How Ibexa achieved exponential growth after their white label SaaS launch
“We’ve doubled our growth every year for the last three years running,” says Roland Benedetti, senior vice president of strategy at Ibexa. This remarkable span of growth began when the digital experience platform company launched its white label cloud offer powered by Platform.sh.
Building a container-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) capability that supplies clients a single tenant copy of your application while still allowing you full management of the platform is both complex and expensive. That’s why in 2016, rather than risk building a cloud infrastructure themselves, Ibexa chose to let a more experienced vendor—Platform.sh—implement one for them.
Recently I had the chance to sit down with Roland Bendetti to discuss Ibexa’s pivot to a digital experience platform provider and how they chose Platform.sh to facilitate that pivot. We also dug into some industry trends that have shown Ibexa’s decision to be a savvy one. (You can watch the full video of our conversation here.)
“A technical partner we can work with.”
Ibexa serves 400 large enterprise customers around the world, including the Financial Times, the Economist, and Groupe Atlantic. It recently changed its name from eZ Systems after switching away from its outdated content management system persona.
“We’re way more than a content management system now,” says Benedetti. He describes Ibexa as a platform for building digital capabilities that allow users to capture data for building new business models and connecting them to other business processes.
Although Ibexa’s current eZ Platform cloud offer, powered by Platform.sh, has driven significant growth for the company, this isn’t their first attempt at launching a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offer. But previous hills proved too steep to climb.
A version of eZ Platform that launched in 2012 as a SaaS offer allowed developers to configure the way it worked. “But we had the wrong positioning strategy,” says Benedetti. “The offer would have worked better had we been competing with Wykes, Squarespace, or Wordpress, but that wasn’t really us or our direction. Our customers were more complex and wanted to build up themselves from the platform.”
So Ibexa tried a different tack. “Our second attempt was to build what we now call a PaaS, with a partner providing data center hardware but no automation layer. We had some similar concepts to the Platform.sh PaaS: our automation was based on Git with quick deployments and a DevOps approach. But it didn't succeed as it was regarded as a side project, without proper funding and with resources still focused at the application level.”
As all good companies do, Ibexa learned from its missteps. “We just didn’t have the systemic knowledge or domain expertise to build a working offer at this complex intersection of application and infrastructure,” admits Bendetti.“So we concluded that we would go faster if we teamed with experts. That’s when we found Platform.sh, a technical partner we could work with!”
“It’s all about speed and value.”
Benedetti outlined the value delivered to its customers by the Platform.sh white label cloud offer. “First, they are now able to more easily develop new digital sales channels and relationships. Second, buyers are much more in control these days, expecting and getting an impeccable, frictionless experience. Third, they get increased business agility and speed.”
He also expanded on the growing customer need for agility and speed. “Nobody quite knows where their digital transformation will take them or where the end point is, so they need agility. It used to take up to 12 months to deliver CMS on-premise, which is too long. Customers need to test new projects in weeks and perhaps change strategy accordingly. It’s all about speed and value.”
When asked about the change in market perception of the eZ Platform product after Ibexa’s introduction of its Platform.sh cloud offer, Benedetti replied, “Our market identity used to be added value for developers and brand owners. Now, we’re going up the ladder, addressing operations, reducing the number of vendors, removing the classic hot potato of whose responsibility it is when things stop working. The customer is now removed from this operational complexity. So we’re speaking more to C-levels as they see us as a more global solution to their transformation efforts.”
Benedetti says the capabilities that Ibexa has gained since launching its Platform.sh white label include:
— Accelerating internal roadmap delivery and therefore winning much bigger deals and winning them earlier. This has had a double whammy effect on revenue and gross margin growth.
— Generating incremental revenue and bigger gross margins and therefore sharply increasing company valuation.
— Gaining insight into customers beyond the DXP target business management persona. C-levels are now taking notice of the lowering of hosting complexity and cost paired with the speeding up of feature delivery.
“You will always need code. And for that you need a PaaS.”
I took the opportunity to ask Bendetti his opinion of the headless CMS movement. “Headless is a very good option,” Benedetti says. “eZ Platform can be used easily with a Node.js front end, for example. The Platform.sh PaaS is critical as it allows our cloud customers to run any technologies they want, but together, and neatly decoupled from the DXP backend.”
On the subject of managing large numbers of sites and brands (what we at Platform.sh call “FleetOps”), Benedetti says, “The PaaS-based cloud offer is a far more suitable standardizing technology for multiple projects. The Financial Times and Groups Atlantic are now able to build individual properties on a single platform to consolidate and rationalize without constraint.”
He adds, “The Platform.sh capabilities for fleet management are great; they resonate well with similar features inside eZ Platform. Service managers can do different things for different brands, some of which are at different levels of maturity but have the same values for cost rationalization, teams, HR, and simplified vendor management. This is working for both Ibexa and customers, especially when we see consolidation and acquisition.”
All of the components and flexibility on offer from Ibexa, combined with the typical enterprise business process environment, requires a development, testing, and deployment platform that allows for many APIs and applications to work together.
“Some customers are still too idealistic,” says Bendetti, “looking for pure SaaS offerings. So we spend time helping them understand that building complex digital experiences inevitably requires code. We empower their development teams to do as little coding as possible, but they will always need code. And for that you need a PaaS.”
This doesn’t mean to say an existing SaaS solution cannot sit comfortably next to a white label PaaS. Platform.sh has software vendor customers who are already selling multi-tenant SaaS to SMB. Their subscribers can easily and seamlessly upgrade their contract to an enterprise grade offer running on a white label version of the application on Platform.sh.
Learn how to launch your own white label
You might think building a business case for making a strategic change similar to what Ibexa undertook would require a team of external consultants. Not true. Having been round this loop several times now, we’re well practiced in walking organizations through the process. We run video and on-site workshops to work out how the transition to a white label cloud offer can be done and what the effect on the rest of the business will be. Companies have found this to be a highly valuable exercise, even those already planning to go out to RFP. Find out more about our workshops here.