Open Text Corporation (NASDAQ: OTEX, TSX: OTC) announced a new release of its enterprise portal solution, Vignette Portal version 8.0. Vignette Portal 8.0 simplifies the administration and creation of dynamic, content-rich Web sites with the ability to rapidly syndicate portal applications across Web properties powered by multiple systems. Portal 8.0 enables additional social media capabilities that align with Open Text’s development of Enterprise 2.0 solutions. Open Text recently announced that it plans to enhance its ECM Suite with Web solutions powered by technology from its existing Web Solutions and Vignette. Vignette Portal 8.0, together with the user experience foundation of Vignette Community Applications, provides organizations with more than 100 social portlets that add capabilities such as wikis, blogs, idea sharing and event calendars to any portal site. Additionally, Vignette Portal 8.0 provides user presentation services to the upcoming Vignette Content Management version 8.0 release, slated for Q4 2009. Vignette Portal 8.0 is available immediately. http://www.vignette.com, http://www.opentext.com/
Having gotten my feet [soaking] wet with briefings from Web Content Management vendors, I’ve come to a realization: the Customer-Vendor feedback loop is one of the strongest keys to long-term success for all parties. A blinding flash of the obvious? I don’t think so. Let me explain…
I have seen, and written, a lot of RFPs seeking “the perfect” WCM product. The natural tendency in these “quests for the holy grail” is for the tool-seeker to list as many WCM features as one might possibly use […maybe…at some point in the future… if only…] and for the vendors to respond, in turn, by listing all of their capabilities and feature sets. As one might imagine, this scenario typically results in responses which provide the decision-maker minimal product differentiation information. Why? Because like it or not, most WCM products offer similar feature sets, and if they don’t offer a particular feature today, one can be sure it’s “on the roadmap”. [I’ll spend more time in a future post describing how one can craft an RFP to elicit valuable responses which actually help one decide which product(s) align most closely with needs of the author.] But today’s capabilities are tomorrow’s old news, so how can one be sure they’re selecting a vendor whose product will meet tomorrow’s needs? Take a look at the vendor’s track record and approach to collaborating with customers to expand and hone its offering.
As I delve into some of the top-rated [by users] WCM vendors, I see a consistent “customer-is-key” theme being played out in the form of both formal and informal feedback channels. These “conversations” with customers can be either synchronous or asynchronous, direct or indirect, two-way or multi-way…or all of the above. The point is that successful vendors [pro]actively engage their customers, and then respond in a meaningful manner to enhance their offering in a way that ensures that the product’s “roadmap” is *always* aligned with the needs of both current and future customers.
In a recent briefing with a vendor [who I feel has a great approach to managing this feedback loop], the last slide in their presentation listed four of their key differentiators…but all of them were technology-related and failed to mention my aforementioned favorite. Why not? Is it because they aren’t proud of this factor? Absolutely not…they are very proud of it and have worked hard to create such a valuable dialog with their customers. My sense is they left it out because this subject is not yet a key criteria in the minds of decision-makers.
We are failing to ask the right questions. Why wouldn’t customer service and engagement be the key in such a huge purchase decision? It should. Innovation is essential, but I believe it is critical that we, the customers, ensure we have a place at the table to refine the direction of such innovation. After all, innovation without purpose or utility is useless.
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Talk about a trip down memory lane… Another excellent blog post yesterday by my friend and fellow Babson College alum, Sameer Patel, snapped me back a few years and gave me that spine tingling sense of deja vu.
Sameer wrote about how the market for Enterprise 2.0 software may evolve much the same way the enterprise portal software market did nearly a decade ago. I remember the consolidation of the portal market very well, having actively shaped and tracked it daily as an analyst and consultant. I would be thrilled if the E2.0 software market followed a similar, but somewhat different direction that the portal market took. Allow me to explain.
When the portal market consolidated in 2002-2003, some cash-starved vendors simply went out of business. However, many others were acquired for their technology, which was then integrated into other enterprise software offerings. Portal code became the UI layer of many enterprise software applications and was also used as a data and information aggregation and personalization method in those applications.
I believe that much of the functionality we see in Enterprise 2.0 software today will eventually be integrated into other enterprise applications. In fact, I would not be surprised to see that beginning to happen in 2010, as the effects of the recession continue to gnaw at the business climate, making it more difficult for many vendors of stand-alone E2.0 software tools and applications to survive, much less grow.
I hope that the difference between the historical integration of portal technology and the coming integration of E2.0 functionality is one of method. Portal functionality was embedded directly into the code of existing enterprise applications. Enterprise 2.0 functionality should be integrated into other applications as services. Service-based functionality offers the advantage of writing once and using many times. For example, creating service-based enterprise micro-messaging functionality (e.g. Yammer, Socialcast, Socialtext Signals, etc.) would allow it to be integrated into multiple, existing enterprise applications, rather than being confined to an Enterprise 2.0 software application or suite.
The primary goals of writing and deploying social software functionality as services are: 1) to allow enterprise software users to interact with one another without leaving the context in which they are already working, and 2) to preserve the organization’s investment in existing enterprise applications. The first is important from a user productivity and satisfaction standpoint, the second because of its financial benefit.
When the Enterprise 2.0 software market does consolidate, the remaining vendors will be there because they were able to create and sell:
- a platform that could be extended by developers creating custom solutions for large organizations,
- a suite that provided a robust, fixed set of functionality that met the common needs of many customers, or
- a single piece or multiple types of service-based functionality that could be integrated into either other enterprise application vendors’ offerings or deploying organizations’ existing applications and new mashups
What do you think? Will history repeat itself or will the list of Enterprise 2.0 software vendors that survived the impending, inevitable market consolidation consist primarily of those that embraced the service-based functionality model?