Adobe, IBM, Liferay, Sitecore crowned leaders in Gartner’s digital experience platform report

In a key report for digital decision makers, Gartner evaluated 21 providers of digital experience platforms (DXPs) based on their completeness of vision and ability to execute

Adobe, IBM, Liferay and Sitecore have clinched top spots on the coveted leaders quadrant in Gartner's newly created Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms.

The report, formerly the MQ for Horizontal Portals, evaluated 21 providers of digital experience platforms (DXPs) based on their completeness of vision and ability to execute, and revealed a host of leaders, challengers, visionaries and niche players.

Companies that made the ‘challengers’ list include: Microsoft; Oracle; Opentext; SAP; Salesforce; and Acquia. Companies clinching the ‘visionaries’ podium were Episerver and BloomReach, while ‘niche players’ included Coremedia; SDL; Crownpeak; Kentico Software; Squiz; Jahia; Oxcyon; censhare; and GX Software.

“Organisations are looking to use DXPs as they move from Web-centric to more pervasive, multi-channel digital experiences. This Magic Quadrant will help those responsible for a range of customer-, employee-  and partner-facing initiatives find the most suitable vendor for their needs,” said report authors, Jim Murphy, Gene Phifer, Gavin Tay and Mike Lowndes.

Gartner defines a DXP as an integrated set of technologies, based on a common platform, that provides a broad range of audiences with consistent, secure and personalised access to information and applications across many digital touchpoints. According to the report, the DXP market has arisen as a result of the progress of digital business transformation and growing frustration with the confusing array of products required to create, manage and improve a strategically important digital presence.

Gartner said demand for engaging and productive digital experiences will increase end-user spending on DXPs at a compound annual rate of 14 per cent from 2016 to 2021, to reach US$18.4 billion in 2021.

Additionally, most organisations will focus their initial DXP investments on marketing-centric customer experience efforts. This is because of the clear benefits of customer engagement, the increased influence of digital marketing leaders in digital business, the highly competitive nature of customer-facing initiatives, and a relatively straightforward value proposition, the report stated.

Making the grade

Gartner highlighted a host of ‘strengths’ and ‘cautions’ as part of its analysis of each company that made the list. One of the four vendors in the leaders quadrant, Adobe’s ranking was based on its ability to execute and completeness of vision.  

Overall, the evaluation criteria for ability to execute include product or service, overall viability, sales execution/pricing, market responsiveness/record, marketing execution, customer experience and operations.

Adobe delivers DXP functionality through a combination of the Adobe Experience Cloud, Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Document Cloud and Adobe Cloud Platform, each of which encompasses many products and services. More specifically, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), part of Adobe Experience Cloud, acts as the "centre of gravity" for Adobe's DXP efforts.

Pointing out key strengths, Gartner said Adobe delivers a strong digital marketing focus, providing “best-of-breed” functionality for digital experiences focused on digital marketing. When paired with Adobe Marketing Cloud and Adobe Advertising Cloud, Adobe's DXP offering serves as a premium offering for B2C and, increasingly B2B digital marketing, the report noted.

Meanwhile, on the packaging front, Gartner said Adobe Experience Cloud is a comprehensive set of well-regarded and logically rationalised DXP components. On the usability front, Adobe's focus on usability by business roles improves its customers' agility and responsiveness was also highlighted, as was the increasing role the vendor's artificial intelligence engine, Sensei, is playing in assisting and automating tasks. 

However, Gartner cautioned Adobe's strong focus on digital marketing, from positioning and product development standpoints, may make it less appealing to organisations that want a DXP for other purposes. Service portals, for example, require security and integration characteristics to ensure personalised access to aggregated systems, rather than targeted content and campaigns. Gartner also cautioned about deployment complexity, saying behind the cloud packaging constructs, Adobe's DXP product components are complex, and Adobe is still working to integrate them.

Price was another factor, the report said, explaining while Adobe has recently introduced lower-priced options, including AEM Sites Basic, AEM Assets Basic and Adobe Analytics foundation, for midmarket organisations, large organisations will still find Adobe's pricing relatively high.

IBM was another strong contender making the grade as it delivers DXP functionality through IBM Digital Experience Manager, in conjunction with IBM Watson Content Hub.

Gartner said part of IBM's strengths include the fact is has rich market understanding. “IBM anticipated DXP demands better than most competitors, having espoused the virtues of the platform over five years ago. IBM's vision remains strong, with logical product packages and a keen eye for technological innovation.”

IBM is an early and aggressive adopter of AI to improve user engagement and the user experience, and also has functional breadth, Gartner added. This sees few DXP vendors able to match IBM's list of capabilities, features and functions, generated over a long history of supporting large enterprises with complex digital experience needs, the report stated.

But IBM's push for cloud computing has introduced some redundancy and overlap to its DXP portfolio, Gartner cautioned. For example, IBM now offers the Watson Content Hub as an alternative to its Web Content Manager.

"For any given workload or initiative, prospective customers must choose either an innovative but fledgling offering, or an established, proven offering that might receive less investment from IBM in the future,” the report stated. Other issues to consider include problems with complexity and “legacy” reputation.

On the legacy front, many customers regard IBM's digital experience offerings as traditional, 'legacy' systems. Some favor newer solutions from newer vendors for next-generation digital experiences, the report added.

Rounding out the leaders’ list are Liferay and Sitecore. Gartner said Liferay shines when its technology is used to build highly customised experiences that incorporate external business applications.

Customers were particularly found to value Liferay's organic innovation, which contrasts with the "innovation through acquisition" approach taken by many competitors. Liferay has a good track record for converting customers' demands and ideas into new product features and enhancements.

But Gartner cautioned that some Liferay customers regret the absence of a Liferay-provided DXP SaaS or PaaS offering to reduce the requirement for internal or third-party technical skills. Some Liferay partners provide cloud hosting, but many potential customers look for a more strategic commitment to the cloud as a means to scale, exploit big data analytics and innovate rapidly.

Sitecore, meanwhile, won top marks for the fact it has established itself as a vendor with both a strategy to address various industries and a substantial array of horizontal DXP capabilities, including personalisation, context awareness and analytics.

“In addition to appreciating Sitecore's fundamental strength in content management, customers have high regard for the Sitecore Experience Platform's ability to exploit Web analytics," the report stated. "Sitecore customers value the platform's insights, which are geared toward IT and business users alike.”

However, Gartner warned some customers report that casual contributors find the Sitecore Experience Platform hard to use and require more training than expected. The recently released Sitecore 9 seeks to address these issues with various user experience enhancements.

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