Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: September 2006 (Page 1 of 2)

Just What Does “Web Customer Experience” Mean, Anyway?

As analysts and consultants, we see the phrase “web customer experience” everywhere — in vendor briefings, supplier positioning statements, service offerings from integrators, RFPs issued by enterprise adopters. With such ubiquitous use, just what does “web customer experience” mean these days?
We all have web experiences when buying music, paying bills, booking travel, accessing our corporate intranets. We all have stories about experiences that are good, bad, and just plain ugly. What separates the experiences that satisfy from those that don’t?

On October 12, we address this issue in a web event on content relevancy as the core requirement for good online experiences. In a panel discussion format, Jeff Ernst (FatWire), Bryant Shea (Molecular), and Paul Sonderegger (Endeca) talk about what it takes to serve up relevant content that satisfies customers while meeting the needs of the business.

We’re also exploring content relevancy in a Gilbane Boston session entitled “Creating High-Value Customer Experience” on Thursday, November 30.

Whether you’re attending the webinar or the conference, we invite your questions and comments on good online experiences and the role of content. Send mail to mary@gilbane.com or post a comment to this entry.

It’s Composition User Group Season

I’m a firm believer in the value of user groups. I think that they are most valuable when the user community has enough energy to manage them independently from the software publisher. This is rare and getting rarer in the composition software industry.

In the absence of an independent user group, and not to be confused with same, many vendors sponsor User Conferences, which are great opportunities to mingle with other users and see presentations on “real life product implementations” albeit under the watchful eye of the vendor.

A number of vendors have their 2006 user conferences coming up in the Autumn:

Today and tomorrow GMC Software Technology will be hosting its 1st Annual International User Conference in Prague, the Czech Republic. No word yet on plans for another US based user conference. (Prague is gorgeous this time of year – wish I could go!)

Isis Papyrus will hold their Users Conference on October 2 and 3 in Dallas. (I’ll actually be presenting at that event on some of the latest trends in composition tools that are of interest to the print service bureau market. Look me up if you’re there)

On October 16 – 18 in San Diego Document Sciences will hold their annual conference, now dubbed “xCelerate North America 2006.”

Exstream Software will hold their Annual User Conference in Lexington Kentucky from October 22 – 25 and is currently blasting the user community with printed and electronic invitations to attend. I think I could paper the cafeteria with the invitations my firm has received! (Yes, we’re registered – please stop!) They will also be holding a User Group meeting during the event.

If you are aware of any other upcoming user conferences, please post.

If you are currently evaluating composition tools, user conferences are a great way of getting information somewhat independently from the sales rep. If there is an actual user group meeting at the conference, this is a great way of gauging customer satisfaction and vendor responsiveness. I highly recommend attending user conferences when shopping for products.

If you don’t have the opportunity to join a user group or attend a conference, some other good resources are the various product communities on Yahoo Groups as well as the always “infotaining” UK based site run by Mike Gatiss.

In all of these forums please let people know what you REALLY think about the products you use. If you don’t air the problems, the vendors don’t fix them and the next guy gets sold the same problems. Some firms are hesitant to publicly reference any shortcomings in the products they purchase, as if the problems reflected on them instead of the vendor. Every product has room for improvement and every software user can probably learn something new about the products they own.

Connect! Share! Learn! ‘Tis the season.

ECM/BPM: More Than Simple Workflow Update

For those of you interested in the conversation about defining more than simple workflow, the WS-BPEL 2.0 Specification public review period started on September 10 and ends November 9. (HTML version)

Microsoft architect John Evdemon is the co-chair of this OASIS committee and has all related links for the specification on his Loosely Coupled Thinking blog. Bruce Silver’s BPMS Watch, Ismael Ghalimi’s IT/Redux, and the BPEL section of ITtoolbox Blogs are good sources for perspective.

What is Document Composition?

Your definition of “document composition” will largely depend on your perspective.

A graphic designer might immediately think of Quark Express or Adobe InDesign. A desktop publisher could probably name various plug-ins to those environments or perhaps list database-publishing tools like Corel Ventura or Adobe PageMaker. If you are approaching this question from an operations, IT or print production perspective you have a much longer and more granular continuum of needs which can only be met with high volume composition software. In my work, I deal with both ends of the continuum from the graphic designer to the high-volume output specialist (see www.ArtPlusTechnology.com)

Composition products range in their ability to design documents from static to dynamic, and it can be generally stated that the more dynamic the document, the less fine control you have of layout, layering and color management. Beyond static page layout and database publishing tools are two categories of composition solution that begin to bring marketing, operations and IT needs together.

  • Variable Data Print (VDP): tools geared to one-to-one print marketing primarily targeted at print shops with digital presses

High Volume or Transactional Composition: the “big rigs.” These are the tools that use business rules to transform data into dynamic documents for a variety of print and electronic media.
The high-volume composition products did not start off with even a tip of the hat to marketing. The long-time leaders evolved from one of four major categories:

  • Report Writers – high volume sys out and other reports of which statements & transaction confirmations were once considered a part. Example Metavante CSF circa 1990
  • Typesetters or Page Layout – These products were focused on batch creation of forms documents that needed fine typographic control along with merged text. Example: Document Sciences Compuset (ne XICS) circa 1990
  • Assembly Tools – these tools were typically used in concert with page layout tools and provided the rules-based merge engine to bring together various forms and other resource to create policies, contracts and the like. Example: DocuCorp DocuMerge cira 1985
  • Correspondence – rule based correspondence generation often linked by a user interface to call-center or sales personnel. Example: Napersoft circa 1989. Major players who have been producing composition software since the early 1990’s or before include:

These days, many of the leaders are sunsetting their traditional products and launching new products that attempt to serve all four categories and drive output to both print and online channels. More and more, the desire to reach marketing users (and their budgets) is driving their product requirements.

Some of the key developments in the evolution of these products since the early 1990’s include the introduction of proportional fonts, data-driven graphics, graphical user interfaces (most of these tools did not have UI’s when first introduced), marketing campaign and message tools, post-processing tools for intelligent sorting and postal management. Some of the many tools that have established themselves in the market since the late 90’s include:

While these products are trying to serve broader audiences and layer more and more into their solutions, new players are emerging that go back to the approach of trying to do one thing well. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not clear what that one thing is. With no slight to their products intended, I find it challenging to place tools like XMPie and PageFlex into the continuum above. There are many other products that are not listed here that are targeted to very specific document types or vertical industries. I will drill down on some of those in future entries.

Meanwhile, I would be interested in feedback on the products that you are most familiar with and how you categorize them.
Elizabeth

CM Pros and Content for Latino Markets

Are you a content management professional with experience in content globalization for Latino audiences?

The CM Pros program committee for the Fall 2006 Summit is seeking a knowledgeable participant (consultant or enterprise user) who can discuss cultural issues and technical challenges associated with creating, managing, and delivering content for one of the world’s fastest growing populations. Forum could be panel, workshop, or roundtable. The CM Pros Fall Summit takes place 27 November 2006 in Boston. Send mail to CM Pros board member Mary Laplante (mary@gilbane.com) to learn more.

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