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Author: sliewehr

Should you fly without a pilot?

Last week Andrew McAfee wrote a blog post entitled Drop the Pilot wherein he discusses the challenges associated with piloting Enterprise 2.0 tools, and then arrives at the conclusion that we should abandon pilots altogether for such implementations and go as broad as possible right away.  As much as I hate to, I respectfully disagree.

Call me a cynic, but when I hear suggestions which go against my gut and break some very fundamental principles, such as the need to proactively manage change as well as risk, I tend to stand back and watch others jump off the bridge to see what happens before i even think about stepping to the edge. As technologists, we are innovating at a rapid pace and paradigms are constantly shifting around us, but we need to be cautious about

I do agree that E2.0 projects pose unique challenges, one of which is that their effectiveness is often [but not always] tied proportionally to the number of users in the ‘system’ (e.g. with microblogs…try launching one with only 100 diverse people in your test group and see well it takes off. Hint: it won’t). I also agree that it’s been universally accepted that “pilot” = “small”, and that this characterization, by definition, hinders the chances of success for an E2.0 pilot. But the ‘aha’ here should not be that we should start throwing caution to the wind and launching new tools across our organizations.

4 Predictions [or hopes?] for the WCM Industry in 2010

Given that we’re halfway through January, I figure it’s high time I get around to writing my predictions for the Web Content Management industry in 2010. Let me correct that: these are my hopes for the WCM industry in 2010. I believe there’s enough evidence to support the notion that my desires have a shot at coming to fruition, but I’ve come to grips with the fact that Nostradamus I am not.

I have a long list of both predictions and desires, but I’m focusing on my top 4 since they are all tied to a single theme, are the most likely to come to fruition, and are all driven by what we at Gilbane believe will be one of the four global, cross-industry Megatrends for 2010: Customer Experience. We believe that customer experience has been and will continue to be a significant basis for competitive advantage for all companies, as it defines their relationships with their customers. Experiences are personal, and thus, they must be tailored to the individual. Companies, now more than ever, need to identify (and prioritize!) their customer segments in order to individualize their experiences, and they must consider both stated and latent customer feedback as essential metrics.  ALL interactions with customers then, whether in-person or via the web, must be 1) grounded in an understanding of the customer, and 2) empowered to adapt based on recent feedback. This valuation of customer experience is [finally] starting to raise the bar for the WCM industry…gone are the days when we can get away with merely providing a means of doing more with less. CIOs and CMOs alike are now recalling those long-promised ROI calculations which included increased sales, and they are holding the WCM vendors accountable. If they’re not doing so already, I sure hope they start because the technology has finally caught up to the hype. So, with that said, here goes…

Hope #1: Audience Engagement Frameworks [The almost forgotten promise of WCM]

If you haven’t heard of an Audience Engagement Framework, it’s because I just coined the phrase last week. Hopefully it’s at least partly self-explanatory. AEFs, in my opinion, are the future of marketing on the web. They will enable WCM to realize its full potential. AEFs include traditional WCM combined with web analytics, marketing automation, audience segmentation and dynamic content delivery. Analysts and thought leaders have been discussing the notion of Persuasive Content for a while — the idea that content is tailored to suit the consumer / visitor. The only bit I would add to this is that in order to be persuasive, one must also be perceptive. Perceptive Content, another phrase I’m laying claim to, is that which is informed by visitor behavior via analytics (preferably in real-time), search, user-generated content, etc. AEFs includes both the perceptive and persuasive aspects of content, and a handful of innovative vendors have already released varying degrees of the framework in their products. I fully expect this trend to continue in 2010. And, while some vendors will implement it more wholistically than others, at least we’re not talking about WYSIWYG editors being the biggest leap forward anymore. Or, at least, I’m not.

