Is Ektron headed up or down?

  • 26-Jun-2012

Longtime web content and experience management (WCXM) vendor Ektron has always done things its own way. It wrote its own search engine. It embedded its own rich text editor. It came up with its own markup language. We consistently questioned this strategy over the years, but there was no questioning the privately-held company's growth over the last decade, at one point supposedly topping 350 employees.

It turns out that much of that expansion came in its professional services team. Easy come, easy go; the Nashua, NH-based vendor now appears to be contracting. This raises a question: will the company re-commit to software development and professionalize its operations, or will it continue to meander as one of the biggest family-run operations in this marketplace?

Ektron as a company traditionally pursued the diverse interests and broad technical curiosity of its founder, Bill Rogers and his former-COO brother, Ed. Outside the realm of rich text editing and web content/site management, however, the vendor always seemed to come up short. Take for example Ektron's social collaboration offering, which garnered some breezy kudos from major analyst firms, but has this little problem that customers endure epic struggles to actually get it to work. (To paraphrase John Adams, real deployments are stubborn things.)

At some point a few years ago, the company decided to dramatically expand its consulting arm. On one hand, this made sense, since Ektron always pitched its toolset to the do-it-yourselfer IT manager who might be distrustful of working with the kind of outside agencies pitching the competition -- Sitecore, EPiServer, et al. Doubtless the allure of quick profits followed as Ektron happily leapt from step 3 to step 4 on the 12-step partner cycle.

By April of this year, the allure seemed to have faded as the company announced a raft of layoffs focused on its services group. In the wake of appointing a new President earlier this month, ex-staffers are reporting that Ektron quietly issued a subsequent round of pink slips.

It seems to me that Ektron could go in one of three directions:

  1. Recommit to core software development and the tough work of solid regression testing, offering a more packaged alternative to increasingly byzantine platforms like Sitecore
  2. Continue to wander into new business lines and business models in search of quick growth
  3. Having slimmed and prettied its financials, sell itself to someone else (seems unlikely, but who knows...)

Perhaps there's a fourth way I'm not perceiving. Feel free to chime in below.

Today Ektron and its licensees benefit from a large and lively customer base, and recently the company has tried to play better with 3rd-party tools rather than re-invent every wheel. But following Ektron over the years, I'd still predict that the vendor follows option #2 going forward.

In any case, we'll keep an open mind, and we'll keep watching, on your behalf. For more details on how Ektron differs from its competitors, consult our Web Content & Experience Management evaluation research stream.