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A Fair Review of the Top Mid-Market CMS for 2020 — Acquia

Gary Eisenstein

By Gary Eisenstein

January 16, 2020

Corporate Name: Acquia Inc. Web: www.acquia.com
Founded: 2007 Get in Touch: 1-888-922-7842
Corporate Office: Boston, Massachusetts Worldwide Locations: 14
CEO:  Michael Sullivan — Since 2017 Worldwide Employees: 1,000
Platform Type: Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP Current Version: Drupal 8.7
Licensing Model: Open-Source Licensing Cost: By Request
Support: Service Level Agreement GitHub Account: www.github.com/acquia
Trial (Sandbox) Version: By Request Online Demo: By Request
North American Service Partners: 360-plus Certified Global Service Partners: 602-plus Certified

Acquia is an open-source digital experience company built around Drupal to give enterprise companies the ability to build, operate, and optimize websites, apps, and other digital experiences. Products include Acquia Cloud, Acquia Cloud Site Factory, Acquia Lightning, Acquia DAM, Acquia Lift, Acquia Commerce, Acquia Journey, and several others for the developer experience. As defined by Acquia, Acquia is an open-source digital experience company, and Drupal is an open-source web content management system.

HISTORY

Acquia is a Software-as-a-Service company co-founded by Dries Buytaert and Jay Batson to provide enterprise products, services, and technical support for the open-source web content management platform Drupal. Acquia spent a majority of its inaugural year building its first products, and in September of 2008 they officially opened their doors for business, publicly announced commercial availability of the Acquia Drupal distribution and the Acquia Network. Acquia quickly learned that in order to truly embrace Drupal, customers would need support for far more than just Acquia Drupal. In the first week of January 2009, they relaunched their support offering and announced that Acquia would support all things related to Drupal 6, including all modules and themes available on drupal.org as well as custom code. 

Tom Wentworth, former SVP of Product Marketing at Acquia explained, “It’s a classic entrepreneurial story of a college kid who wanted to collaborate better with his friends. This is before there was Facebook, and WeChat, and iMessage, and all of these tools. So, he decided to build a message-board so that he and his friends could post about what they were doing, and different topics, and all that. And that message-board, ultimately, was Drupal, created by our founder, Dries Buytaert."

“We really focused on becoming a SaaS cloud company, which now is pretty common, but wasn't common at all in 2008 and 2009. So, in many ways, we look at ourselves as a pioneer of a very common business model today, but we built our Acquia Cloud platform as a Drupal-optimized, platform as a service, so that organizations who wanted to deploy Drupal didn't have to worry about all the complexity of scaling it, securing it, making it reliable, developer tools, continuous integration, all those sorts of things”

Throughout Acquia's first decade, they’ve been primarily focused on providing customers with the tools and services necessary to scale and succeed with Drupal and cloud solutions. Drupal will remain a critical component to Acquia’s success, as they continue to honor their history as committed supporters of open source, in addition to investing in Drupal's future.

KEY CAPABILITIES

The Acquia Open Digital Experience Platform brings together everything you need to deliver exceptional digital experiences built on the only platform optimized for Drupal. Acquia Cloud provides Drupal hosting, development tools, hosting services, and enterprise-grade security to keep your sites and applications running at peak performance at scale.

“We want to give our customers all the tooling that they need in order to be able to change the way they engage with their customers across every digital touchpoint. That includes everything from that foundational platform I mentioned earlier so that your digital experiences can be secure, scalable, and reliable. And that's the Acquia Cloud platform," said Tom.

Key features and functionalities include:

  • Open and API First
  • Modern Cloud Backbone
  • Built-in Global CDN
  • Flexible Delivery Support
  • Low-Code, No-Code Experience
  • Team-Friendly Content Workflows
  • Streamlined Authoring Experiences
  • Personalization
  • Secure and Compliant Platform
  • Straightforward to Use
 

ECOMMERCE CAPABILITIES

Acquia Commerce Manager provides a secure and flexible platform for content-rich experiential commerce. Connect to Acquia Lift and Acquia Journey to customize and create richer, more informative content in context, nurture customer relationships, and deliver product offers across omnichannel touchpoints.

