The Web Content & Experience Management (WCM) market is going through an upheaval as some vendors seek to win market share from aging players, and others jockey for position in anticipation of mergers or public offerings.
Vendors Succumbing to Temptation
In this environment, some vendors seek to get any kind of revenue any way they can, so they fall to temptation and dip into the big pot right under their nose: implementation projects. From a revenue standpoint, WCM implementation fees dwarf license fees by several orders of magnitude. From a bottom-line standpoint, it's a different story, because services work can be low- or even no-margin, but in today's environment, vendors are keener to show investors their revenue growth rather than profitability.
Fine Young Cannibals
This phenomenon is called "cannibalizing" a channel. WCM vendors that made a living going to market through consultancies and integrators may now muscle in to win services revenue themselves.
Ektron used to do this a lot. I've recently heard anecdotes regarding Sitecore, EPiServer, and even WordPress (Automattic). Adobe no longer pretends to favor implementation partners and aggressively pushes its own services arm for WCM projects, although this may reflect the extraordinary complexity of Adobe AEM. On the Drupal front, I recently witnessed an Acquia salesperson declare that his firm "was definitely a systems integrator," which might be news to Acquia implementation partners.
Don't Fall Prey
This cannibalization happens in cycles, but for you the customer, the consequences are almost always bad.
First, let's review the manifold ways that a software vendor is neither a consultancy nor an SI (a.k.a., services firm):
- Services firms tend to focus on long-term relationships and consultant continuity; software vendors tend to focus on short-term projects and shuffle consultants around more readily
- Services firms typically bring important soft skills like information architecture and UX; software vendors typically just know how to implement their solutions
- Services firms -- if they're good -- will look at your situation holistically and recommend other tools that might work for certain use cases; software vendors will tend to define your problems only in ways that their tool can fix
- I could go on, but you get the idea...
Sure, there are times when a vendor's professional services organization makes sense for things like architectural audits, and in cases where you have a simple, quick project. For most other scenarios, you'll want to turn to an integrator.
Now More than Ever
WCM projects are getting more complex as the tools mature and your digital ambitions expand. This is why the services income stream has become so attractive to vendors; you're spending ever-more money on it.
We increasingly see WCM vendors putting pressure on their SI partners to become more like loyal resellers. For WCM, you don't want a reseller. Look for independent services firms that know a small handful of tools really, really well. Then work only with those integrators and consultancies who will sit on your side of the table, rather than just parrot the vendor line.