Joe Toppe

My Thoughts on the IBM/HCL Deal

December 12, 2018 / Jochen Toppe / Disruption, eCommerce

You may have heard the announcement: IBM and HCL Technologies recently reached an agreement where a whole bunch of IBM software ends up in HCL’s hands, including IBM Commerce.

Here are my thoughts on this, starting with a simple truth.

eCommerce technology has commoditized.

A lot of system integrators have been making serious money building out eCommerce platforms (since Hybris, Oracle, and IBM implementations don’t come cheap). But with the shift to “headless” commerce engines – especially SaaS-based ones – building a custom back-end to manage your catalog and transactions is no longer worth the spend. In fact, SaaS-based models where you pay for service invocations as you use them are the future.

Companies such as Commerce Tools or Elastic Path are taking the lead. And even Hybris has been experimenting with YaaS (SAP Hybris as a Service) for a while.

Of course, you can always build your own eCommerce engine. But why would you spend precious engineering cycles on building microservices that you can get for pennies elsewhere (not to mention having to pay someone to scale, maintain, and secure them)? ’d much rather invest in differentiating the brand.

eCommerce vendors will also need to re-think their revenue sharing-based pricing models – I anticipate Salesforce announcing something in 2019 – and I’m sure that scares them. But I would venture this is at least one of the big reasons behind the HCL/IBM announcement.

Focus on Customer Experience

Adobe Experience Manager implementations have become a staple of agency business, with major players building $100M+ annual businesses out of it. I’ve done my share of them, but the lack of flexibility and agility in the platform are what compelled me to take over product strategy at CoreMedia five years ago, where we successfully created a product to address these limitations.

We built the first version of our eCommerce-enabled CMS jointly with IBM (one reason why the ecosystem is still dear to me) and have since added plug-ins for all the main commerce engines. However, rather than building out yet another CMS solution seeking to “own the experience,” we focused on agility – breaking the transformation to an experience-led storefront down into manageable increments.


Well, first, we made sure all integration scenarios come ready to go, right out of the box. Just snap the CMS into your existing storefront to start managing content and go live in a few weeks. Show value to your business users.

Then, behind the scenes, you can start moving homepages, CLPs, PDPs, and pages over to the CMS in increments, running the CMS and the eCommerce store side-by-side.

Finally, in the end state, the CMS can own the entire experience and the back-end eCommerce engine will be purely headless. If desired, you can easily swap it out or you can run multiple engines in parallel without the end user ever noticing.

So here’s the upshot: CMS is the big winner. And also: eCommerce agencies and system integrators need to double down on their CMS skills. That’s where the differentiation and the user experiences of tomorrow will be created. Because eCommerce platforms are commoditizing into a services-based layer. This deal between IBM and HCL confirms that.

Are you ready for the transformation?

Joe Toppe

Joe Toppe

Vice President Sales and Customer Success Americas

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Jochen Toppe is responsible for sales and customer success in America. His mission is to grow CoreMedia’s business with more highly successful customers, and make working with CoreMedia a delight for our customers and partners. He was previously in charge of Product Management at CoreMedia in Hamburg, shaping the strategic development of the company’s key offerings and corporate partnerships. Jochen joined CoreMedia from Razorfish, one of the world’s largest interactive agencies, where he helped develop Fluent™, a SaaS platform providing global enterprise marketing clients a turnkey solution to target, distribute and manage multi-channel digital campaigns and experiences. As a CoreMedia veteran, Jochen worked with CoreMedia’s professional services team, where he spearheaded implementations of numerous large-scale projects, including some of the largest traffic portals still running on CoreMedia today such as T-Online. Jochen earned a Master of Science in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

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