Key eCommerce features and functionalities include:

  • Unified Digital Storefront
  • Headless Commerce Innovation
  • Secure Cloud Hosting
  • Embed Products with Content
  • Build Dynamic Promotions
  • Open and Flexible
  • Personalization
  • Experience Management
  • Support for Transaction and Traffic Spikes
  • Third-Party Commerce Integrations
 

DIGITAL EXPERIENCE CAPABILITIES

Acquia’s Open Digital Experience Platform brings together everything you need to deliver exceptional digital experiences built on the only platform optimized for Drupal.

According to Tom, “A big part of our DXP value-prop is that we provide a set of capabilities. We provide a great CMS, we provide marketing automation, we provide integration with eCommerce applications, and we provide a whole bunch of capabilities. We want our integrations to be first-class citizens in our DXP. We want to be able to go to our customers, and if they've already deployed a bunch of Salesforce products, or a bunch of Adobe products, or a bunch of Oracle products, that's great. We want to help our customers make their existing products work better together. Our primary hypothesis in the DXP market is that we're never going to be at a point where a single vendor solution is going to work. In the real world, it is about helping our customers make their stuff work better together. And we think that because we're open-source, because we believe in openness, that we're super-well prepared to be able to go do that”

Key DXP features and functionalities include:

  • Acquia Cloud
  • Acquia Cloud Site Factory
  • Acquia Lightening
  • Acquia Cohesion
  • Acquia DAM
  • Acquia Commerce Manager
  • Acquia Lift
  • Mautic
  • Maestro
  • Acquia Journey
 

TECHNOLOGY PARTNERS

According to Acquia, its partner ecosystem includes some of the most capable and talented digital leaders to be found anywhere in the world.

Acquia's technology partners include:

  • AWS (Amazon Web Services) 
  • BigCommerce (eCommerce Solution)
  • Elastic Path (eCommerce Solution)
  • Lingotek (Cloud-based Translations)
 

STRENGTHS

Acquia's Point of View

As a digital experience platform company for Drupal, Acquia strives to give its customers all the tooling that they need to be able to change the way they engage with their customers across every digital touchpoint. This involves everything from a foundational platform so that digital experiences can be secure, scalable, and reliable to what Acquia calls their Acquia Cloud Site Factory which is for organizations who don't just have one, or two, or five digital experiences, but who have hundreds to thousands of brand sites, campaign sites, and regional sites. Whatever those sites might be, Acquia has products specifically designed for them. 

There is also Acquia Marketing Cloud, which is a set of capabilities that are about helping Acquia customers get more value from all of their digital channels. It means being able to deliver the right content at the right time and being able to orchestrate journeys that live outside the website — email, social, text, etc. All together, Acquia provides an open digital experience platform.

Implementation Partners' Point of View

"Among its peers, Acquia leads in support for and embrace of microservices by supporting the most API endpoints and integration options from unknown external systems, truly committing to an open digital experience platform." 

"The Acquia DXP offers organizations substantial cost savings and increased developer velocity by leveraging an open-source CMS (Drupal)."

"When Vista—the same private equity firm that sold Marketo to Adobe—acquired Acquia, it provided market validation for Acquia’s market and product strategy and its bright future." 

WEAKNESSES

Acquia's Point of View

Tom Wentworth said, "We're [Acquia] in market competing against $10 billion dollar-plus organizations like Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle, and others. One weakness we clearly have to fight is our market perception and our brand awareness. We are often great solution for customers, but as they used to say 20-years ago, ‘No one gets fired for buying IBM,’ often, ‘No one gets fired for buying Adobe.’ We've got to work harder, often, to get in front of our customers and prospects, and sometimes we don't get that at-bat or that chance. Even though we're a billion-dollar company, we're still tiny when your competitors are Oracle, Salesforce, and Adobe. So, that's certainly something we fight against.

The second thing we fight against is open-source. There are still companies — and we run into them, not as often as we used to, say, 20-years ago or 10-years ago — where they prefer enterprise. They prefer different architectures. So, if you prefer Microsoft, then your entire dev team is Microsoft, your entire architecture is Microsoft. We're not going to be as attractive to you as some of the dedicated Microsoft competitors might be. If you’re an organization that has hired thousands of Java developers and all of your enterprise apps are Java, we’re going to have to work harder to compete. When there's bias against enterprise architecture, sometimes we’re not given the same fair-shake that some of our competitors are. 

