I’ve written before that I considered myself an “agent of change”, how through my consulting role I used to bring change to organizations and how I felt that change is required to move forward. Karma does exist, and I started my first work week of 2016 listening to a consultant explain to the leadership team at SDL how we should change.
And it was through this lens of “I’ve been on the other side many times” that I listened to the findings. Many people (namely our competitors) might interpret or spin our recent announcement to divest certain lines of business differently, but none of this was unexpected or negative news, and it was all based on facts. And while you can read more about the changes in our Year-end Trading Update, I have outlined a few of the key facts here:
- Fact 1: SDL is embarking on a substantial change to our strategy with the intention of significantly increasing the focus, overall profitability and growth of the company.
- Fact 2: Our legacy has been in language and global content. And, to continue this legacy and deliver world class Global Content Management solutions maximizing Language as our key differentiator, we have taken steps to divest in the areas that don’t support our unique value proposition and reinvest in areas that do. As such, we will divest the following: Fredhopper (our eCommerce optimization solution), Social Intelligence and Campaigns.
- Fact 3: Customer Experience remains important to our customers and it will continue to remain important to SDL. We know that our customers want a superior experience for their customers. Our technologies and services contribute to this experience by helping companies deliver more relevant global content across all channels, languages, devices and touchpoints.
- Fact 4: SDL Fredhopper is very highly regarded in the industry and growing substantially. However, there is a feeling it could grow even faster if there was focus on it as a core business unit.
- Fact 5: SDL cross-product integration proved to be a difficult strategy as we found that the buying centers for all of our products were vastly different. Rather than force the strategy, we are making changes that will better serve our customers and the market.
- Fact 6: Through extensive customer interviews, SDL’s core strengths kept on being mentioned as the reason why customers love us: globalization, true Localization support, and functionally-deep products in the web, content and language space that show a real understanding of the complex problems we solve.
And – none of this should really come as a surprise – this is what we all felt was the case. We all had anecdotal evidence of this. One of the main reasons why SDL has the talent it has in its workforce is how much we believe in our common values and strength of our combined products.
I’d like to clearly express my utmost admiration to our interim CEO David Clayton and the rest of the executive team for not balking at this news and hiding under a desk – they did exactly what our customers and the market was asking for. If a product line is not aligned with our core business, then it is a distraction. And in one very important case, this fact was actually hurting that product’s ability to grow (Fredhopper), with the implications for the people’s ambitions that can be expected.
David Clayton made it very clear that SDL is not in any business to be a ‘me-too’ organization. No, we are leaders in what we do, and nobody does it better than us. This renewed focus gives us the tools and the drive to make it happen, and I for one am extremely happy to see these changes.
I also believe that we’re delivering the best value and future to the 3 product lines we are divesting. They have amazing technology and talent, and this move allows them to thrive in a new home, where they will be part of that company’s core objectives and receive the attention and investment they deserve.
So, what does this mean to SDL Web?
In a first instance, this means absolutely nothing. We are wrapping up the amazing SDL Web 8 release with the completion of SmartTarget, and that will not change.
It also means that we will be focusing on an even tighter integration between our Web Content Management solutions and language, increasing the gap between us and our competitors in how to truly automate translation, transcreation and localization. So overall, nothing but good news for us, our customers, and the companies we are letting go of. Kind of a no-brainer, really.