Florian Schwendner ADT podcast cover
Episode: 21

Florian Schwendner - Why open source is the best option for your digital footprint

Posted on: 08 Apr 2021
Florian Schwendner ADT podcast cover

Florian Schwendner is the Director of Partner Management for Central Europe at the digital experience company Acquia which is based on the open-source Drupal CMS.

In this episode, we talk about why businesses should opt for open-source technologies for their digital presence. We discuss Drupal as the top choice among enterprise open-source CMS, with companies such as Pfizer being strong supporters of the project, and why the market is moving more towards open solutions lately. We also break down the differences between a content management system and a digital experience platform, and take a look at what Acquia brings to the table as an open DXP.


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“There is a huge change now where companies are asking for more agility in the software solutions they want to buy, a higher flexibility and a faster time to market. This is exactly where Acquia believes that we actually have the right spot in the market.”

Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop.

Tim Butara: Hello everyone, thanks for tuning in. Our guest today is Florian Schwendner, Director of Partner Management for Central Europe at the Digital Experience company Acquia. Acquia has recently been named a leader in both agile CMS and digital experience platform by Forrester and Gartner respectively, and in today's episode, Florian and I will be discussing why an open-source technology is the best solution for your digital footprint and how Acquia can help as an open DXP. Welcome to the show Florian, it's really great to have you here. Anything to add before we begin with the questions?

Florian Schwendner: Yes, thank you for inviting me. I’m excited to be here today with you and get with you through these topics. Yeah, I’m looking forward to just jump with you into the questions.

Tim Butara: Okay, awesome. So, Acquia is basically based on Drupal, which is one of the best known open-source content management systems besides WordPress. And WordPress is really huge, actually, I just checked before we started the call and I saw that its market share is up to 40 % of all websites. And my first question for you is, why is it that open-source options are so popular among content management systems?

Florian Schwendner: Well, I probably don’t get into much of a detail here but my assumption is that, if you build a website, and this is something most people actually do and if it's a blog or like social media, you probably use WordPress. So, WordPress has been seen amongst the market if you don't have big enterprise processes laying under. So, you can always combine WordPress with a simple, like, kind of way to build a website for little things like a blog post or a website for your own. If you do little businesses, you use WordPress. But if you think you are a company, and you have, like, security and kind of enterprise process lying behind, there usually WordPress has not been seen. So, you go then on other CMS solutions. 

But regarding your question, why open source has been seen so much in the market, basically you own what you do. So, the content and the code is yours. This gives you a higher flexibility of changing, adapting, and therefore you are quite agile in kind of you want to build and use a website, you just do it and you don't have to rely on third-party companies, because you own everything. And of course, behind open source, even if it's WordPress or TYPO3 or Drupal, there are communities behind that support you. Especially when it comes to functionalities that you need or you're looking for, or you need some expertise, you always can go back to these communities that are actually becoming more and more popular.

Tim Butara: Yeah, those are some really excellent points, Florian. Especially the one about owning your data, I think that this is one benefit of open-source technologies that's not as recognized as it should be. Especially as data becomes more and more important, and more and more of our transactions and experiences happen in the digital. And, also, the powerful communities behind open-source projects. And of course I mentioned that WordPress is huge and that would automatically mean that obviously the community behind it is huge too and you can get a lot of innovations as you pointed out. So, yeah, very good start here. And okay then: what about Drupal specifically, why do organizations and businesses choose Drupal rather than a different open-source CMS or maybe even a proprietary one?

Florian Schwendner: My view on this question, and this by the way is a good question is, if you run a business and your business is not focusing on e-commerce, and then you actually go for an CMS solution and there Drupal is, I would say seen the most. In Germany there might still be TYPO3 sometimes been seen but, if you run for example e-commerce, you buy an e-commerce platform like Demandware and Hybris and there of course are also some enterprise CMS solutions that adds on these e-commerce focused markets, but Drupal usually has been seen on industries and verticals where there's not e-commerce the main focus, this is mostly about pharma and automotive. By the way, you need a digital platform, you need websites to interact with your partners, clients and customers, and there Drupal is actually one of the biggest I would say CMS solutions that has been used in there. Why? I think it's been proven-- proved for enterprise readiness. So, if you have an organization you have a higher expectation on your processes and that's why WordPress is too small especially when it comes to the security and of course the level of quality that you need for a CMS solution. And I think Drupal is also that famous because it's highly extensible via APIs and this is what I think Drupal makes it being one of the biggest markets when it comes to CMS solutions.