We get lots of feedback on usability. When your competitors are organizations like Adobe, who are world-renowned for consumer tools like Photoshop, and Illustrator, and others, they have strength and usability. It's something that Drupal, in particular, has had to evolve, and we think we're closing that gap. But, certainly, usability is something that we hear a fair bit of from our customers." 

Implementation Partners' Point of View

"Compared to Sitecore and Adobe Experience Manager, Acquia’s product line may not be as tightly coupled, but that may change over the coming months, as Acquia has already announced increased investment in product."

"Acquia's personalization solution is quickly rising to the top of the tier, but it doesn't have as many robust case studies as other leading platforms on the market."

KEY DIFFERENTIATORS

Acquia's Point of View

Tom summarized, "Our primary differentiation at the highest level is that, while there are lots of proprietary digital experience platforms, there aren't any other open digital experience platforms, and the value that we bring to our customers is that we can give them a platform that's both open and open-source. So open, in that it'll connect to all of the things you already own, and open-source, in that, with our Drupal project, and then our most recent Mautic acquisition, we're the only open-source DXP as well."

Tom further added, "Because of our heritage and open-source, we want to make it easy for our customers to try our products. Whether that's just using the open-source versions or free trials of Acquia products, customers can get started without even talking to an Acquia sales rep. We believe that part of our differentiation is, although we're an enterprise software company, we don't want to hold our customers hostage the same way that proprietary vendors do. We want to make it easier to get started."

Implementation Partners' Point of View

"The core CMS (Drupal) is one of the most popular open-source projects in the world, with a vibrant developer ecosystem that is constantly improving the platform."

"As Acquia is the only major open source DXP on the market, it is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the growing trends around microservices and the competitive edge offered by organizations that are able to use best-of-breed tools from a variety of vendors."

"The internal technical architecture is highly secure compared to other enterprise leaders."

TRAINING & SUPPORT

According to Acquia, its partner ecosystem includes some of the most capable and talented digital leaders to be found anywhere in the world. Other than the vendor relationships, technology partners are able to function within Acquia's standard program.

Based on information obtained from Acquia, there are options for training, including e-learning, private training, and upcoming public training offered by Acquia’s extensive training partner program. Self-register on Acquia Academy to gain access to Acquia product training. Customers can advance through courses and learn Acquia's best practices to get the most out of their Acquia experience. Acquia Certification exams are administered at Kryterion Testing Centers in more than 750 locations across the globe. Exams are also available as online proctored tests. Acquia Platform Certification is the premier professional Drupal certification program. 

Acquia’s support includes over 50 professionals with over 250 years of combined experience. Coupled with a 24x7 availability for critical issue response, Acquia Support provides best practice consultations customized to your needs. The team has coverage in all time zones, with fluency in more than seven languages. To resolve issues, Acquia Support may collaborate directly with Drupal experts in other departments, including core owners, security team members, and module contributors. Acquia Support involves assessment, diagnosis, and recommended resolution of application faults and performance issues. Acquia Support includes unlimited infrastructure support and application allowances for:​

  • Drupal core, contributed modules, and themes
  • Custom modules and themes
  • Third-party integration modules
  • Acquia Search

IMPLEMENTATION PARTNER PROCESS

Within the Acquia Partner Program, there is a partnership objective with key results across three functional areas: sales, delivery, and marketing. Partners are knowledgeable about the Acquia Experience Platform and how to position complimentary services as part of a holistic solution. Acquia and its partners work together to strengthen and optimize co-selling and delivery capability, defend each other in accounts, and accelerate growth together. Each partner is proficient in creating opportunities, co-selling with Acquia, and working to build a practice by dedicating resources and making an investment in delivery enablement. Both Acquia and the partners have defined a joint solution and agreed on a go-to-market strategy, working collaboratively to execute within multiple industries and regions.

“We want to work with the best, and the best doesn't always mean the biggest, but we want to work with organizations that have those same levels of commitment to customer success that we do. We focus our efforts on recruiting the kinds of partners that we know our customers want to work with, making sure those partners have adequate resources, certifications, and co-marketing strategies. A big part of our success in the past couple of years has been because we have become a partner-friendly organization,” noted Tom.

