When Limelight Networks bought SaaS web content management (WCM) vendor Clickability in 2011, it united WCM with video streaming and a large, global content delivery network (CDN) to create an offering unlike that of other vendors: Limelight Orchestrate, a multifaceted “digital presence management platform”.

Limelight liked to say marketers and other digital pros could, with a one solution, manage multichannel content and digital experiences including video and shave relevant milliseconds off page-load times and site delivery.

Flash forward to last week. On December 23, Limelight announced the sale of the Clickability WCM business to Upland Software, an Austin, TX, company that, in two years, has added six cloud-based software solutions to its enterprise work management portfolio.  

Limelight says it will focus on “delivery optimization capabilities” – in a word, speed. It’s a change I can follow. Limelight invested in WCM enhancements and pushed “digital presence management” to marketers and technology pros, but WCM revenue never skyrocketed for the publicly traded company. Limelight estimates WCM revenue in 2013 at $13.7 million, according to an SEC filing, a small slice of its $170 million or so annual turnover. For Limelight, the CDN business still rules.

And although the combo of WCM, video streaming and CDN proposed interesting synergies, Orchestrate really seemed to address two markets, or buying centers, in the enterprise. IT and infrastructure pros deal with CDNs (like Limelight, Akamai and EdgeCast) to improve website performance and page-delivery time. A CDN solves a problem. Meanwhile, digital marketers and others who deal with business technology (BT) care about WCM to the extent it helps the business create, manage and deliver personalized digital customer experiences.  A WCM creates opportunities and growth potential.

I’ve yet to dig in with Upland to discuss its plans for Clickability, so my insight there is limited. But in an acquisition-happy market, this acquisition seems different. Every WCM vendor purchase I can think of over the last 4-5 years fits a certain mold. When a WCM company gets acquired, it usually serves as a core foundation for a broader digital customer experience solution offering. That, and WCMs tend to attract marketers and others who care about and can source or influence the purchase of applications for web, mobile and social. For example, Adobe bought Day Software WCM and Oracle bought Fatwire WCM as part of their respective growth strategies in this space.  

Upland’s best-of-breed SaaS products address things like time-sheet tracking, expense management, project management and professional services management – not applications that WCM buyers I speak with are involved in purchasing. I’ll be interested to see whether Upland positions Clickability WCM as just another process/efficiency tool for managing web content in the enterprise. Or, will they hammer home themes that resonate with marketers and others in digital-centric roles (e.g. engage with customers, and personalize and optimize digital customer experiences)?

The other lingering question is: What will happen with SaaS WCM overall? WCM is a notoriously fragmented market, with dozens of viable vendors slicing up the pie in dozens of ways, competing on features, flexibility, programming language, integrations, price, and, yes, delivery model.

Clickability and CrownPeak, the other notable SaaS provider, each have been around for years; each has yearly revenue in the $15 million range, but this market offers far more upside potential than that. Have they missed hot growth opportunities in the WCM market? Or are they about to hit their stride as SaaS-minded buyers sniff them out as they pick a next-gen WCM solution?

I like SaaS in general for a number of reasons, e.g., typically lower first-year investment, seamless upgrade cycles and enhancements, and diversity of integrations with third-party tools. Many enterprise clients tell me they want to source WCM and digital experience applications that can live “anywhere except in our data center.” This shift to “anywhere but here” should be a boon for SaaS vendors. Yet Clickability and CrownPeak, in addition to competing with on-premise WCM vendors, now must also use their SaaS-ness to differentiate against others claiming to offer a flavor of “cloud” or “managed hosting” that can still solve the infrastructure burden.

If you’re a buyer of web content management and digital customer experience solutions, does authentic multitenant SaaS factor into your WCM or overall software application planning? Does your organization take an “anywhere but here” approach to digital experience application delivery? If so, what are you doing about it?