Tim Butara: Yeah, that's definitely true and it's also a huge testament to Drupal’s power and kind of place in the enterprise CMS market that so many government institutions and non-profits and big important organizations actually are all based on Drupal, right?

Florian Schwendner: Exactly, yeah, and we forgot to mention that government, public, they all are investing into Drupal because they don't run e-commerce solutions, and you're right.

Tim Butara: Yeah, actually if you check the organizations tab on Drupal.org you'll see that a lot of really big businesses that you wouldn't initially expect to be contributors to Drupal, are actually on the list of contributors. So yeah, that's really cool, Drupal is like for those who don't know it Drupal might not seem like a huge thing, but for those in the enterprise industry, I think a lot of people know about it and a lot of people have heard of it and are maybe just now hearing it because of all the new developments with Drupal 9 and whatnot. 

One other thing that I wanted to talk about is, yeah, I mentioned that last year Gartner made a groundbreaking move by abandoning the magic quadrant for CMS and basically are replacing it with DXP or digital experience platform. I think it makes sense to also address this change - like, how is a DXP or an open DXP even different from a standard content management system? Are there any additional use cases or like benefits of a DXP over CMS?

Florian Schwendner: Yeah, there are some differentiations. I would start to answer this question by talking about the trends. I think the reason why Gartner went away from a pure CMS quadrant towards a DXP is because the market is moving towards platforms. You see it on different-- or I would say on mostly all technology providers like SAP, Salesforce, Adobe. They are all investing into customer experience solutions, they want to become bigger, they want to become more relevant for customers. So, it's not purely anymore about CMS, it’s more about really making sure with your digital platform, you also get closer to your clients and basically, that's what we did as Acquia. If you think about the story, how actually Acquia has been founded, it was founded out of Drupal. The founder of Drupal which is Dries, founded Acquia because there was a big company called Pfizer. Pfizer was running I think over a thousand websites on Drupal. They were doing everything by themselves like the hosting, the maintenance, updates, and at some point, they were getting really frustrated because it was just too much of a work to maintain everything by themselves. That's why they asked Dries, “Hey, actually can you support me?”, and then Dries founded Acquia as an enterprise company, supporting Drupal basically. So, we took the hosting from Pfizer. We gave them an SLA and we took care of the whole maintenance and updates. 

And this is where Acquia has been founded. Acquia I think ever since has been amongst the leader in the CMS market. But as I said, the market is shifting, moving towards more of a platform business and that's what we are doing as well. Acquia is still based on open source because Drupal is our foundation and our technology is open architecture. And if you have seen that Acquia also been named as a leader in DXP, the new DXP report, is basically because I think the market is moving in this direction. If you think you're a customer, you don't want to buy any proprietary software solutions that takes you ages to implement it and usually you pay a lot of money in terms of licenses. And this is why there is a huge change now where companies are asking for more agility in the software solutions they want to buy, a higher flexibility and a faster time to market. This is exactly where Acquia believes that we actually have the right spot in the market. 

And Acquia also invested to actually build up their portfolio,  so we've not only been seen any more as a hosting provider for companies who are using Drupal, we are now offering more towards these companies. So, if you have your website on Drupal, that's fine. But if you actually at some point and this is happening as well at the moment you want to get to know who your client is or who their clients are on your website. So, you think about personalization, you think about marketing automation, this is as well where we are helping companies with our new DXP story.

Tim Butara: That's a very cool origin story and cool that we're already talking about some of the DXP offerings of Acquia but you know, one thing that caught my attention is, you mentioned earlier that one of the main benefits of open-source technologies is owning your data, right? And it seems to me that this is even more important for a company such as Pfizer that deals with a lot of confidential data. A company such as Pfizer should prioritize and should invest in an open-source solution because it's in their best interest for that solution to be as powerful as possible and to enable them as much as possible because they actually benefit hugely from the open-source aspect of it, right?

