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Tag: system integrators

Additional Gilbane Conference workshops posted

Gilbane conference lightbulb logo

We’ll be posting the complete program for this years’ Gilbane Conference over the next 2-3 weeks on the main conference website. The afternoon workshops are below.

Workshop D. Adaptive Content Modeling for Omnichannel UX

Speaker: Noz Urbina, Consultant and Founder, Urbina Consulting

Thursday, December, 4: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Your users need you to come to this session, even if they don’t know it. Multi-channel, or “COPE (create once, publish everywhere)”, content is a bit of a holy grail. Our trade is discussing content being freed from the browser, available for reuse, and accessible in apps, kiosks, responsive mobile deliverables, eBooks and syndication services to our partners – even in wearable technologies. All this should improve the experience of users, and benefit the organizations that serve them. Adaptive content is content that is nimble enough to realize all these ambitions. But making our content adaptive means addressing a topic that sends many running for the fire exit or nearest window: semantic modeling of structured content. This session will connect the dots between adaptive content, responsive design, multi-channel delivery and user experiences to show you why you want and even need to have semantic content structures. It will then go through a non-terrifying introduction to getting started with modeling your own content in a future-proof way. Learning objectives:

  1. The knowledge that their content is already more structured than they realize.
  2. A solid sense of what semantic, structured content actually is and its relationship to adaptive content, multichannel, and UX.

This workshop is designed for either intermediate or expert attendees. Bring your laptop and go home with samples and templates.

Workshop E. CMS Implementations: The View from the Implementor’s Side

Speaker: Deane Barker, Director of Business Development, Blend Interactive

Thursday, December, 4: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Ever wanted to know how CMS integration shops approach projects, and how you can better work with them or use their techniques in your own organization? In this workshop, Deane Barker will explain the ins and outs of CMS project work from the perspective of a veteran integrator, with the goal of helping you understand how best to find an integrator, work with your chosen integrator, or manage your project and team. Learn about how integrators:

  • Evaluate RFPs
  • Develop proposals
  • Scope projects
  • Schedule work
  • Manage client expectations
  • Plan implementations
  • Select software
  • Execute and manage development
  • Support existing implementations

Workshop F. What’s it Worth? Assessing the ROI of your Content

Speaker: Lindy Roux, VP, Content Marketing and Strategy, Rauxa

Thursday, December, 4: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

No matter how well researched and deliberate your content strategy is, the proof lies in the pudding and the most successful content professionals continually evaluate the effectiveness of their content and adapt their strategies to improve the return. Too often, content is evaluated or audited only when a major digital shift is in play (a move to a new CMS, a new marketing automation tool, a new campaign launch.) In order to be truly successful, that evaluation should be ongoing, providing the opportunity to learn from past content marketing successes and failures. Lindy Roux will demonstrate an approach to content evaluation across multiple channels, based on qualitative and quantitative assessments, which has been used to help organizations understand the true ROI of a piece of content. The session will end with a practical exercise in content evaluation where participants will try their hand at developing assessment criteria and then applying these to real content. Participants in the session will learn:

  • How to establish content goals that are measurable and realistic
  • A way to evaluate content against these goals
  • How to establish a regular review workflow and process
  • An approach to optimization across all channels
  • The appropriate team structure for ongoing content performance

Making Search Play Well with Content Solutions

In keynote sessions at the recent Gilbane Boston Conference, three speakers in a row made points about content management solutions that are also significant to selection and implementation of enterprise search. Here is a list of paraphrased comments.

  • From Forrester analyst, Stephen Powers were these observations: 1. The promise has been there for years for an E (enterprise)CM suite to do everything but the reality is that no one vendor, even when they have all the pieces, integrates them well. 2. Be cautious about promises from vendors who claim to do it all; instead, focus on those who know how to do integration.
  • Tony Byrne of the Real Story Group observed about Google in the enterprise that they frequently fail because Google doesn’t really understand “how work gets done in the enterprise.”
  • Finally, Scott Liewehr of the Gilbane Group stated that a services firm selection is more important than the content management system application selection.

