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Acquia is at the crossroads for WCM. As it takes advantage of shifting customer expectations for sophisticated conversations and intuitive interactions, the company is becoming a pre-eminent digital experience platform.
Founded in 2007 as an open source business, Acquia continues to deliver enterprise-grade services for deploying Drupal within large organizations, while contributing code and technical leadership to Drupal's independent open source development community.
Acquia produces multiple products, which, taken together, compose a digital experience platform. The company's API strategy and line of business (LOB) support also further this pivot from web content management (WCM) to the greater goal of creating digital experiences.
Acquia product landscape
Acquia's curated version of Drupal -- Acquia Lightning -- selects critical modules from the latest open source release -- currently, Drupal 8.6. Acquia optimizes Lightning for enterprise workloads and provides management tools and development frameworks.
Coming soon are enhancements for search engine optimization, in-context workflow management, rich media management, streamline publishing and multiple site support, among other things. Under the hood and of particular interest to developers, Lightning is optimized for scalability; it includes a decoupled architecture for managing content through web services -- independent of web browsers, mobile apps or other presentation environments.
Moreover, Acquia is updating and streamlining its three add-on products the company said will launch in early 2019, adding key elements toward digital experience platform transformation:
- Acquia Lift, the company's personalization engine, will include new capabilities for marketers to more easily launch and manage one-to-one marketing campaigns.
- Acquia Journey, a customer experience design environment, will simplify role-based journey mapping capabilities, while also introducing new features for connecting with underlying storage services and data schemas.
- Acquia DAM, its rich media management application, will feature enhancements for synchronizing photos and videos with customer journeys and digital experiences.
Acquia is a major competitor -- and, at times, a partner -- to larger companies as a platform for digital marketing. Deployed within Acquia Cloud, Drupal provides the capabilities for easily launching sets of branded websites, frequently updating them with new campaign information, tracking performance, supporting mobile experiences and incorporating results from email marketing campaigns.
Acquia has more than 3,500 accounts, and those customers increasingly fold digital marketing initiatives into their WCM and operational uses of the platform. The company is also becoming an important part of an open source e-commerce ecosystem, announcing partnerships with BigCommerce and Elastic Path, two digital merchandising engines.
But ambitious digital experience platforms are not limited to hosting e-commerce and reinforcing brand identities. Acquia also powers operational platforms that digitize mission-critical activities. For instance:
- The Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City relies on a Drupal back end to distribute subway and bus schedules, real-time countdown clocks, customer advisory alerts -- such as announcing service delays -- and other important customer-facing information to web browsers, mobile devices, station kiosks, on-track countdown signs and other digital displays.
- Princess Cruises deploys Drupal to deliver onboard experiences to its cruising customers, providing targeted travel and event information to passengers, personalized by their current interests and travel profiles, and dynamically delivered to mobile devices, in-cabin videos and shipboard signs.
- NBC Sports Digital built an entire digital video distribution environment based on Drupal and supported by Acquia for scalability, managing dozens of sites across 30,000 sporting events each year. NBC Sports Digital delivers digital experiences by personalizing competitions, matches and games, as well as by tailoring advertising based on the contents of the video streams.
Drupal API-first initiative
APIs help make a digital experience platform extensible and adaptable to not only existing applications, but also emerging technologies. RESTful web services, a Drupal priority that, by extension, is part of Acquia's strategy, support programmatic access to the back-end content repository. Application developers are able to exploit the well-defined information architecture within Drupal and are no longer limited to HTML displays on browsers and mobile devices. Developers have added flexibility to deploy digital experiences for mobile apps, kiosks, voice-activated devices and many other customer-facing environments.
Slated for release in spring 2019, Drupal 8.7 will include JSON API support within Drupal core, enabling developers to directly incorporate content metadata into the parameters of web services statements. As a result, developers will be able to more easily build interactive digital experiences with Drupal as the content, metadata and permissions back end.
Acquia remains both an open source supplier and a software producer for advancing the digital experience platform market. Interactive mobile apps and spoken conversations promise to become as versatile, intuitive and easy to develop as web-based experiences are today.
Certainly, there are risks worth noting. Going forward, Acquia must continue to build momentum around decoupled Drupal, while expanding its digital marketing capabilities. While the initial signs are promising, the company needs to demonstrate that it can follow through on this two-pronged challenge.