Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: February 2007 (Page 2 of 5)

The Web Content Management Blog at the Gilbane Group

Welcome to the Web Content Management blog at the Gilbane Group. I’m Tony White, the moderator of this blog and Lead Analyst for Web Content Management at the Gilbane Group. The WCM blog will serve as a forum for a wide range of business and technical users, enterprises, software vendors, system integrators, consultants, and not-otherwise-specified domain experts/novices to discuss a wide range of topics – from product-specific questions to industry trends, tried-and-true use cases to bleeding-edge technologies, caveats to best practices. A good deal of the conversation will focus on subjects such as Web 2.0, rich internet applications, usability and the user experience, vendor claims, product evaluations, application integration, user training, implementation times, industry-specific practices, regulatory compliance, localization and globalization, digital assets, Web services, content syndication, cost of ownership and return on investment, open source products and strategies, and hosted versus licensed applications – just to name a few. We will undoubtedly discuss products and technologies from vendors such as CrownPeak, Day, EMC/Documentum, IBM, Interwoven, Microsoft, RedDot, Percussion, Stellent, and Vignette, but feel free to make comments about (or from) others as well.

The rules for participation in this blog are roughly the same as those for Frank Gilbane’s CTO blog, which are listed in his July 23, 2006 entry – the exceptions being that you don’t need to be a CTO to make comments and that, while we welcome entries by guest authors, this blog will be authored, assembled, and edited primarily by me. If you would like to begin contributing to the blog, click here to submit a comment or entry.
Cheers!

Which Would You Have? Software as Service or Service with Your Software

I received an unsolicited email from jetBlue yesterday, one of many that I routinely receive from various travel providers. This one was different. I was not one of the thousands stranded by them last week and I have only traveled on jetBlue for one trip. They could have omitted this mea culpa letter to me in hopes that I had not already noticed all the media hype around their operational breakdowns and plans to recover from a faulty infrastructure. However, by calling attention to their lapses in such public ways this week, they have insured that I will include them in future travel planning.

Years ago as the President of a software company, I received a truly disturbing email lashing from a client sent after 6 PM on a Friday. The accusations about my company’s service were vitriolic and uncharacteristic of client reactions. I stayed at the office late gathering all the information I could find from the customer support database to learn what might have precipitated the outburst because I wanted to send a thoughtful, accurate and timely response. Without attacking the client I sent a chronology of inquiries and responses with a copy of a remedy sent to them weeks earlier. Then I went home with hopes that Monday would bring a more constructive dialog between the client and my company. The issues were amicably resolved, the client remained a good client, gave us high marks in referrals, and the matter was never mentioned again.

Unfortunately, personalization of client vendor relationships is missing in too many business relationships. A great amount of marketing copy appears describing how software tools and search interfaces support “personalization.” We know that SaS (software as service) or ASP (application service provider) models have come into their own. We also see the major search software vendors posting record growth and grand projections for even more. What this all adds up to is the convergence of a perfect storm of client disappointment as we experience a total disconnect between what vendors mean by “personalization” and “service,” and what customers want. Customers want software that is intuitively simple to personalize, and service that places the responsibility for software problems squarely with the vendor.

Based on my recent experiences with vendors, I see huge industry problems ahead. These are being exposed at all levels: discussions with sales representatives, exchanges with search company executives, deployment of software issues, documentation and training quality, and exchanges with customer support personnel.
Here is my list of vendor weaknesses:

  • Lack of understanding by company representative how their software works
  • Failure to really understand prospect needs, environments, and requirements
  • Poorly written documentation and training giving no context for how the software might be deployed
  • Technically sophisticated features delivered with no coherent path to deployment
  • Inability to communicate honestly with clients
  • Lack of clarity on what industry standards and terminology mean to clients
  • Failure to use their own products by all employees in vendor organizations
  • Inattention to building quality support infrastructures to service clients

I am not calling for a “customer bill of rights” for the enterprise search software industry. Instead, I am calling for you who procure software to take control of your own experience by doing a lot more than looking under the hood for technical specifications, features and functionality. You need to:

  • Look inside the vendor’s organization to see what kind of personnel it has, what the turnover is, how many people are supporting service functions compared to developers, etc.
  • Listen to what you are being told; do serious validating research, on your own, to discover customers using the software. Talk to as many as you find; look at blogs and chat rooms to discover where the pain points and good experiences lie.
  • Read documentation to understand how much time, effort, and expertise the deployment and maintenance will really require.
  • Test drive products with your own data.