Taken together these statements may not substantiate the current state of the content management industry but they do point to a trend. Evidence is accruing that products and product suppliers must focus on playing nice together and work for the enterprise. Most tend not to do well, out-of-the-box, without the help of expertise and experts.

Nominally, vendors themselves have a service division to perform this function but the burden falls on the buyer to make the “big” decisions about integration and deployment. The real solution is waiting in the wings and I am increasingly talking to these experts, system integrators. They come in all sizes and configurations; perhaps they don’t even self-identify as system integrators, but what they offer is deep expertise in a number of content software applications, including search.

Generally, the larger the operation the more substantial the number and types of products with which they have experience. They may have expertise in a number of web content management products or e-commerce offerings. A couple of large operations that I have encountered in Gilbane engagements are Avalon Consulting, and Search Technologies, which have divisions each specializing in a facet of content management including search. You need to explore whether their strengths and expertise are a good fit with your needs.

The smaller companies specialize, such as working with several search engines plus tools to improve metadata and vocabulary management so content is more findable. Specialists in enterprise search must still have an understanding of content management systems because those are usually the source of metadata that feed high quality search. I’ve recently spoken with several small service providers whose commentaries and case work illustrate a solid and practical approach. Those you might want to look into are: Applied Relevance, Contegra Systems, Findwise, KAPS Group, Lucid Imagination, New Idea Engineering, and TNR Global.

Each of these companies has a specialty and niche, and I am not making explicit recommendations. The simple reason is that what you need and what you are already working on is unique to your enterprise. Without knowledge of your resources, special needs and goals my recommendations would be guesses. What I am sharing is the idea that you need experts who can give value when they are the right experts for your requirements.

The guidance here is to choose a search services firm that will move you efficiently and effectively along the path of systems integration. Expertise is available and you do not need to struggle alone knitting together best-of-breed components. Do your research and understand the differentiators among the companies. High touch, high integrity and commitment for the long haul should be high on your list of requirements – and of course, look for experience and expertise in deploying the technology solutions you want to use and integrate.

Next month I’ll share some tips on evaluating possible service organizations starting with techniques for doing research on the Web.

Open Source Search & Search Appliances Need Expert Attention

Search in the enterprise suffers from lack of expert attention to tuning, care and feeding, governance and fundamental understanding of what functionality comes with any one of the 100+ products now on the market. This is just as true for search appliances, and open source search tools (Lucene) and applications (Solr). But while companies licensing search out-of-the-box solutions or heavily customized search engines have service, support and upgrades built-in into their deliverables, the same level of support cannot be assumed for getting started with open source search or even appliances.

Search appliances are sold with licenses that imply some high level of performance without a lot of support, while open source search tools are downloadable for free. As speakers about both open source and appliances made perfectly clear at our recent Gilbane Conference, both come with requirements for human support. When any enterprise search product or tool is selected and procured, there is a presumed business case for acquisition. What acquirers need to understand above all else is the cost of ownership to achieve the expected value. This means people and people with expertise on an ongoing basis.

Particularly when budgets are tight and organizations lay off workers, we discover that those with specialized skills and expertise are often the first to go. The jack-of-all-trades, or those with competencies in maintaining ubiquitous applications are retained to be “plugged in” wherever needed. So, where does this leave you for support of the search appliance that was presumed to be 100% self-maintaining, or the open source code that still needs bug fixes, API development and interface design-work?

This is the time to look to system integrators and service companies with specialists in tools you use. They are immersed in the working innards of these products and will give you better support through service contracts, subscriptions or labor-based hourly or project charges than you would have received from your in-house generalists, anyway.

You may not see specialized system houses or service companies listed by financial publications as a growth business, but I am going to put my confidence in the industry to spawn a whole new category of search service organizations in the short term. Just-in-time development for you and lower overhead for your enterprise will be a growing swell in 2009. This is how outsourcing can really bring benefits to your organization.

Post-post note – Here is a related review on the state-of-open source in the enterprise: The Open Source Enterprise; its time has come, by Charles Babcock in Information Week, Nov. 17, 2008. Be sure to read the comments, too.