A Closer Look at the CrownPeak and ActiveStandards Merger

This week proprietary web content management system vendor CrownPeak merged with digital governance platform provider ActiveStandards. Jim Yares, former COO at CrownPeak, has been appointed as the CEO of the combined company.

CrownPeak isn’t as widely known amongst technology buyers as some of its competitors. CrownPeak’s partner network and user/developer community is relatively small, and marketing investments have always been modest. Nevertheless, CrownPeak found an effective niche by serving organizations with large, multi-site, multilingual websites, such as Lilly (pharmaceutical), Prudential (financial services) and ACE Group (insurance), to name a few. CrownPeak’s decoupled architecture, emphasis on security, and engaged, consultative customer support makes it an attractive choice for highly regulated industries and global organizations with international presence. CrownPeak was recognised as a “Visionary” in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (WCM) for two years in a row (2014, 2015), which reflects solid levels of customer satisfaction.


Although mergers and acquisitions in the WCM space are a fact of life, CrownPeak’s merger was particularly unsurprising. The senior team is made up of leaders with a track record of managing rapid growth, and with two rounds of venture funding firmly in the past, securing more funding and growing through acquisition was an expected next step.

For ActiveStandards, a digital governance vendor often considered alongside Siteimprove and Sitemorse, this merger represents an escape from drawn-out sales attempts generating lots of enthusiasm at the web practitioner level, but not making it to the C-suite. Post-merger, the ActiveStandards platform will be sold as part of the CrownPeak family under the new name of CrownPeak Digital Quality Management. This will make it easier to pitch the product at the right level. Whether a digital governance tool will bring success to the combined company, remains to be seen. Digital governance is not, generally speaking, an exciting topic that drives sales in WCM space.

At Digital Clarity Group we are often asked about the impact of an acquisition on the existing customers. Typically if a vendor gets acquired by a direct competitor, the risk to customers is that the acquisition is primarily targeting the customer base, and not the actual product. In this scenario, the product may get lost or forgotten post-acquisition, leaving existing customers in limbo. By contrast, an investment by a venture capital firm such as K1 is generally aimed at maximising profit. In this case, both the customer base and the product should get the attention they deserve, and that’s good news.

It’s worth pointing out that CrownPeak and ActiveStandards are both SaaS platforms which appeal to customers with similar sets of requirements. CrownPeak already had an application‐level integration with ActiveStandards before the acquisition, so in terms of technology, merging the two companies together is straightforward. However, technology buyers are becoming increasingly aware that good technology investments depend not so much on the technology itself, but on the service providers and vendor’s support services that can make the technology work in the real world.

And this is where customers and prospects of both firms should be asking some questions.

Successful WCM implementations rely on people – people who are motivated, knowledgeable and reliable. Support teams that respond to customer enquiries, developers that modify the product roadmap on the basis of customer feedback, service providers that have a continued strong partnership with the vendor. Mergers have the tendency to affect people and processes, so keep a close eye on the people side of things, and do a reality check every now and again to see whether the vision and the values you signed up for are still in place.