IAM Alert: Adobe to Acquire Day Software for $240 Million USD

Information Architected Market Alert (IAM Alert):
On July 28th, 2010, Adobe announced it’s intention to acquire Switzerland-based Day Software for approximately $240 Million USD. (see press release from Adobe)

The Past, Present and Future of Adobe

With the acquisition of Day Software (highly scalable, standards and open source-oriented [not as deployment/sales model, but as underpinnings]), along with the late 2009 acquisition of Omniture (enterprise-class, quite high-end web analytics), Adobe clearly has their eyes beyond the deskop, with arguably the first major moves into server/cloud territory that they’ve executed on in many years.

Of course the question is… even if they have “best of breed” solutions in what they’re calling “customer experience management” (or CEM) – a decidely “big company/large enterprise” vision of customer engagement (or “marketing” as those who haven’t yet crested the new meme will still call it), can they actually pull it off?

Can they legitimately compete with the other “big (ol’) boys” of ECM/WCM such as ECM/Documentum, Oracle/Stellent, Autonomy/Interwoven, Open Text/Vignette, and the like?

Boundaries to Break, Skills to Sink Deep

The sales model is entirely different in enterprise/server-sales from the desktop and team-oriented, more consumer-oriented sales of most Adobe solutions, and although Adobe has some experience in the enterprise sales area, given their (long past) acquisition of Allaire (Cold Fusion), LiveCycle (born of various internal components of Adobe and one-off acqusitions of various parts, stretching back to 2001, and launching as a suite in 2005), and with the high-end web marketing folks of the enterprise via Omniture (a $1.8 Billion USD acquisition). Underestimating the sales cycle and re-aligning marketing/outreach to “sell” the new Adobe are classic traps that are not as easily avoided as they would seem – and all too many mergers/acquisitions that cross boundaries of sales mentality and market positioning #fail miserably in this regard, and the early focus of Adobe and the Macromedia acquisition from years past, with a focus on graphic/design tools for individuals and small teams, the core DNA is, in my opinion, anti-large enterprise. Time will tell how this shift works out – do they lose on the low-end and win on the high-end, or learn to juggle the spectrum?

The development model that Adobe has historically undertaken has been… sluggish, to say the least. Their cycle times make Microsoft’s 3 year cycles look swift, and with a desktop-centric view, their cross-platform (Mac vs. Windows) product roll-outs can and have been unsynchronized for years at a time – ironic given that PDF, Flash and AIR are all designed to be entirely platform neutral. As they embrace server-based solutions more completely, perhaps they will be able to apply more focus into a single lens (J2EE-based solutions), and tighten the development cycle.

Agile or Fragile?

Can Adobe continue to leverage the more agile developer talent from their recent acquisitions? Day’s mantra for the last year or so (aligned larger with Kevin Cochrane’s entree to the management team at Day) has been in agile development and agile marketing – can they successfully infect the parent company? Or will the Adobe waterfall drown them out? As a long time proponent of Agile (everything), I certainly hope so, but this is a massive cultural change issue – and large companies, in my experience, struggle mightily to change the development mindset to Agile from traditional “waterfall” development. Let’s hope the one-two punch of Day’s agile discipline and open source participation wins the (ahem) day at Adobe.

What’s in Their Wallet?

From a size/scale/staying power perspective, Adobe’s current market cap is at $15.5 Billion USD (NASDAQ:ADBE) as compared to Autonomy at $4.01 Billion USD (LON:AU), EMC at $42.01 Billion USD (NYSE:EMC), Open Text at $2.25 Billion USD (NASDAQ:OTEX) and Oracle at $121.94 Billion USD (ASDASD). In the grand scheme of most of their competition, they are on the small- to medium-marketsize.

Adobe is certainly well out of the world of the startup (fraught with peril and struggling for mere existence), and are operating in worlds that have mostly (or damn close) “crossed the chasm” into the mainstream.

There is still plenty of growth in the world of content, and they continue to have the ability to invest in making that future happen, not only monetarily (the benefits of a war chest), and with huge “mindshare” in digital content (server/enterprise credibility not withstanding).

Assuming a majority of the talent that comes with and stays at Adobe from their acquistions, they should continue to have fresh/modern skills and experience that bridge the gap from the origins of Adobe (desktop/small teams, and individual tools) to the new Adobe (focused on seamless experience, mobile, server, and customer/employee engagement).

Closed to Open

And while the Adobe of the past was primarily about proprietary formats (Photoshop, Pagemaker, InDesign, Framemaker, Allaire Cold Fusion, etc.), Day’s focus has been heavy on the open source world, as well as in involvement in Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) – a specification for improving interoperability between Enterprise Content Management systems -which is one of the convergence trends that is (finally!) gaining traction, as the buyers in the market of the last two years have finally begun to get it in their heads, and consequently into the seller/solution providers’ heads, that while they will continue to have silos (inadvertently or purposefully) of content… if the goal of an organization in 2010 and beyond is to provide customer or employee experiences, you absolutely MUST find some way to unify access to content – whether via CMIS, Federated Search, modern portals, or the like. Multi-platform access, seamless access, personalized – these are all areas where the combination of Adobe and Day holds the promise of serving people, rather than serving the acquistion of more raw technology (the typical buying organization’s approach).

