I was doing my usual scan of VC firms to look at portfolio companies and who was backing them. In the process, I ran across a 2007 press release on how Sevin Rosen sponsored grants to companies at an Austin-based incubator. “Recipients receive financial support and mentoring from Sevin Rosen partners to shape business strategies, identify strategic partners and acquire customers.” I really like this kind of partnership. The incubator provides resources to start-ups to help them build the business and Sevin Rosen gets an early look at who might be worth supporting on a larger scale. More importantly, by the time the business is ready to stand on its own, the fundamentals will provide a strong platform to succeed.
Not every start-up is wildly successful. Having a good idea that spreads like wildfire is obviously what every VC want to discover when it pumps millions into a company. Barring that, a company that has slow, steady growth is better than one that fails. A lot of companies in the late 90′s focused on “rock star” executive teams who would use their connections to grow rapidly. But if those teams stumbled, companies often lacked the fundamentals to grow organically. Product marketing and product management would often be absent due to a focus on marketing budgets meant to create buzz and hotshot developers who could code anything you tell them to, but who was doing the telling? A good idea needs nurturing in a slow growth company and protection in a rapidly growing one. Good processes provide the best possible foundation for success regardless of the pace the company sets. I am sure Sevin Rosen does everything it can to bring in top talent at the executive level to try and hit the sweet spot that propels a company to success, but it is the early commitment to building a foundation for that protects the company from failure.
In that same way that VCs require annual financial audits of their portolio companies, they ought to conduct performance audits as well to determine if they have the right people and processes in place throughout the organization. Executive teams are highly visible, but seeing whether there is good communication and integration between sales, marketing, and development is not readily apparent. An audit would help ensure that the machine functions as it should and that the VC firms get all they can from investments.
I just read a post on OSTATIC that compared the Open Text acquisition of Vignette to the old days of CA. I am guilty of that kind of thinking as well, since that was the first thing I thought and said. But it only took a few minutes to remind me of how wrong I was.
First, a reminder of how painful the old CA acquisitions were. CA would track down software companies with strong annual renewals and declining sales, buy them, gut them, and hold customers hostage in perpetuity. Customers hated CA, but often continued to use the products because they fulfilled a need. They had nowhere else to go for the niches they products filled. This is hardly the case for Open Text and Vignette.
Some things are similar. Vignette has strong annual renewals and declining sales and Open Text did buy them at a bargain price. (They did not have to gut Vignette, since that company shed costs [people] over the previous year to continue to show profitability.) But the final key for the CA-Open Text analogy to work would be holding the customers hostage. That is not going to happen. Yes, some companies are entrenched with Vignette to the point where it would be quite painful to move away. But, a failure to continue to enhance Web Content Management solutions to handle an ever-changing set of web technologies would make even the most ardent Vignette supporters look elsewhere. And, unlike the niche CA products, Vignette has strong competitors: Interwoven was outpacing them when Autonomy acquired them earlier this year; open source solutions continue to add features and customers to build credibility for that market segment; and a host of smaller WCM solutions are awaiting the chance to grab some market share.
According to the press releases, Vignette will remain a wholly owned subsidiary of Open Text. This is probably due to the location of Vignette in United States, while Open Text is a Canadian company. Still, it has the benefit of preserving the Vignette brand and thus keeping the focus on WCM for the company. Open Text is seen as an ECM vendor without a clear focus on WCM, so the Vignette brand provides immediate visibility into the Web market. This type of acquisition would never have happened with CA. The first thing the old CA would have done would have been to destroy the brand by either changing the name or adding the obligatory “CA” prefix to the products (e.g., the XOSoft acquisition by CA resulted in product names like “CA XOSoft Content Distribution”.) Retaining the name, retains visibility, which means if Vignette fails to keep pace in the WCM space it will be much more noticable than if they were operating under the Open Text brand and attrition will come that much more quickly.
I actually like the acquisition for two reasons. First, Vignette has a stronger financial position to build upon. Second, Open Text probably has some ideas on what to do with the transactional content management solutions within the Vignette portfolio. These types of solutions are the bread and butter of Open Text, while Vignette often saw them as a distraction. A renewed focus and funding for Vignette can only be good in the short term. Long term, it is still all about execution.
I have been looking at companies like Emojo who are attempting to create a new Social Content Management (SCM) category to position themselves against traditional ECM vendors. I have no idea whether this is good, bad, or even possible. Do communities who participate in user-generated content want to feel “managed”? Probably not, but they can benefit from many of the attributes ECM has incorporated over the years. The question is whether SCM is the province of a new breed of tools, or an adaptation of ECM solutions that allows the participation of SOA and RESTful services in the content management architecture.
Wikis, blogs, and forums are simply tools around which communities congregate and share content. This content can take the form of documents, presentations, video, images, or anything else. Traditional ECM shines in its ability to manage controlled content sources. In SCM, it is the documents on Scribd, YouTube videos, and RSS feeds that need to be monitored and managed with notifications of missing content or changes in content. ECM also shines when it comes to scalable solutions that incorporate localization and template/content reuse across multiple sites. Multi-national organizations participate in discussions that take place across borders and boundaries. SCM should incorporate the ability to manage multi-lingual posts, allow editors the ability to translate and promote posts to localized blogs, and allow cross-posts.