Every search company can’t grow 100% year-over-year for years on end. You will be suffering mightily for a long time if you make a big investment in one of those who ignore the customer experience. There is also a good chance they’ll be sold off to the lowest bidder once they realize their inability to service their clients and remain profitable. Take your destiny in your own hands; take enterprise search on in slow and measured increments so you will know what you are getting into.

Changing of the Guard at CM Pros

Congratulations to Linda Burman, Emma Hamer, Joan Lasselle, and Travis Wissink, newly elected by their peers to serve on the board of directors of Content Management Professionals. They will step in for retiring directors Seth Gottlieb, Erik Hartman, Samantha Starmer, and Scott Abel, who resigned his seat on the board to fill the role of CM Pros executive director. Continuity on the board is provided by current director Mary Laplante, now serving the second year of a two-year term.
CM Pros members will have an opportunity to meet with the directors at the upcoming spring Summit, April 13, in San Francisco following the Gilbane conference on content technologies.

Blogging languages

In my previous entry I wrote about the effect of working in a foreign language. I think that we will see interesting developments in tools and services targeted to people who need to work in a language other than their native language – simply because this is a rapidly growing group. Obviously there are more and more non-native English speakers using English daily at work. But as European call centers relocate to Poland and the Czech Republic, we will also see more people using German as their second language.

An interesting question is: what will happen in China and India? According to Wikipedia, India has 23 official languages (one of them is English), 800 spoken languages and 2000 dialects. In China, there are 6 to 12 main regional groups of Chinese, according to classification. A friend of mine said that China could choose English as their official langauge, just like in India. I am not quite so sure. With about 800 million Mandarin speakers, maybe we will all be learning Mandarin in the future.

Anyways, I checked the most popular blogs from Technorati, . The top 30 “most linked to” blogs included 8 blogs in a language other than English. To me, this is just a reminder that there is a world outside English.

Globalization Business Drivers: Part Deuz

The recording from our February 14th webinar, “Integrating Translation and Content Management Workflows” is now available here. Many thanks to Steve Billings, Senior Solutions Engineer with Idiom Technologies, and David Smith, President of LinguaLinx, for joining me for the conversation and of course, to the participants for attending.

We informally polled participants during our last webinar on globalization business drivers and published the results here. In this webinar, we asked the question again. Here’s the results:

business driver

We also added a new poll specific to integrating translation and content workflows. Here’s the results:

bottleneck
Clearly the subject of this webinar was right on for participants, with 21% citing “integration of CMS (content management systems) and GMS (globalization management systems) as the number #1 headache. The good news is that there are a number of market approaches to cohesive workflow integration for translation processes. We’ve provided details on our definitions of Levels 1-3 here. Steve and David presented a typical customer scenario involving all three integration levels during the webinar. Check it out.

The “2.0” Qualifier and A Reality Check

Last week’s FASTforward 07 event, sponsored by FAST Search, was a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in search and the state of our collective efforts to solve the knotty problems associated with finding information. (The escape to San Diego during an East Coast winter freeze was an added bonus.)

Much of the official program covered topics “2.0” — Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Search 2.0, Transformation 2.0, Back Office 2.0. Regular readers know that the Gilbane team generally approaches most things “2.0” with skepticism. In the case of its use as a qualifier for the Web, it’s not that we question the potential value of bringing greater participation to Web-based interactions. Rather, it’s that use of the term causes the needle on our hype-o-meter to zip into the red alert zone. This reaction is further aggravated by the trend towards appending “2.0” to other words, sometimes just to make what’s old seem new again. We note, without comment, that O’Reilly Media’s conference in May has been dubbed Where 2.0.

We listened carefully to the 2.0’s being tossed out like Mardi Gras coins at FASTforward last week. One voice that stood out as a great reality check is that of Andrew McAfee, associate professor at Harvard Business School. In his keynote talk, “Enterprise 2.0: The Next Disrupter,” he presented a definition of Enterprise 2.0:

Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.

