Strong voices are speaking out about the recent merger. Do they have customers' best interests at heart - or their own?
On Jan 27th 2015, EPiServer and Ektron officially announced that they are merging into one company. The acquisitions by Accel-KKR leading up to the merger have been reported to death already, so I won't go into detail on that.
What's interesting to a bystander like me, are the negativity spirals and doomsday claims emerging from people "in the know". Do the critics have a point - or do they have an agenda with their claims?
My take: Ektron customers should stay calm and stay put.
It also wouldn't hurt to ignore the trolls.
Big fat disclaimer:
I'm an EPiServer MVP working for an EPiServer implementation partner, but aside from my bias as a fanboy, I have no obligations towards EPiServer nor Ektron. I claim no special insight into either company's history or inner workings, nor any inside information on the combined platform's roadmap.
My thoughts in this post are based on what's published online by various sources.
Who's saying what?
So these are the most outspoken players commenting on the merger:
EPiServer + Ektron
- Publishing: Press releases and marketing material
- Spin: New combined platform will provide "most complete digital experience platform" out there. Intentionally vague on technical roadmap.
- Agenda: Positioning the new company in the market, preventing customer leakage, ultimately priming customers for migration to new, joint platform.
CMS news sites and analysts
- Publishing: Blog posts, tweets and podcasts, often tabloid twist
- Spin: Mostly along the lines of "We told you they would merge" and "We predict Ektron will be discontinued".
- Agenda: Eyeballs & clicks, credibility-seeking. Often using opinions from former Ektron employees and competing CMS vendors as sources for their predictions.
Former Ektron employees
- Publishing: Blog comments and tweets
- Spin: Varies from "Bad management destroyed Ektron" to "Ektron are inherently dishonest to their employees".
- Agenda: Although I see reports about layoffs, I know too little of Ektron's inner workings to comment on the extent or legitimacy of these claims.
Competing CMS vendors
- Publishing: Blog posts, blog comments and tweets.
- Spin: "Ektron is a dying product", "New platform will be unstable for years", "Get out while you can! Say, may I suggest this fine vendor?"
- Agenda: Discrediting their new competitor, poaching customers.
I'd say the most outspoken groups are the two latter. Interestingly, there's a noticeable overlap between these two.
A surprising amount of former Ektron employees have since joined other CMS vendors, and are not shy in their attempts to exploit the situation.
Fight or flight? According to critics, there's only one sensible option.
Should Ektron customers "get out while they can"?
In my view, there's definitely no need to panic.
Even if the worst case scenario should occur and further development of Ektron were halted, it’s really not an urgent issue for customers.
As an implementation partner, we see exactly the same situation with legacy EPiServer versions.
Thousands of EPiServer customers are happily running legacy sites for years, receiving maintenance patches and custom-built features by their implementation partner when needed.
Truth is, not all customers have business needs that urgently require staying on the latest version, as long as bugfixes and security patches are available.
Besides, most customers acknowledge that when their business needs change, investment in a platform change (either upgrade or migration to other vendor) is most likely required.
EPiServer announced right off the bat they are planning to combine the platforms (although unknown to which extent). This implies that current Ektron and EPiServer customers will eventually be offered a migration path to the new platform, designed to be as frictionless as technically possible - by the people who know both platforms better than anyone.
Combined platform impossible? Customers shouldn't get their hopes up, critics claim.
Where's the evidence that Ektron customers are "scared to death"?
I see this claim repeatedly online - not by customers, but by critics (e.g. competing vendors). The same players leave similar biased comments in every available channel.
They point to past CMS mergers as proof that it cannot be pulled off successfully. Investments will be lost, and the heavens will fall.
This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where customers get scared from reading that they ought to be scared.
Who benefits from that? Competing vendors, of course.
Most of the reassuring of existing Ektron customers undoubtedly goes on in private, but the few public reactions I've seen online range from calm and collected, to excitement about new possibilities.
Best advice: Talk to your implementation partner
Whether you're an Ektron or EPiServer customer, it's easy to be mislead by hype and agendas surrounding mergers. Skip the marketing fluff and talk directly to your implementation partner.
They will have a direct line to the people at Ektron/EPiServer who can give a straight answer.
They will have a deeper understanding of possible technical implications of this merger than any marketer or CMS news outlet.
They will be able to evaluate whether your business needs can be met within the platform they're currently on for a prolonged amount of time - or whether a platform change is inevitable.