Adobe is nothing if not a good marketer of software, and the company understands in particular how to talk to creatives, editors, and marketers, the three key business stakeholders in any web content management effort. Also, analysts and media make a habit of fawning over the company. As a result, Adobe CQ has a tendency to land on a lot of enterprise short lists for Web CMS selection, including frequently when it doesn't belong.
So, let's pause for a moment and consider just a few of the manifold reasons why Adobe CQ might not be a good fit for your organization, drawn from our research talking to CQ customers and integrators.
(Note: I'm calling it by its old name, "CQ," because that's much shorter than "Adobe Experience Manager, web content management," which is the new name for the ex-Day Software platform, now part of Adobe's Experience Management non-suite.)
Why Not Adobe WEM?
1) Adobe the company is hopelessly disorganized
No, wait, I misspoke. Adobe is pathologically disorganized, especially when it comes to CQ. CQ is a highly complex platform, and Adobe sales engineers, professional services consultants, internal gurus, and partner specialists will give you radically different answers to the same question. Compared to other platforms, there is much less consensus around best practices for CQ, especially (and most ominously) around architecture. Because of so many messed up partner implementations, Adobe is expanding its own professional services arm -- a tricky proposition for any software vendor -- but a real stretch for a firm like Adobe where enterprise project management talent remains comparatively evanescent.
2) CQ is a developers' playground
Historically, this was actually a strength of the product, and Day tended to sell into enterprises where IT teams were dominant in the decision-making. Today, there's a mis-match between Adobe's marketing-oriented positioning and the level of engineering prowess required to make even simple tweaks in CQ. Moreover, the user experience for editors and marketers can be highly clicky and drawn out. Long-promised usability improvements typically get delayed in lieu of technical improvements that seem to capture primary interest among the CQ core development team.
3) Adobe's suites are mostly mythical
Some enterprises get lured by Adobe's long-term vision of aligning creative and marketing digital lifecycles. Note, however, that Adobe's acquisitions in the digital marketing space have been thin and disconnected. You also need to remain wary about over-committing to that hydra formerly known as Omniture.
What's the Right Fit For You?
Can you be successful with CQ? Of course you can....under the right circumstances. We've advised several CMS selection teams who ended up opting for CQ. As our 24-page evaluation of CQ points out, the platform offers many strengths to compensate for its weaknesses.
In our experience, successful CQ licensees fit a particular profile. We've recently had detailed discussions with our subscribers about that profile looks like, but I'll give you one hint now. Successful CQ licensees tend to have extremely strong internal teams: large, well-oiled technical development shops, exceptionally tight program and vendor management, and above-average digital sophistication on the business side. If that does not sound like your firm, CQ could represent a poor fit.
The key up front, as always, is to follow an empirical, test-based CMS selection process, where you learn what it's like to work with both the technology and the vendor. Make sure that your editorial and marketing teams in particular get hands-on experience with any platform -- but especially CQ -- and be wary of promises to engineer your way out of shortcomings. Above all, don't assume that the bumps you experience with Adobe during the sales process will get any smoother after you sign a contract. Forewarned is forearmed.