Florian Schwendner: Exactly, and it's not only Pfizer who are a fan of Drupal and Acquia. I would be very, like, provocant to say that especially in the pharma industry Drupal and Acquia has been seen very often because of these benefits. Pharma, they underline a very confidential regulations like GDPR and how they work with their healthcare professionals and I believe this, if you think about competitors that I mentioned earlier, they won't be able to do that in this sense. So, I’m pretty happy about this and now we are, as Acquia we are also looking forward to expand our reach into other industries which I’m going to probably tell you a bit more later.

Tim Butara: Awesome, but yeah, one other thing is that, it's also really awesome that we're talking about Pfizer at this point of time. Where maybe half a year ago, not as many people knew about Pfizer and what it did as opposed to now, because of Covid and the vaccines and everything. So, it’s really good that we're already tying things to current events and maybe, this will be an even more compelling selling point for Drupal. If it’s like, okay, it's not just like this is connected to some government or something, but this is actually connected to the company that's working hard to save everybody's lives, to provide this vaccine on a global scale. So yeah, really cool that you brought Pfizer up specifically.

Florian Schwendner: Yeah, you're welcome.

Tim Butara: And we already started talking about how Acquia has been named a leader in both agile CMS as well as DXP. I’d really like to offer my congratulations to you and the whole company on that because I've been following these topics and the magic quadrants since last year and I know that last year, Acquia already kind of progressed a bit. But this year, I think it was in second place at least for Gartner, it was in second place right behind Adobe if I’m not mistaken, right? So yeah, really cool. 
I know that you’ve also prided yourself as being an open DXP. Not just a digital experience platform, but actually, openness is part of your main offering basically. Can you tell me a little bit more about that, how does this openness factor into your offering and why should people be compelled by it?

Florian Schwendner: That’s a very good question that relates a bit of what I said earlier. If you look at Gartner, the DXP report or also now there was a new report from Forrester which is called Agile CMS. In both reports, we are being listed amongst leaders behind Adobe. So, Adobe is still a bit ahead of us, but not for long hopefully. 

But we have been claiming ourselves being the only one who are open. Why open? The first thing is that our technology firstly has been built out of Drupal as I’ve told you earlier and we claim that our technology, of course we are a SaaS company as well, but our software products are built on an open architecture. And since we believe that the market is moving towards more agility and flexibility, we think that we have the right position. If you think about our competitors, they are not open, they are closed. So, think about, you are a company and you won't actually get updates or new functionalities that are not coming out of the box. You usually have to wait or pay a lot of money actually to be getting these updates and with that, we think that being open is the right thing at this point. Especially when there's a huge trend of companies asking for it and with that, we are one of the fastest growing companies in these DXP reports or Forrester’s agile CMS. That is quite I would say exciting for us at the moment, and I’m really curious where we are gonna be next year. But open means we are built on open technology and having an open architecture that makes it easier for companies to use us, to work with us especially on the things of, I pay less license fees, I can always, like, the code and the data is still mine and I can actually scale as I want and I’m not dependent on the software owner, so to say.

Tim Butara: And also, since so many of our digital experiences are now becoming a multi-channel or even omni-channel, I’m guessing that an open architecture lends itself much better to complex integrations with several different platforms and systems.

Florian Schwendner: I mean you see it in the market that the new buzzwords, it’s headless, it's open source, all big IT technology providers are having strategies around these areas, and this is our DNA basically. So, there is a huge shift from going away from big monolithical software systems to being headless and in the open.

Tim Butara: And another thing that's maybe not as related to technology but it just came to my mind just now, wasn’t Acquia actually founded during the last recession? In 2007, 2008, something like that?

