on WCM vendors today. And while it made a few changes — none were as big as last year when it trimmed OpenText, SDL and HP from the leader's quadrant.

This year, all leaders returned with Sitecore and Adobe on top — and all 18 vendors from last year's made the cut once more. 

One newcomer graced the leaderboard this year: BloomReach, which made the cut based on its acquisition of open-source Hippo CMS last fall. Gartner named Hippo a visionary last year.

Sitecore Keeps Its Lead

Mick MacComascaigh
Mick MacComascaigh

Sitecore remained on top of the leaders in Gartner's "ability to execute" category, ahead of Adobe and Acquia by about the same margin as last year. 

Adobe, meanwhile, which offers the Adobe Experience Manager under its Adobe Experience Cloud, retained its spot as the No. 1 WCM vendor in terms of Gartner's "completeness of vision."

Gartner's decision to place Sitecore in the leaders is out of step with competing analyst firm Forrester. In January, Forrester demoted Copenhagen-based Sitecore from a leader to a "strong performer" in its Wave for Web Content Management.

Mick MacComascaigh, research vice president and co-author of the WCM Magic Quadrant with Jim Murphy, told CMSWire in an interview Tuesday that Sitecore crops up often in conversations about WCM, perhaps more than any other vendor. He called them "the absolute ones to beat" in the .NET scenario and said they remain competitive with Adobe.

"We see Sitecore's software as high-quality, well-architected and they're finally embracing the cloud a lot more aggressively as they should have in the past," MacComascaigh said. "The direction they are going is spot-on. Others are trying to emulate them in their go-to market and sales execution."

Open Source Kudos

Boston-based Acquia, meanwhile, remained competitive with leaders Sitecore and Adobe as Gartner's top open-source CMS provider. Powered by Drupal, Acquia has now been a Gartner leader for four straight years, making a huge leap in 2014

MacComascaigh and Murphy called Acquia the "best-known provider of cloud capabilities around the highly popular Drupal open-source platform."

Acquia, whose CTO, Dries Buytaert, created Drupal, had been the only open source leader until Bloomreach entered the mix this year. Bloomreach, though, is well behind Acquia in execution. 

"Open source as a philosophical or ideological entity was really slow to embrace and understand the demands of organizations out there," MacComascaigh said. "They've been wonderful in terms of the geniuses in the community turning their attention to the latest technology advancements. But in terms of understanding the importance for media, high tech, pharmaceutical, life sciences and what they need in terms of their digital presence, most of them don't even think about that side of things."

However, the commercially-backed versions of those open-source communities (like Acquia and Hippo) have "pushed ahead" and "penetrated the market."

Automattic, the company behind the most popular WCM in the world, open-source WordPress, was bumped from the visionaries quadrant to a challenger. 

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management 2017

Oracle's Rise

Oracle also made a significant leap in the leaders quadrant. 

The Redwood City, Calif.-based software and business systems giant leapt ahead of IBM and Episerver in the execution category after trailing those two in 2016.

What hurt IBM? It debuted IBM Watson Content Hub last November, a second WCM. It already had IBM Content Manager.

When a company of IBM's size introduces a second product for the same market, it "sends the wrong message," MacComascaigh said. "Just like OpenText kind of fell in 2009 after the acquisition of Vignette and also last year with the acquisition of HP assets. IBM has also been relatively affected by its dual-product strategy."

Learning Opportunities

Oracle, meanwhile, is building an holistic picture in its customer experience strategy and cloud approach, MacComascaigh said. Oracle has "unified its message" as opposed to forcing customers to grapple with multiple solutions around one product.

Progress Stalls Based on Vision

Another big move came in from Progress Software, which produces the Sitefinity WCM platform. The company remained a challenger, but dipped considerably in its ability to execute in the Gartner quadrant.

"Progress," MacComascaigh said, "was on its way to perhaps becoming a leader, but the announcement they've made in terms of their vision is not consistent with what we at Gartner expect to be successful in Web Content Management."

The Gartner analyst expects Progress to move forward in terms of application development and cognitive technologies but is "not going to set our minds on fire within the WCM market." 

MacComascaigh did praise Sitefinity for its ability to make multi-language sites, mobile sites, personalization and actionable analytics "accessible and straightforward."

Head-Optional, API-First

Gartner noted last year cloud services will win in WCM and “microservices with a high level of interoperability will enable WCM elements to be coupled with different sets of third-party technologies, depending on the requirements of the current phase of the customer's journey.” 

Included in the conversation is the headless CMS; that is, a CMS that focuses solely on the back-end work that delivers content via an API.

MacComascaigh called the headless movement "hype" and noted "head optional" works better.

"Gartner's take on headless is that this is hype," he added. "The idea of decoupled is extremely important, but we're in favor of head-optional as opposed to headless. And we're in favor of API-first as opposed to API-only."

MacComascaigh added that practitioners in WCM are "raising the bar of expectations" and have recognized that "personalization is a reality." 

WCM has also become "mission critical software" for more than just marketers, as organizations realize the importance of the complete customer lifetime journey.

However, WCM practitioners are still experiencing frustration, some of whom have invested in expensive offerings but hit problems with implementation.

"They're desperately looking around," MacComascaigh said. "Should they rip and replace? Or should they repair and optimize?"