Enterprise technology buyers are moving rapidly to adopt strategies and software to support digital experience (DX) initiatives. And with good reason: Forrester research shows that one of the last remaining areas for differentiation is the ability to provide compelling, engaging user experiences through digital channels. Your customers demand it, and your competition is probably already there (or well on their way).
The road to get there is replete with challenges covering the gamut of people, processes, and technology. For technology buyers seeking to adopt DX tools and technologies, it’s a vast but immature market.
Application development and delivery pros, often on the front lines, face a proliferation of legacy and new technology to manage, engage, and measure customer experiences through digital channels—we’re talking Web sites, mobile channels, and many other digital touchpoints.
Here’s a truism: These professionals frequently encounter systems that don’t live up to their promises. They may be too old or inflexible to support rapidly changing requirements. Tech vendors add to the confusion. Some deliver all-encompassing DX suites, which have varying degrees of successful integration. Others provide pointed solutions that may deliver one part of the DX equation well, but rely on integration with third-party systems to provide a full solution.
The challenge for DX professionals is to determine how best to assess, choose, integrate, and apply the right software solutions to meet strategic DX imperatives. Easier said than done, right?
In a recent post, I shot down the myth that you can predict the ratio between web content management license cost and implementation services. (You can read the post here, but the summary is: There is no standard ratio. Like snowflakes, every WCM implementation and digital experience project has its own unique … personality, and cost. It’s not only about the technology.)
But for any application development professional who sources and implements these systems and strategies, you (or your friends in marketing) will inevitably get put on the spot by the person holding the wallet. Their question, “What’s this going to cost us, all-in?” is hard to answer. And no exec wants to hear, “I don’t know.”
We can provide a recipe for turning this question in a productive discussion that lets budget holders understand the Great Unknowns that accompany digital projects.
Costs can balloon for many reasons on a WCM or DX project. Below are just a few reasons in the form of questions. Use them early on in the project/process to educate key stakeholders on the true costs of WCM- or digital-related work – the levers that get pushed and pulled, affecting cost, timeline, and outcomes. It may be your best defense when the money people start asking questions.
Who’s leading your WCM- or digital experience-related services? Will you spend internal IT staff time or money on external agency partners getting something built?
In 1996, a would-be MIT entrepreneur pitched me on this idea: “What if we could package up huge files like engineering drawings and email them to people instead of FedExing them?” I listened politely, but it all seemed a little futuristic to me at a time when even email wasn’t ubiquitous.
Of course, this is exactly the business YouSendIt launched in 2003. The nine-year-old company does this quite simply by using email to send the message and YouSendIt to carry the payload — the gigantic file that you can’t attach to the message directly. The company now has 23 million subscribers; according to Wikipedia, 500,000 of them pay for the privilege.
Today the company announced Workstream by YouSendIt, a set of business enhancements to its evolving set of file services. The goal, in the words of CMO Tony Nemelka, is to give enterprises “systems that extend their line of sight beyond central storage and beyond the firewall.” I found three notable things about this offering:
Integration with Outlook and SharePoint with plugins to make it easy to send and retrieve files. While this may not be unique, the integration is quite intuitive. In the experience of David Michel, CIO for Atlanta-based law firm Burr & Forman, giving employees tools they recognize makes it easier for them to use them. Further, it’s integrated into their common workflows such as eDiscovery.
Enterprise administration tools for user and group management. This is what IT needs in order to provide a business-ready alternative to consumer-focused Dropbox. It’s what drew Michel to the offering. Now, this is not lockbox-type security or administration that you could get from a virtual deal room product from IntraLinks, but it’s enough for email-level security and administration.
ECM vendor Open Text announced this morning that it intends to acquire Vignette, provider of Web and transactional content management technologies. In some circles, the acquisition of Vignette has been a foregone conclusion for many months now. Vignette has been an established player for years, with an impressive customer base. But the company’s missteps (a major WCM upgrade that stranded longtime customers, questionable expansions into non-core areas, inconsistent customer service and contact) have left them weakened in a market where they should have been able to take advantage of the lack of size and/or stability of some of its competitors. As a result, Vignette’s license revenues have declined in a hot content management market, and the brand has been devalued despite its strong technology.
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I'll give you five seconds to recover from your pun-induced groaning [5...4...3...2...1] Now, on to the news: Open Text announced late last week that it has acquired eMotion, a software-as-a-service digital asset management (DAM) product, from Corbis. Open Text plans to rebrand eMotion as Artesia on Demand for Marketing, complementing its full-featured, installed Artesia DAM product.
On June 24, 2008, Oracle announced its intent to purchase Skywire Software. This potential acquisition has three very strong positives:
Skywire enhances Oracle's ECM offering. Skywire Software has a document output management arsenal that includes Whitehill Technologies (InSystems) and Docucorp International, both of which the company acquired in 2007. Skywire's customer communication solution fills gaps and creates opportunities in Oracle's overall ECM suite. Universal Content Manager and Imaging and Process Manager can now provide complete structured solutions -- built for statements and bills for the print channel, and interactive output management -- creating direct marketing material, or collaboration and workflow for creating enrollment kits. In addition, pain points in customer communication can be addressed more broadly when Skywire's DOM solution is combined with Oracle's web content management products to provide a more complete multi-channel solution.
Forrester recently surveyed 233 IT decision-makers who have plans to implement or upgrade to at least some part of MOSS 2007 and asked: "Which of the following best describes your organization's time line for implementing or upgrading to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server?". The results? 21% will upgrade immediately and 41% will do so within 6 months.
With this level of adoption the issue of scalability comes up more and more. In one sense you have architectural concerns with any solution that scales horizontally, uses banks of load-balanced Web servers, application servers, and clusters of SQL servers on the back end. Add high availability and you quickly get a complex environment. To Microsoft's credit there is quite a bit available on performance guidelines. But looking through these, and coping with notions of site collections, lists, file arrangements, performance of folder hierarchies versus flat files, and automatic versus manual partitioning, the bottom line seems to be that even on the new 64 bit architecture with 4 screaming Intel processors, and SQL 5 -- the upper limit of the content repository is 500GB.