Florian Schwendner: Yes, Acquia has been founded in 2007, there was a big recession especially in 2008, but I think we did very well because Drupal is, as I said, for free, you don't have to pay for Drupal. But if you want to build your website on Drupal, you have to take care of your own hosting, of your own maintenance and updates, and sometimes it's getting very costly and complex if you do everything by your own, and this is where we are stepping in as experts around Drupal offering or taking away this effort from companies, offering them a license. So, it's a win-win for both. Companies pay less and they get a service from our side and we make sure that the software and the instance are continuously developing, maintained and kept up to date basically.

Tim Butara: So, it actually makes sense to bring Acquia into a project even if you already have a website or multiple websites running on Drupal and you already have things kind of fleshed out, it still makes sense to ask Acquia for help with this.

Florian Schwendner: Especially then, it makes sense. Usually what we see in the market is, the companies using Drupal for several websites in different countries, in each country there is an agency managing this website and the agency takes care of their own hosting. So, think you are the head office of this company, at some point you don't have any idea anymore of the total cost of ownership, especially when you want to make updates on all websites because you still take care of your brand identity. So, doing updates, every agency is asking for money, you still have to pay for hosting and the complexity becomes worse and worse the more websites you have and especially around rolling out new websites, and this is where we are very good. We take all of this effort offering I would say, a platform solution which is called a multi-site management; that means you get one dashboard, with one template and you manage it by yourself as a head office. 

So, you don't have this complexity and this maintenance effort of these different countries anymore, you manage everything by your head office in one dashboard. So, if you want to do updates, it's done immediately. If you want to roll out new websites, it's done within days and not months anymore, and this is where we actually see our benefit. We reduce complexity and the total cost of ownership. And this is where we stand out especially in these areas of you are a company, you have like I would say, from 10 to 1000 websites, we help you actually in managing these websites more efficiently.

Tim Butara: Wow, that sounds really cool, like a really cool selling proposition and it’s very user focused. That's what it seems to me, you kind of took this main pain point of basically your clients and tried to adapt and adjust your offering to kind of take care of this most pressing pain point, nice. 

Okay in closing, I’m going to have a bit of a hot take here. Would you say that it was the recession that actually kind of helped open-source gain traction? And a follow-up question to that, would you say that the disruption that we're experiencing now with Covid and the lockdowns, will also be contributing to kind of this new wave of open source adoption?

Florian Schwendner: I think the trend is becoming more and more intense and heavier, since companies, especially also, maybe this Corona pandemic times, it helps the whole setting here with Drupal and Acquia because companies, they become more digital now. We all work remotely and we all interact with clients, partners and customers digitally. So, you need to invest in a digital platform, be it the website, be it a portal or be it e-commerce. 

And here, even in e-commerce, everything becomes headless and more flexible. As I said, we do have a focus area around making it easy for companies building websites and managing websites on a huge scale, but also, our other focus area is around marketing, automation, personalization and there's a new buzzword called customer data platform. But this probably would be another topic for another podcast. So, Acquia think we are positioned very well in the market when it comes to, firstly, helping companies building, managing websites and then interacting with their clients on their website. And since our DNA is open, I think we're very well positioned in this market.

Tim Butara: Awesome, and yeah that's what an open digital experience platform is all about, right? It's a platform, it's open and it doesn't just take care of your presentation, but also the connections with your audiences as you mentioned. 
Well, great, I wish you lots of success with this and I don't doubt that you'll have it. I have high hopes for Acquia and I think that it has a lot of potential still. Awesome, that's all from me. Before we finish, yeah, if people want to reach out to you or to learn more about your Acquia where can they do that?

Florian Schwendner: Firstly, go on LinkedIn, search for Florian Schwendner. That's my name, you can always just reach out to me, text me. Also, my email is florian.schwendner@acquia.com. I’m more than happy to have a discussion with you. If it's hard for you to find me because I have a typical German name, I think you can also reach out to Tom and, yeah, more than happy to stay tuned with you guys and have maybe some more sessions.

Tim Butara: Awesome, thank you so much for this chat, Florian. It's been really great having you as our guest and kind of getting first-hand insights into Acquia’s offering and your developments. And well, to our listeners, that's all for this episode. Have a great day, everyone, and stay safe.

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