Most of the grumblings I’ve seen about this acquisition thus far is in concerns that Adobe will kill Day’s involvement in open source and open standards. While both Day and Adobe deny this, again, it’s not really up to the stated goals of the acquisition – it’s in what happens when cultures collide, and if the support and uptake of a new mindset truly takes root, well after the acquisition has closed.

Wherefore Art Alfresco?

Another reverberation in the open source world, is the wonder as to what happened to the Alfresco and Adobe relationship? Up until this point, Alfresco had seemed a likely acquisition, given their partnership with Alfresco as the back-end and Adobe as the front-end in the 2008 OEM agreement relating to Adobe’s LiveCycle and Adobe’s Content Services offerings. Where will that relationship go from here? It’s anyone’s guess – as you can read over at an Alfresco blog post, the belief is that Day has been oriented more directly at Adobe’s customer engagement/customer experience model world, while Alfresco has been more about infrastructure and tools to support developers.

That’s a fair analogy, although at this point, while I’m a fan of developers having the tools and toolkits to do the job, I trust 21st century marketers and customer service managers to be far more oriented towards user success than I do anyone wearing a “pure” IT hat (and I used to be one of the IT purists – mea culpa). Thus far, no official word from Adobe on where the Alfresco relationship will go – and as a publicly traded company, it’s unlikely that we’ll hear why Alfresco or any other number of remaining independents did not make the acquisition list… at least not YET.

Embracing Managed Content

Last thought – I’ve seen some zings directed at Adobe and Day regarding the world of Digital Asset Management (DAM), specifically that the integration of Adobe and Day’s DAM solution is weaker than their competition, such as integrated DAM in Open Text’s suite of offerings.

To this comment I will say, stop trying to silo content in your enterprise – if you have to debate internally which silo to drop your content, DM, ECM, WCM, DAM, etc., then you have already so badly missed the point of any “content management” system of any kind, that you should take the time to back up and re-think your strategy. The more respositories/technologies that are thrown into the mix, the more likely you are to kill the purposes of manging content in the first place – decreased time to create/re-use content, faster processes, more consistent branding, etc.. For every ONE organization I’ve seen who has executed this well (as a buyer), I’ve seen FIFTY who have botched it.

DAM is DM (Document Management) on storage steroids, driven by metadata (the universal glue of ALL managed content) – with perhaps (if you’ve spent many millions), the ability to auto-transcribe or semantically identify the audio and/or video content above and beyond raw metadata (makes for great demos from Autonomy, but you probably can’t afford it, and really don’t need it).

The divide between DM, ECM, WCM and DAM is all in your mind until you start getting into fairly sophisticated and esoteric deployments where you are doing true, large-scale content re-use, with complex interdependencies in the final output/delivery of content.

In short, if you feel that the combined Adobe/Day DAM solution is not up to snuff – I’d be willing to bet that you are overcomplicating your perceived needs and resulting solution, or you are in the 1% of the world that really needs incredibly sophisticated DAM. If you happen to be in that camp, please contact me at 617-933-9655 – I’d love to understand what factors have impacted what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. We can all learn from those both on the leading and trailing edges – so if I am missing something that truly makes DAM a differentiator for your managed business content, let’s surface some use cases to show what “real” DAM can do.

Alternative Takes on the News

Find other takes from analysts (official and otherwise – aka Bloggers) via:

  • VentureBeat (an investment perspective – fairly lightweight)
  • Jon On Tech (an integrator’s perspective – Jon’s a pragmatic guy)
  • CMS Watch (via Apoorv Durga – one of the newer CMS Watch analysts – expressing similar doubts about the enterprise mindset of Adobe vs. it’s boxed software roots)
  • Tim Anderson’s ITWriting (expressing hope for Day’s openness and REST strengths to penetrate Adobe’s proprietary nature)

Your Thoughts?

If you are a current or prospective user of Day Software’s solutions, please weigh in with your feedback. Are current offerings serving your needs? Running ahead of where your organization is? Where your budget is? Just right? If you’re not using Day for WCM/DAM and/or collaboration, but are solving similar problems, what solution are you using?

How Information Architected Can Help

These trends, and solutions such as Day and Adobe’s content offerings, are the explicit focus of our business practices and expertise –  which is in creating strategies to provide for flexible information architectures and applications (technologies) that support the business architecture (roles, goals, people, processes, skills and culture) that, when combined, can deliver significantly greater value than a single business problem and isolated tool by itself. We are vendor neutral, and more often that not, can help you find ways to make whatever technology investments you have already made, greatly outperform the end results you are currently experiencing.

If we can be of help via our assessments, consulting or workshops, contact us now to schedule a private 30-minute executive briefing on how we can most effectively work together to solve your needs, whether customer, employee, partner or supplier-facing. It’s all content – manage it effectively, and get the technology out of your way.

Schedule a private executive briefing now

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