Crownpeak Elevates Its Position Amongst Top DXP Solutions
I had the pleasure of first meeting Ravi Kumaraswami, CEO of Crownpeak, back in May of 2019 at Crownpeak's corporate head office in Denver, Colorado, where I was researching in preparation to write an article titled The Evolution of Digital Experience Delivery for Healthcare.
Fast forward almost two years, where news broke about the joining of two of the top agile CMS platforms in the digital experience platform (DXP) marketspace — Crownpeak's agreement with German IT service provider, adesso SE, to acquire e-Spirit. Right on the heels of Crownpeak's announcement, I was privileged to reconnect with Ravi to discuss the motivating factors of blending the two popular DXP solutions.
What brought about this acquisition for Crownpeak, and why e-Spirit?
"There were a number of martech companies that we looked at, and we found e-Spirit, from a cultural standpoint, was a great fit. Both of us are focused on speed to market and time to value. We also looked at the architecture — we [Crownpeak] are decoupled, they [e-Spirit] are decoupled, what are the pieces that e-Spirit is very strong on, and what are we strong on, e-Spirit's customer base is Europe-centric, while Crownpeak's is North American-centric, and we thought bringing these two companies together would be the best.
"The reports that have been put out by Gartner, Forrester, and yourselves have typically dinged us on two things. Number one, we are too North American-focused, and we don't have that big an international presence. The other area that most analysts caution about was the fact that we didn't have that big partner channel. Over the last few years, we've invested in that, and we became partner-focused. Now, 25% of our bookings come through partners. But we didn't have that big European or international partner-base, which we do now through the acquisition.
"Another other thing is that, if you read the analyst reports, the personalization and the eCommerce integration capabilities of the FirstSpirit platform have gotten a lot of praise — it's been very highly ranked. We also saw that in their demos. And the way the architecture — both for Crownpeak and for e-Spirit — is decoupled is important. So, the pieces that are really good from e-Spirit can plug into the Crownpeak platform, and similarly, because their customers are also decoupled, they could immediately take pieces of our technology and couple it with their technology."
What's the market opportunity that makes this acquisition essential for Crownpeak?
"It's about doubled our customer base. This brings two big players in the CMS space who have a similar value proposition of speed to market. Also, they [e-Spirit] were really focused on certain verticals; we [Crownpeak] were focused on certain verticals. We are very strong in financial services and regulated industries, like pharma and healthcare, and they [e-Spirit] were really focused on retail and heavy manufacturing — they had built a fantastic client base who are eCommerce-focused. e-Spirit built out a whole lot of functionality around integrations. They have phenomenal integrations with Salesforce and SAP Hybris and other eCommerce platforms like Spryker and commercetools, etc. Their customer base was basically international, and our customer base was predominantly North America, so it brings double the customer base, plus, it opens up the European market.
"You know, 25% of our bookings come from partners — they [e-Spirit] have a significant portion that also comes through the partner channel. But interestingly, the kind of partners they have and the kind of partners we have are totally complementary, so we see this also opening up opportunities for our digital governance and digital quality product. Not only does it give us a customer base to sell those products into, but it also gives us access to a new partner channel."
Do you see the Crownpeak and e-Spirit platforms being kept separate, or will FirstSpirit be merged in Crownpeak's DXP?
"It's too early to say that, and in a world of microservices, and with the advantage of a decoupled architecture, I think what the customers are going to probably expect is, 'How quickly can we take best-of-both functionalities, couple them, and give advantages to the customer?' The FirstSpirit personalization capability is awesome, right? We could basically take that and offer that to our customers, for example. If SaaS capabilities or one of the platforms in one area is better, we could take that because it's built in a manner where you could basically plug pieces in through integrations. And the customers really don't need to necessarily re-platform.
"We'll work out platform details as we move forward, but all customers should know that we remain committed to delivering superior solutions and service to them."
What do you envision the Crownpeak acquisition of e-Spirit will look like in so far as the ownership change and staffing changes?
"It's too early to say. We first have to put together a combined roadmap. And for us, it's also going to be about [Crownpeak] being able to sell into [e-Spirit's] customer base through our complementary products, which focus on accessibility and on digital governance. There's a lot of benefits to that, plus the upside is going to come from the partner channel. As far as what is going to be the 'go forward roadmap,' that's something that we'll work out. Once the transaction gets regulatory approval, and we get to spend more time with the team."
From your perspective, what do you think will be the most impactful change from the customers' and users' perspectives with this acquisition?
"Analysts, like you, have written constantly about how customer-focused we are as a company. Being a SaaS platform, we innovate every two weeks, and we give that innovation to our customers — they can take advantage of that innovation pretty much immediately. And so I would just say, if you asked me one thing, that the e-Spirit customers would see it's our fantastic focus on customers, and the other thing is the rapid time to innovate — and being able to consume that innovation quickly."
Any final thoughts to share?
"I would say that we're really excited about this, and I personally feel it's good for [Crownpeak] customers, it's good for [e-Spirit] customers, it's good for [Crownpeak] employees, and [e-Spirit] employees. And I think that bringing these two companies together is going to propel us much faster as compared to our competition."
Is this union the answer Crownpeak has been searching for to help elevate the company to that next level? With Crownpeak’s differentiators in digital quality, governance, and privacy, combined with e-Spirit’s content-driven commerce and AI capabilities, it will be exciting to see how they manage to assimilate the two platforms.
Arguably, one of the most challenging ways to grow is through the acquisition of a competitor. We have seen many companies fall woefully short of successfully integrating an acquired platform over the years, not to mention the complexities in doubling one's customer base and technology/implementation partners overnight. Time will tell, of course, but for now, it appears Ravi has Crownpeak pointed in the right direction with a promising future.
Gary has been working in the IT industry since 1993 and is the Principal Analyst at CMS-Connected, and the Founder and President of Falcon-Software. If you would like advice on how to evaluate a "best-fit" digital experience solution for your organization, Gary can be reached at email@example.com.