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Tag: web engagement

New Paper: Taking Online Engagement to the Cloud

I am pleased to say that my third paper for Outsell’s Gilbane Group was published yesterday, in which I return to thinking about cloud computing and the benefits it offers for deploying web experience and engagement technologies.

Titled Taking Online Engagement to the Cloud this short beacon paper looks to provide a guide to digital marketers, senior IT folks and business analysts faced with the decision to deploy these technologies outside the server room. In it we set out to answer the following questions:

  • What do we mean by the cloud? There is a great deal of hype, sales, and marketing messaging around “the cloud.” We explore what it really is and the opportunities it represents for digital marketers.
  • What are the deployment options when working with a cloud platform partner? The decision around deploying to the cloud is not always a binary choice to host in the server room or not. We look at possible solution architecture options and the benefits of each.
  • What do organizations need to look for in a WEM solution in the cloud? If deploying into the cloud is an attractive option for an organization, we consider the key attributes that organizations should build into their selection criteria when choosing a solution.

As with all of our papers, once you register you can download it for free from the Beacon area of our website. While you are there, I suggest taking a look at our Whitepapers section, scrolling down a little to the Engage Me! paper by Mary Laplante. I think it’s a great introduction to our research on the business practice of web engagement and web experience.

I hope you enjoy the paper and I’d very much like to hear your feedback – either here or you can find me on Twitter (@iantruscott)

The paper was sponsored by FatWire and we are looking forward to joining them on a webinar to explore this subject further – follow us on Twitter for an announcement on that. 

Into the Engagement Tier…

Recently I wrote an article for my blog – Taking the W out of CMS – exploring content management and content delivery as separate disciplines and this is a follow up to that article.

To summarize that article – firstly, to know me professionally, is to know that when it comes to the tribes of CMS folks, I am firmly in the WCM tepee.

Secondly, I disagreed the first time this discussion rolled around, as the millennium clicked over – we were all going to use portal platforms and content management functionality would be in our application server infrastructure (we don’t and it didn’t).

Thirdly, the difference between the systems we are building for tomorrow and then – our digital engagement activities were single threaded following a website groove and the end was very much the driver for the means.

For the mainstream CMS industry it was a web site centric world and in most projects and applications the term ‘CMS’ was interchangeable with ‘WCM’. Today we have a fragmented communication channel; it’s the age of the ‘splinternet’ (in this context, a term coined by Josh Bierhoff), delivering relevant content consistently to multiple places.

This not just devices – our websites are less the single and only web destination, folks consume information about our products and services from other web destinations like Facebook and Twitter (to name two). Plus, of course the needs of customer, consumer and citizen engagement means that we can chuck in multiple touch points, in e-mail, call centres and real life.

We used to get ourselves worked up about ‘baking’ or ‘frying’ content management/delivery applications, about decoupled systems that produce pages and dynamic content – but (as I said in response to a comment on my original blog post) today’s consumer wants super dynamic content fresh caught that day, prepared their way, hot off the griddle – Teppanyaki served to share – family style.

So, we have a new level of complexity and requirements for our systems to support our digital marketers and communicators. A level of complexity of requirements that sits between our content repository and our consumer, which used to be the section of the RFP that simply said “must produce compliant HTML”.

When talking about delivery of content, this is typically where our requirement starts to gain some uniqueness between projects.

The question is, so you have your well-ordered, neatly filed, approved content – but what are you going to use it for?

A requirement for an approval process supported by workflow is fairly ubiquitous – but if you are a membership organisation that engages its audience over email or a consumer packaged goods company with fifty products and a YouTube channel – your Engagement Tier requirements are going to be quite diverse.

This diversity in requirements means two things to me.

1. As an industry we are very good at understanding, defining and capturing CMS requirements – but how are we at identifying, understanding and communicating an organisations engagement needs?

2. If there are diverse requirements, then there are different solutions – and right now it’s is a blend of dynamic web content delivery, marketing automation, campaign management, email, web analytics (etc. etc.) – There is no silver vendor bullet – no leader, no wave, no magic quadrant – its different strokes for different folks.

It’s this that I want to explore, how do we define those needs and how do we compare tools?

So, into the Engagement Tier – my colleagues here at Gilbane challenged me to draw it. Hmm.. right now it’s a box of content, a big arrow and then the consumer.

I am going to need to work on that…

 

Engage with a Persuasive Web Experience

Hi, I’m Ian Truscott and as you may have seen I’ve recently joined our WCM practice (you can get a bit of introduction to me here) – I am pleased to say this is my first blog post (hopefully of many) for Gilbane.

It’s an exciting time for this segment of the CMS industry and to be joining Gilbane and I am looking forward to sharing my passion for web engagement – hence the unashamedly buzz word laden title.

Depending on the commentator; we are either in a social media age, or we are post the social media revolution – in either case the Internet is no longer an extension of the traditional passive consumption media channels, it is a place where information and brand consumers get involved.

In fact, folks are now arguing that it’s no longer ‘social’ it’s just ‘media’ – the way we create, consume and socialize content has changed forever and for everyone. And of course, there is so much of it – how do you make your message stick?

This has mean’t a shift in focus for our industry, we’ve seen the age of the IT developers platform, been through the focus on ‘easy to use’ for content contributors to now – where being audience centric has become mainstream thinking (and a business imperative).

This has spawned a number of descriptions for this extension of WCM and the tools and practices we need to apply to become audience centric, including Persuasive Content, Web Experience Management, Customer Engagement or Web Engagement.

All of these have something in common; a cycle of listening to the audience, understanding their needs and behaviour, using that to create and optimize content and some form of relevance based delivery.

At it’s simplest, from a tools perspective – it’s the intersection of WCM, web analytics and personalized delivery. But it gets more complex,  with the inclusion of social media, CRM, marketing automation, e-mail, mobile delivery, auto-categorization, search – this list can go on.

Yes, you can throw the kitchen sink at this one – but software and industry best practices are being aligned, for sound business reasons and they are aligning behind the audience, the citizen, the consumer.. you in fact.

I’m going to finish on a couple of quotes from Frank Gilbane – from the foreword to ‘Web Engagement’ by Bill Zoellick (a book I’ve enjoyed for a while):

The most unique characteristic of the web is in the way that it changes the relationship between your business and it’s customers.

You will not be able to take advantage … and know your customers without engaging them in a way that encourages them to share information with you. 

Engaging your customers requires understanding the new tools and data that are available and applying them in a way that nurtures a new level of trust. 

Not just saying that to be nice to the boss (although it can’t do any harm!), or to point out that the book was authored by a Gilbane alumnus – I think the most relevant part of the quote is the date that Frank wrote that foreword – it was February 2000.

Hence my excitement in joining Gilbane, a firm that has a great, long standing pedigree as an authority on web engagement, which is, as I say, my passion and I look forward to the privilegeof contributing to that.

Interested in reading more on Web Engagement? – I suggest reading this White Paper by Mary Laplante or check out our guide for marketers at Gilbane San Francisco – where our speakers will be discussing a lot of the subjects I touch on here.  

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!

Follow me on Twitter: @sliewehr

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