I guess to me it just seems like SCM should be part and parcel of ECM. If it can survive as a category on its own, it should be riding higher on the hype cycle right about now.
If you are not familiar with the reference to the classic Bugs Bunny short film “Bugs and Thugs,” check it out. For the rest of you, read on.
Coming from the IBM world of mainframe computing, I am accustomed to long development cycles. Maybe a release a year where the roadmap is closely guarded so you do not stall current sales cycles by announcing something really cool that is still a year off. That was always frustrating for marketing departments whose job it is to talk about all the great things products can do for customers. In those days, it kinda/sorta made sense because tipping your hand also meant competitors could preview what you would be doing next year. That sucked. I’ve been beaten over the head a few times and I have finally become a believer is social media marketing for old-school markets.
Today things are different. When my friends and I started HostBridge Technology, we adopted an agile development model for mainframe-based applications. HostBridge makes mainframe applications available as Web services, which meant evaluations included both mainframe and Web developers. Our ability to churn out new features to the market based on customer requests and feedback was a boon not only to the mainframe community, but matched the expectations of the Web community. For me, the biggest benefit was the ability to market new features as soon as they became available. This meant we could respond to market changes quickly and reduced the risk of competitors beating us to market.
Social media provides an incentive to talk market new releases as they are being developed. Blogging about them creates the opportunity to include customers, partners, and even prospects in the requirements process to ensure the release meets real market needs. However, this flies in the face of the traditional notion that you do not want to signal future releases due to fears of freezing sales cycles while prospects wait to see the new and improved version.
One instance when you might want to consider this is when disruptive changes are expected. For example, if you are making a platform change from Java to .NET, or from on-premise to SaaS, you can hardly keep that a secret so why not create an open discussion that guides the transition. Disruptive changes are easier to swallow when you are involved the process.
Another instance might be when you are behind the competition with your existing release, your sales are already stalled due to current market conditions, and you have a new release on the horizon. In this case, what do you have to lose? If the competition is already winning the business, talking about the new release might freeze their sales cycles and keep your solution in play.
One final example is the launch of a new product or new line of business. I can remember how people wanted to surprise the market with new offerings so competitors could not position themselves effectively for a few months following the launch. Now, I have become more of a fan of softening the market through education and conversation, and surprising them by meeting target dates and expectations. Positioning yourself within the minds of consumers is more powerful than positioning against competitors.
The truth is, I know of very few organizations who evaluate solutions well in advance of a pressing need. It’s not like we all have time to issue and review RFPs and RFIs out of curiosity. Organizations tend to engage vendors when they need to make decisions. By interacting through online conversations about current and future solutions, you can maintain or expand awareness and allow communities to become invested in your offerings.
I differentiate this kind of social marketing from stealth marketing or buzz marketing. Social marketing is not meant to simply to announce or influence through surreptitious posts, but to engage communities in conversations that guide your products and solutions meet market needs. It provides reassurance to your organization that the investments you make in a new release will not miss the mark and creates incentive for those who provide feedback to follow the outcome.
Funny how stress can drive the creative juices. Some friends and I put together this video to soften a group of grassroots organizers prior to a presentation on our experiences as grassroots organizers for various Democratic candidates during the 2004 Presidential elections.
On the latest episode of The DOT Show, we welcome accomplished songwriter and recording artist Randy Weeks. You will likely recognize Randy’s songs from such movies as Sunshine State, Shallow Hal, and several other films as well as radio play.
The 3rd song he performs on this episode is currently exclusive to The DOT Show, written the day after the Presidential election and recorded after the completion of his new album that will be released next week.
Sit back, relax, and listen to Randy Weeks on The DOT Show…
Content management vendors should court interactive agencies who have their own content mangement solutions
This isn’t really new information. As Web Content Management and Enterprise Content Management vendors have seen buying power shift to marketing departments that no longer want IT involved in every decision they make, content management vendors have tried to establish relationships with agencies to take advantage of their direct influence on marketing departments. The question always seems to be which agencies to go after. I was looking at Rockfish Interactive the other day. As a full-service design agency, I expected them to have a set of partners they work with for content management, blogging, etc. Instead, they wrote their own. Sounds like the perfect partner for a WCM/ECM vendor partner to me.
Fifteen years ago, I had to develop my own rudimentary content management system in Perl because there was no real WCM solution. Vignette came out with StoryServer and I drooled, but could not afford it. I have implemented a couple of open source systems along the way and ended up working at Vignette last year. What occurs to me is that companies like Rockfish are right to build their own solutions that fit their specific needs. Implementing solutions from Vignette or Interwoven on project-level bases is cumbersome and expensive, and for smaller companies the overhead of managing these solutions might be daunting. However, small companies grow and their needs grow with them. When the in-house solution cannot handle the scale, a well-positioned partner can step in.
Then again, look at some of the Rockfish clients. These are large organizations that presumably have content management systems scattered throughout, but promotional microsites are often easier to deploy without using a full-scale WCM/ECM solution. A partnership might provide an opportunity for the agency to introduce an enterprise scale WCM/ECM solution that can prove agile enough to handle both small, ad-hoc projects as well as large formal projects.
The best thing about working with agencies who have homegrown CMS is that they “get it.” They have the ability to sell content management to their clients, so the relationship is not simply a referral or a passed lead. They can hand over a qualified prospect ready to see a demo. I wish all engagements started that way.