IBM has announced that it has entered an agreement to purchase Unica in a cash transaction worth approximately $480 million. As followers of SiriusDecisions are aware, we've been predicting the consolidation of the marketing automation platform (MAP) space for some time. While other acquisitions have occurred, albeit it on a smaller scale (even taking into account Oracle's purchase of Market2Lead's IP), this could be the tipping point we've been predicting. It's easy to overstate the potential for consolidation, given the relatively small size of the marketing automation platform market, but other vendors have certainly been shopping themselves and have most likely been pricing themselves out of consideration.
So what of this acquisition? IBM has been using Unica internally, and standardized on it as their marketing automation platform worldwide in 2009. While the timeline to complete such an enterprise implementation is long, IBM clearly saw the value of Unica's capabilities and the opportunity to enter the marketing automation game. In addition to its marketing automation solution, Unica is one of the leaders of what we call Marketing Operations Management (others call it MRM), which handles planning, budgeting, scheduling, asset management, and a host of other operations capabilities. Unica also has a Web analytics product, but IBM already has solutions in this area. According to IBM, it's the operations and marketing automation platform functionality they were after to bolster its own ability to offer an automated, cross-channel marketing solution along with key marketing process and operations capabilities.
This acquisition is positive and gives marketing automation platform customers a strong choice; it remains to be seen whether this is an enterprise choice only or if it will be palatable to smaller customers as well. The implementation portion of adopting a marketing automation platform (whether on-demand or not) is something few marketing organizations have the stomach for. Given that the marketing automation platform market consists of relatively small vendors, who have had to rely increasingly on their emerging partner networks as the pace of clients they need to install has outpaced their internal resources capabilities, the combination of Unica/IBM technology along with IBM's vast services groups could help accelerate marketing automation platform adoption, certainly for larger organizations. So will this acquisition start a domino effect? Most likely, but the row of dominoes is fairly short. The real question is will those seeking to acquire a similar vendor buy one that offers the full complement of operations, analytics and marketing automation platform capabilities (such as Aprimo or Neolane) or one that focuses on the marketing automation platform side (such as Eloqua, Marketo, Silverpop or Manticore Technology)?
Jonathan Block is Vice President and Practice Director, Technology, at SiriusDecisions. He has developed key models and frameworks that enable b-to-b organizations to understand, evaluate and implement appropriate marketing and sales technologies, as well as advised executive clients on the role of technology to help drive sales and marketing integration and enterprise alignment. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @jblock.