The important word in McAfee’s definition is emergent, which is not the same as emerging. McAfee also outlined the ground rules for an enterprise that can legitimately lay claim to the use of the 2.0 qualifier. Read the FASTforward entries on his blog for his own eloquent summary.

In addition to his talk on Enterprise 2.0, McAfee also participated in a lunch presentation on research conducted by Economist Intelligence Unit on executive awareness of Web 2.0 and in a limited-seating roundtable on 2.0 topics. Both are briefly described on his blog.
In short, McAfee’s work is recommended reading for anyone interested in separating 2.0 market hype from potential business value.

Another highlight of FASTforward for us was keynoter Chris Anderson on “The Long Tail” and the application of Long Tail theories to search and content life cycles. By pure happenstance, the Gilbane team shared a limo to the airport with Anderson. In his day job as editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, he and his staff are experiencing significant levels of frustration with the publishing process — specifically, getting content out of a leading professional publishing tool and into the web content management system. While we found his Long Tail talk interesting, the conversation in the limo reminded us that solving some basic business communication problems is still a challenge. It was a thought-provoking way to end the week.

For more on FASTforward ’07, check out our enterprise search blog.

Don’t Skip this Step: Knowing Your Knowledge Assets and How to Find Them

No matter how small your organization or domain, you are going to need tools to find content sooner than you think. Starting with a small amount of content you should already be thinking about what its purpose is, why you would need to find it again and under what circumstances. Trying to retrofit a search strategy and structure to a mountain of disconnected content, is not only very difficult but it is costly. Waiting means that human intelligence, which could have been applied to organizing content well as the supply grew, must be applied later to get it under control. Adding meaningful context around old but valuable content is a very laborious intellectual process.

Growing an organization successfully means tending to not only the products you are creating and selling. It is also about creating an environment in which your growing work force is well supported with a knowledge framework that keeps them centered and confident that content they need to do their jobs can be found quickly, efficiently and accurately.

I am frequently asked by other consultants if I can give advice on how to organize personal files and records. This is hard to answer because my own methods fall short of where I want to be. But in any new project or venture, I try to get a good sense of how content needs to be organized. I do create metadata using a controlled list of terminology. I also have a couple of search tools that I leverage to produce readings for clients on a special topic, or to put my hands on a specific document, article or Web site. Early stage companies need to think about how to safeguard the results of their work and how it will be made accessible to workers on a reliable basis. There are inexpensive search tools that are great for managing small domains.

Invest in tools, invest in someone to manage the tools, and plan to continue to invest in the resulting infrastructure of people and tools as the organization’s content and needs grow. Content management and search are overhead expenditures you must make early to prepare for growth and sustainability.

That reminds me, I keeping wondering how many enterprise search vendors use the technologies they build and sell to support their rapidly growing enterprises. That’s a great question to ask your potential search vendor as you decide what tools to procure for your enterprise. Get them to tell you how they use their tools and the benefits they see in their own enterprise. If they aren’t at least using their own search technology in their customer relationship management and technical support knowledge-base operations, think carefully about what that might mean concerning ease of deployment and utilization.

OASIS Updates ODF to Version 1.1

OASIS announced that its members have approved version 1.1 of the Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) as an OASIS Standard, a status that signifies the highest level of ratification. The result of a collaboration between advocacy groups for the disabled and open source and commercial software vendors, this new version of the standard provides key accessibility enhancements to ensure that the OpenDocument format (ODF) addresses the needs of people with disabilities. OpenDocument 1.1 supports users who have low or no vision or who suffer from cognitive impairments. The standard not only provides short alternative descriptive text for document elements such as hyperlinks, drawing objects and image map hot spots, it also offers lengthy descriptions for the same objects should additional help be needed. Other OpenDocument accessibility features include the preservation of structural semantics imported from other file formats, such as headings in tables, and associations between drawings and their captions. The new version of OpenDocument reflects the work of the OASIS OpenDocument Accessibility Subcommittee, which is made up of accessibility experts from IBM, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI), RNIB, Sun Microsystems, and others. The Subcommittee’s recommendations were incorporated into the OpenDocument specification by members of the OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee, which includes representatives from Adobe Systems, IBM, Intel, Novell, Sun Microsystems, and others. http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/office/, http://www.oasis-open.org

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