To be honest I don’t really have that much to say about this latest acquisition other than following up a comment I made back in October when I felt Alterian would be making a big mistake if it continued to reject SDL and offering a bit more explanation to the comments I have made on Philippe Parker’s recent insightful post – much of which I agree with based on similar evaluation and implementation experiences.
The Alterian CEO’s resignation in mid 2011 really just underlined the issues that were already apparent to outside observers in the direction the company was going. It was only a matter of time before something had to happen. Unfortunately it meant the remainder of the original Immediacy folks losing their jobs when the company cut almost half its workforce recently.
You never really know what happens behind closed doors before takeover bids become public knowledge but it wouldn’t surprise me if Alterian hacked off a big chunk of its Web Content Management operations in anticipation of an offer being made from the likes of SDL. WCM was clearly the most disposable part of an organisation that at one time had three separate offerings and had the unenviable task of trying to make some sense of this after taking on Mediasurfaces’s dubious ‘three bears’ strategy.
Having evaluated SDL Tridion against EPiServer and Sitecore for a big web globalisation project back in 2008 I very much agree with Philippe’s observations that the company has been lucky and/or shrewd in being able to maintain a ‘leader’ position with the likes of Forrester and Gartner – (although IMHO these analysts took their eye off the CMS ball years ago now). Immediacy won regularly against the original Tridion solution on usability, where multilingual deployment wasn’t a top priority, and EPiServer and Sitecore were deemed in our pilot testing as far more intuitive when it came to globalisation needs.
While the Morello product that formed the core of Alterian’s eventual single WCM offering had reasonable usability (although never in my personal opinion the ‘work of art’ Gartner is claimed to have called it) globalisation support was not its strength. Yes, it was one of the better, if expensive, UK originated offerings for multilingual deployment but fell well short of solutions like Tridion, EPiServer and Sitecore that had multilingual handling baked into their DNA.
So maybe, just maybe, there are synergies to be had in combining Alterian’s usability with SDL Tridion’s globalisation strength? As far as other synergies are concerned, Alterian’s ‘marketing platform’ vision has always looked more like presentation over substance with little tangible or accessible evidence of just how the strands of social media analytics, email marketing, campaign management and WCM really fitted together in useful and meaningful ways, beyond what you could achieve by combining ‘best of breed’ components.
To be consistent with comments I have made in the past, the thing that really hacks me off about these acquisitions is when the interested parties pretend that the motivations are something more or different from what they really are. My tolerance for this type of artifice has declined further in the wake of endless examples of how this type of financially motivated boardroom behaviour has plunged us all into deeper and deeper economic trouble.
I will never forget the first meeting I had with Mediasurface’s CEO after they acquired Immediacy. To his credit, he made it pretty obvious to me that he was far more interested in Immediacy’s sales operation than he was in anything to do with the product, other than getting a better insight into the SharePoint connectivity which they had been struggling with. I was left in no doubt after just one conversation what direction things were going to take, which is why it was so painful to watch the subsequent death of the product by a thousand cuts and the developers feeling they had wasted several years in continuing to put their heart and souls into a product that had been pretty much doomed from the moment the company was sold.
As well as developers being left disappointed that their efforts have been in vain, customers are left with a lot of uncertainty, particularly when the profit imperative is at the heart of their vendor’s strategic decisions.
Having come to respect and admire EPiServer for its product focus and development activities, which had more in keeping with open source orientated projects than the more overtly commercial WCM offerings, it was disappointing that preceding and following change of ownership, the emphasis shifted very firmly to the financial aspects of the organisation with fundamental changes to the licensing model that effectively priced it out of the picture as far as my wider project was concerned.
So, after a decade of being ultimately disappointed by how the development of proprietary WCM solutions fall victim to financial strategies and the profit imperative, these last 12 months have been somewhat of a revelation in working closely with the Drupal community and the development of Drupal Commerce from alpha, through beta to version 1.1.
Poor old Mr T keeps stepping into the line of fire …
As this is where my current focus lies, I am going to draw a line under any further commentary on SDL Tridion and Alterian – or SDL Altridion as it is being referred to. No doubt my former colleague Ian Truscott will breathe a sigh of relief at this as he has been in the unfortunate position of being in the line of fire with my inquisitions and previous commentary about the demise of Immediacy and Alterian’s apparent hype over substance. As Mediasurface’s sale to Alterian was undoubtedly an investment decision by the senior management rather than a product driven one, I have no doubt that it was as much of a surprise to Ian as to any other Mediasurface and Immediacy employee at that time. Likewise, as the SDL Tridion takeover of Alterian looks more financially motivated than product driven, I’m sure he has been equally at the mercy of financial rather than product related strategy and I wish him the very best of luck in the efforts to make some sense of this latest bucket of products. Sadly the folks who are truly passionate about the product and champion the customer’s position are the ones with the smallest voice in these scenarios when money talks :(
Also, I wish the last of the Immediacy folks the very best of luck in whatever they do next and I very much agree with the sentiment expressed the other night when Immediacy was described as having been a great place to work.
Now… if there are any organisations reading this who want to make serious improvements to their online presence and commerce operations ready for the 2012 xmas period, but are very worried about high project costs, then we should start talking soon.
Plan early to avoid disappointment ! Great value rates for the new year !