Kentico's CEO Petr Palas on the Strategy & Digital Leadership
Last week and earlier this week, we published the exclusive interviews with Kentico’s phenomenal executives, James (Jim) Panagas, Director of PR and Analyst Relations, and Karol Jarkovsky, Director of Product, to give our readers a glimpse into the creative side of marketing automation and the prime focus of the upcoming release, Kentico 11. Today, however, we are bringing you the man who has been behind the wheel since the beginning of Kentico’s journey. At the Boston edition of the 2017 Kentico Roadshow event, I was fortunate enough to chat with the seasoned leader, Petr Palas, Founder and CEO of Kentico:
Kentico's Dual-Product Approach
Founded by Petr Palas in 2004, Kentico is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner headquartered in the Czech Republic with offices in the US, UK, Netherlands, and Australia. Kentico has 1,000 digital agency partners and powers more than 25,000 websites across 100 countries. Their customers include Gibson, Twinings, Ingram Micro, Mazda, Kingspan, Hunter Fan, Starbucks, and Allergan. Kentico’s product line includes Kentico EMS, an all-in-one CMS, E-commerce, and Online Marketing platform, and Kentico Cloud, a cloud-first headless CMS and digital experience platform. The vendor is currently pursuing the dual-product approach with Kentico EMS and Kentico Cloud.
On one hand, Kentico EMS continues to grow in recognition as it has already earned three industry awards this year. Last year, Kentico also made the cut and entered the 2016 Gartner Magic Quadrant for web content management, being named a ‘Challenger’. From the users’ perspective, the report cited that the vendor’s offerings are an excellent value for the money. During the interview, when Petr Palas was asked what Kentico has done to contribute to their recognition in the Gartner Magic Quadrant and how they intend on keeping up that momentum, he said: "It's hard to name one particular thing. I would say it’s more about the whole Kentico story. We’ve been building a successful business for the past 13 years. We’ve been always profitable, growing, without an external investor so very organically growing business and we finally reached the current phase that Gartner included Kentico to the Challenger Quadrant which is a big success for us and represents nicely what Kentico stands for with innovative product and we want to challenge the status quo in that market.”
On the other hand, the vendor has been rolling out its cloud-first headless CMS and digital experience platform, Kentico Cloud as the vendor saw a need for creating new content projects more frequently and quickly in the web content management space which developed into the idea behind this “comprehensive cloud-first CMS and digital experience platform.” During the interview, Petr Palas told me that there are two main approaches from vendors to cloud offerings and he explained: “I believe we are now just at the inflection point in the CMS industry. Current generation of CMS systems will be challenged by new solutions by Cloud first digital experience platforms and when I say ‘Cloud first’ I mean there are two Cloud solutions today, many traditional vendors try to come with Cloud offerings where they basically take the on-premise solution and they provide it as a managed hosting in the Cloud but we believe this is not the best solution.” He claimed that this type of offering is not the best scalable and sustainable solution as it doesn’t enable customers to take advantage of the full benefits of the Cloud. Therefore, Kentico built the Kentico Cloud from the ground up. Its API-first, multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings built on the top of the modern microservices architecture.
Aside from their platform and strategy, I wanted to pick Petr Palas’ brain on digital leadership as he has been an outstanding digital leader in the industry for 13 years. To that end, we discussed the fundamental elements to leading a successful company, and he mentioned three main pillars as far as the success of a technology company goes; people, product, and innovation.
In terms of people, he quoted from his favorite book, 'Good to Great' written by Jim Collins: “You need to start with getting the right people on the bus.” Petr Palas hired the first three Kentico employees in 2005, a year after the company was launched. Since then, the organization has grown rapidly and reached 200 employees by the beginning of 2016. He noted that Kentico has been very lucky with a very strong team starting from the top management team down to individual developers, support engineers, salespeople, and so on.
Being the second pillar, Petr Palas believes that a technology company begins and ends with a strong product offering. To me, Kentico has been doing very well in that department as almost every single year, the vendor rolls out a major update in an effort to keeping up with ever-changing technology landscape. Another point I really like about Kentico’s product development is the fact that they closely listen to their customers and partners to shape the next upgrade. For instance, as I stated in one of my previous articles which features the interview with Karol Jarkovsky, Director of Product at Kentico, the main focus of Kentico 11 will be email marketing and e-commerce, and the primary reason behind choosing these particular areas is the feedback received from partners and customers online.
Lastly, he talked about the necessity of sustaining innovation despite the fact that it is the biggest and riskiest part of the technology business, according to Petr Palas. He sees choosing and jumping on the right waves in the market at the right time as the biggest challenge for technology companies.
I couldn’t agree more with him on these three main pillars when it comes to digital leadership. Leading a company is a tough task in any given industry, however, due to high-velocity and cut throat competition, complexity, global talent, and interdependence among rivals, the technology sector, particularly, hard as it is requires a striking leadership skillset.
With this unique nature of the industry in mind, from my point of view, the three pillars Petr Palas highlighted depend on each other because ground-breaking, innovative projects and product most often entice the top talents, so when embracing innovative culture does not only keep the company’s product offerings on the top of technology but also encourages talents to join the organization. This is a critical point in a tech company as a talent gap, particularly in emerging technical fields, is already an alarming threat for many organizations. To put this into perspective, research from the McKinsey Global Institute finds that in the United States, the gap could reach 1.5 million graduates by decade’s end. Therefore, to me, being a leader in a tech company is the art of innovation and execution. My conversation with Petr Palas actually reminded me of Google’s Larry Page speech that he gave to University of Michigan’s engineering graduates in 2005, saying: “When no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. Have confidence, fail often, [and] have a healthy disregard for the impossible.”
Okay, Kentico maybe didn’t go crazy but considering its rapid expansion into the North American market as well as the fact that Kentico has been growing organically without any external funding and been profitable since it was established, it is quite conspicuous that Petr Palas and his team seem to be on the right track.
If you are interested in learning more about Kentico and its offerings, I highly recommend you take a look at our Principal Analyst Gary Eisenstein’s study entitled A Fair Review of the Top .NET CMS Platforms.