Hope #2: Search [Tightly integrated and much improved]

In 2009, we saw a mutual interest between the Search and WCM industries as Autonomy purchased Interwoven, Squiz bought Funnelback, and a number of WCM vendors such as Drupal and eZ Systems took major steps to integrate advanced search engines into their products. Many of the newly integrated products include features such as faceted search, auto-complete/suggest, content spotlighting, relevance ranking, and more. As I see it, this was more than just an attempt to improve the usability of their resulting websites in response to an ever-increasing shift towards search as the primary form of navigation. I believe, er, I hope, this trend is an intentional step towards improving a site’s perceptive capabilities. Our ability to understand our audience‘s desires will most certainly be enhanced by attending to their searches, and our ability to manipulate the search results based on the visitor’s (and her associated segment’s) interaction with the website should only improve her [customer] experience which I’ve deemed so imperative above. If my guess is right, today’s notion of search within a website will get a serious upgrade in the year(s) to come.

Hope #3: User-Generated Content [WCM gets even more social!]

User-Generated Content such as micro-blogs, social networking, tagging, commenting, etc. is everywhere.  Many WCM Vendors have offered various UGC features in their products for a while now, but most have not implemented ways for companies to capitalize on the resulting content. As the industry continues to brainstorm ways to monetize the “social” trend, a handful of vendors such as Alterian and Sitecore have begun leveraging this content to improve audience engagement, thus again following suit with my theme from Hope #1. It won’t take long for others to follow.

Hope #4: Globalization [Multi-lingual gets localized in the mainstream]

In the days of old, multi-lingual content capabilities were only promised by specialized vendors. However, as more and more companies are concerned with improving the experiences of their international customer base, a number of mainstream WCM vendors have begun to include these features in their products. With a few exceptions, the capabilities of  most are relatively immature at this point, but 2010 should see an improved understanding of localization by mainstream vendors. The continued enhancement of such features should help to avoid what my colleagues have termed the Language Afterthought Syndrome, and the engaged conversation will be allowed to thrive worldwide.

Well, that’s it.  I’d love to know your thoughts.  We’ll be discussing many concepts related to the Audience Engagement Framework in the Customers & Engagement track at the upcoming Gilbane Conference in San Francisco, so mark your calendars for May 18-20! I also intend to write more on the subject and am just getting underway with some related research, so please stay tuned!

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The Customer-Vendor Conversation: A key to success in WCM

 

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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Getting started on WCM…

You may have heard that I’m the new guy in town, and I’m happy to say this is my first blog post as a member of the Gilbane Group.  I am thrilled to be a part such a well-respected organization, and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work on all things WCM!

A little about me: I’ve been a practitioner and a consultant in the WCM space for over ten years, but I’ve worked for an analyst firm for all of two days.  The good news? I know, first hand, the pains users experience when it comes to web content management.  I empathize with the marketer who knows there must be a way to put all this content to work in her next pull-through campaign, and I sympathize with the Intranet Manager who has been directed to deploy more Web 2.0 tools into the enterprise, even in the absence of a business case. [I’m not a Web 2.0-basher, by the way.] I consider myself a passionate user advocate, and if I’m true to myself (and to you) I’ll continue to bring that perspective to all of my work here at Gilbane.

To continue my let-me-tell-you-about-me schtick, here are a few random thoughts that come to mind which will hopefully provide further insight into my philosophy as it relates to WCM:

  • Usability has become a commodity; It’s time for vendors to stop bragging about it and for users to stop accepting anything less.
  • Technology for the sake of technology leads to dissatisfaction every time.
  • “What problem am I trying to solve?” — If you can’t answer this, stop what you’re doing.
  • Technology won’t change human nature…but it will amplify it!
  • You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing…there’s a good chance they’ll fail anyway.
  • “Grassroots” applications require more planning, not less.
  • User research is never a bad idea… but don’t just ask them, watch them.

And finally,

  • If we spent as much time crafting strategies as writing RFPs and selecting tools, we’d achieve a much higher ROI.

So that’s it for now. I look forward to writing more on these pages and hope you’ll chime in with your thoughts and reactions.

 

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