What to Make of Acquia Buying DAM Vendor Widen

Longtime WCM / nascent MarTech suite vendor Acquia has announced it is buying Digital Asset Management (DAM) vendor Widen. This fills a gap in Acquia's portfolio but I think for Widen licensees, this may not be a very welcome one. Let's dig deeper.

Impact on Widen Licensees

RSG has long covered Widen in our Digital Asset Management (DAM) evaluations.

Widen is a noted SaaS-based DAM vendor that also provides (very light) Product Information Management (PIM) capabilities. Based in Madison, WI, USA, it has 135 employees (Acquia has about 1400).  The product is popular, and enjoys a wide, loyal customer base, who also typically pay a very reasonable (i.e, right-sized) fee for the service. Widen customers are generally very happy in a DAM 1.0 world, but are likely poised to think bigger. However, the company seemed to be stuck at its core niche of brand asset management, and its PIM ambitions have collided with its simplistic underlying architecture. This acquisition may bring additional resources and help Widen get to the next level, but it would represent a major rebuild, I believe. 

Widen has always touted themselves as a private, family company with long history and no plans to change. So this does come as a surprise, and licensees should not underestimate cultural and integration challenges that come with such acquisitions. Widen is friendly to the point of solicitousness.  Acquia has a more opaque and hype-y corporate culture, with a voracious revenue accumulation mission to match.  Existing Widen licensees could expect more contentious license renewals.

Impact on Acquia Licensees?

Acquia says this deal will help them advance their “Digital Experience Platform”.  Like Sitecore, Acquia is also pursuing a strategy of buying low-end platforms to fill these so-called gaps. Their earlier acquisition of MAP vendor Mautic is a case in point.

At RSG, we believe content and (customer) data are foundational to Omnichannel CX. So, in that sense, they are right. In fact, this is not Acquia’s first DAM; they had announced a release of “Modern DAM” in 2017.  That was an OEM of WebDAM, which was inconveniently acquired by another vendor. So this acquisition does fill a gap, but also means a migration for Acquia customers who took the vendor's previous advice.  Acquia Drupal customers should not assume that it will be well-integrated right off the bat, though, so make sure others skin their knees before you sign on.  Also, if you already license another DAM similar to Widen, there's likely little compelling reason to switch.

What About Potential Customers?

Acquia has been evolving beyond its core Drupal-based WCM ambitions. It now has its own Marketing Cloud and Acquia’s stated goal is also to "build the best Digital Experience Platform (DXP).”  This Marketing Cloud or DXP currently consists of:

  • Drupal for WCM
  • Widen for DAM and (maybe) PIM
  • Acquia CDP, rebranded version of AgilOne CDP it acquired
  • Campaign Studio, based on its acquisition of Mautic
  • Acquia Personalization, formerly the ill-fated Acquia Lift
  • Maybe a few more..

You see where I’m going with this?

These are all different products, with varying architectures and user interfaces. For example, Drupal is highly object-oriented and has its own content repository and content model, Widen isn’t really object-oriented and also has its own content model. If you were to use both of them for an Omnichannel Experience use case, you wouldn’t really have a single, unified underlying content source. Of course, Acquia will tell you they have a connector for doing all this seamlessly, but the underlying information models will be difficult to synch.  (Incidentally, Adobe has exactly the same problem between their WCM and DAM offerings).

Acquia isn’t alone following this strategy. Sitecore has a similar story and so do many other vendors. We have said this before, but I’ll repeat: There is no such thing as DXP.  DXP is not a single platform. You have to build it by assembling several products. 

Below is RSG’s reference model for modern MarTech Stack. As you can see, it has several components, including what we call “Foundational Services” consisting of three pillars: Content (DAM fits in here), Data and Decisioning. 

MarTech services reference model for the 2020s.
MarTech services reference model for the 2020s. Source: RSG

Now, the key question is whether to get all these boxes from a single vendor (as part of their DXP or whatever) or from different vendors?  There is no right answer and this is a choice that you have to make based on several factors.

A single vendor solution might work out well for you, particularly if you over-value the advantage of dealing with a single vendor for licensing and support. However, just don’t assume that if you source them from a single vendor, you will get a single package. That won't happen and you often end up spending huge amount of resources integrating multiple products. Also, the underlying products that are part of the package may not even be best fit for your requirements.  Indeed, for a composable MarTech stack, why pick platforms from the same vendor when there's scant thought to use case alignment? For example, the Acquia (and Sitecore, and Adobe, and Salesforce) suites have a motley collection of B2B- and B2C-oriented platforms.  Always seek out the best fit.

Or to put this another way: take control of your stack decision-making and don't outsource those strategies to vendors.  If RSG can help you, just drop us a line.

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