CUSTOMERS

Worldwide Deployments: 4,000-plus

Top Market Sectors: 

  • Government
  • Higher Education
  • Media & Entertainment
  • Healthcare
  • Retail
  • Nonprofit
  • Financial Services
  • Life Sciences
  • Consumer Brands
  • High Tech


Notable Acquia Brand-Name Customers:

  • Panasonic
  • Wendy's
  • AMD
  • Xerox
  • Princess Cruises
  • City of Boston
  • Interflora
  • Wilson Sporting Goods

Customer Comments:

Nicholas Maloney, Web Architect at Bentley University
"Thanks to Drupal, we’ve gone from having to manage over 70,000 pages, to centrally managing several dozen content areas. Content is unique to its respective parent area but can be shared across sub-domains easily and dynamically, according to how its profiled and tagged... Information can be made available on-demand for whoever needs it.”

John Forcucci VP, News & Digital Media at NHPR
"For us, having these sites up and running really reflects well on our brand. We quickly realized this is a company—and a technology—we could count on. We haven’t had a moment’s worry.”

David Oakley, Director of Web Engagement & Development at Florida Hospital
"The Drupal framework is very flexible and allows us to easily implement our WEM strategies."

 Customer comments and testimonials are all third-party verified

Featured Case Study

Acquia Helps Wilson Sporting Goods Breathe New Life into Online Commerce Platform

FUTURE ROADMAP

Acquia announced new products and updates at their 2019 Acquia Engage conference. It featured an entire roadmap oriented around a few key areas such as helping customers to build sites faster and at a lower cost, and incorporating the Cohesion acquisition into the Acquia platform. Attendees also heard about investments Acquia has made in the cloud platform, like built-in CDN to enable sites to be delivered faster and new architectural changes to the cloud platform. Acquia shared plans for the Acquia Marketing Cloud with plans on bringing together Acquia Lift and the Mautic acquisition to build a product that takes on proprietary, closed marketing clouds like Adobe and Salesforce.

There were discussions about the new product called Acquia Developer Studio, designed to simplify how developers set-up, configure, and continuously deliver sites in the Acquia platform. Acquia is also going to release Acquia Content Cloud (currently in beta), a SaaS application that lets you create, manage, and deliver all of your content in one application. It represents a true Content as a Service platform that can feed everything from 1,000 Drupal sites to a multitude of headless applications, as well as other applications like the Mautic product.

PERFORMANCE GUIDE

CMS-Connected's performance guide is based on our interviews with the vendor, their implementation and technical partners, customers, and leading industry analysts.

Category Scoring: 5 = Excellent | 4 = Very Good | 3 = Good | 2 = Satisfactory | 1 = Unsatisfactory

Overall Performance Scoring: 57–70 = Excellent | 43–56 = Very Good | 29–42 = Good | 15–28 = Satisfactory | 1–14 = Unsatisfactory

Performance Category Scoring
Strong North American Footprint with a Global Presence 4
Leadership and Positive Industry Recognition 4
Wide Selection of Features and Functionalities 4
Well-defined Differentiators 3
Offers Headless and/or Decoupled Architectures 4
eCommerce Offering 3
Cloud Capabilities 4
Digital Experience Platform (DXP) Offerings 4
Ability to Integrate with Pairing Technologies 4
Stable Platform with an Active Number of Deployments 5
Strong Customer References 3
Presales and Post-sales Support 4
Trained, Certified, and Experienced Implementation Partners 4
Clear and Well-defined Future Roadmap 3
Overall Performance Score — Very Good 53

ANNUAL HOSTED EVENTS

Acquia’s annual event is called Acquia Engage. This event shines a spotlight on the most innovative digital experiences that customers and partners have developed — all powered by cloud and open-source technology. Digital leaders from around the world share their insights and strategies, and offer a look into the future of digital experiences and customer interactions.

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Gary Eisenstein

Gary Eisenstein

Gary has been working in the IT industry for over 26-years and is a Principal Analyst at CMS-Connected Media Corp. and is the Founder and CEO of Falcon-Software Company. If you would like to receive additional advice or consultation on how to evolve your digital transformation journey, Gary can be reached at gary.eisenstein@cmscmedia.com.