Tag Archives: vendors

Say hello to Intranet Experience Management (IxM)

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So as the market has only just come to terms with CxM or DxM or WEM – I guess its cruel to throw out yet another acronym and expect there to be cries of joy – but alas is has to be done and here is the business case for it!

Using a survey done by Gallup as one example; They found that in German companies of 100 employees, 16 could be considered to be engaged, 15 actively unengaged (often against the interests of the company) and 69 were ‘unengaged’ or indifferent. The value to this statistic is that if the unengaged can be converted to a status of engaged, the company is healthier and able to outweigh the actively unengaged – and one of the main tools that can be used to achieve such a conversion is… The INTRANET!

Whilst most of the Marketing and IT focus has been driven by vendor, analyst and market realities towards a focus on public facing websites and engaging with a customer that is likely to produce a return that can be measured in a ‘currency’ (to be taken as something of value to the organisation) – the evolution of the intranet has wallowed behind for many a year.

The sad truth is that many organisations fail to see a value in investing in something for which they mistakenly believe they get little return.

Traditionally the Intranet solution has been dominated by the goliaths of the Content Management world who had a focus on Document Management. If you ever get the feeling that ‘intranet = SharePoint’ you are not alone!

Forrester did produce a very compelling Intranet Maturity Model that correctly identifies that companies tend to start with a ‘bucket’ into which everything company related is thrown and gradually move up the scale of maturity to something that could be considered ‘engaging’ – but in reality an intranet has always plodded in many organisations and failed to get the notice it deserves.

A brief snapshot history of Intranets goes something like this;

‘Intranet 1.0’

Basically this amounted to a top down centrally controlled ‘dump’ of corporate governance and policies) has prevailed in many companies as the defacto standard for an intranet for many a year. This suites the ECM vendors DMS products well - as they are great at control, business process management and document/records management – all things ‘governors’ like to hear. However – ever heard the phrase “You can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink ?”

‘Intranet 2.0’

Driven largely by the common persons use of social tools like facebook, twitter, linkedin – the concept of a ‘social intranet’ was born that sought to provide an environment for two way conversation internally. This has led more recently to the emergence of software vendors who ‘sit on top of’ the goliaths Document Management products and provides some ‘motivation’ for returning to an Intranet on a regular basis – as well as a mad scramble by the DMS vendors to add ‘social tools’ to their offerings. They have had a degree of success in moving Intranets from being places you only go when you need a document to something of a ‘visited entity’. But they still generally lack one key component – they are not engaging!

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Five tips for avoiding the CMS price hype

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In the Web CMS space there is a question that makes even the most experienced vendor salespersons start to stutter and typically a question that evokes one of the least satisfying sales replies you are ever likely to get – namely ‘how much is your software’.

The answers usually start with responses like ‘how long is a piece of string?’ – ‘It depends on so many variables so I cant tell you until we have a better understanding of your project’ – and develops into a conversation diverting you away from the answer you were after – namely the cost of the software you are interested in.

It’s not a difficult question – and if you were buying any other product and you were met with the same evasive non-response you would probably walk away. After 13 years in the space, I thought it would be about time someone lifted the lid on the different ways in which Web CMS is charged.

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Intranet analytics: Which tool to use?

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Guy Van LeemputAre you one of the many intranet managers struggling to measure the impact and success of your organization's intranet? Are you being asked by senior management to quantify its value and build a business case for your next intranet project?

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Vendors kill products and make customers pay

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During the past 10 years, a number of software products used by online professionals have been discontinued. When this happens, customers are ultimately forced to spend time on product selection again as well as on a costly and risky migration exercise. Killing a product might make commercial sense for the vendor, but customers are left to pay for the consequences. In a young and crowded industry driven by vendors, there's always a fair bit of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) going around, but which products are dead or in serious trouble?

Vendors have typically not been very open about their intentions to discontinue a given product. Vendors usually blur their messages in marketing lingo and promises about migration help in order to keep their customers from departing to competing vendors. A few vendors have offered actual migration tools to assist with the implementation on the new system. Others, e.g. Microsoft, simply offer licenses for the new product and then leave it to the customer to do the implementation as was the case when SharePoint 2007 was introduced to replace CMS 2002 and SharePoint 2003.

A few of the product deaths have been caused by vendors having overlapping offerings after acquiring a competitor. CMS analyst Seth Gottlieb has written on why acquisitions are bad for customers where he says that acquisitions adds uncertainty and risk that a customer would do best to avoid.

Apart from acquisitions, some vendors have also decided to simply start over on a new technology with no real upgrade path for existing customers. This is what Oracle did with WebCenter and Microsoft with SharePoint.

Here's a listing of products that are either dead or in need of some life support:

As you can see by the names on the list, both small and large software companies have a mixed track record when it comes to killing products. There only way you can reduce the risk of ending up with a product on life support is by investing time in talking to the community, consulting analysts and forcing vendors to be open about their roadmap. Still, no product lives forever.

Please help prospective customers, by dropping a comment below if you know of other products that deserve to be on the list.

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Who’s big in the European CMS marketplace?

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map of europeThere is not shortage of vendors in the CMS marketplace. The European marketplace in particular seems very fragmented with many local vendors. When the familiar US-based analysts take a look at the marketplace, they often end up favouring the same large vendors and ignoring the many local vendors that are doing great work in many countries across Europe.

I've been intending to create a Top 10 list of European CMS vendors, but before arriving at an actual shortlist, I wanted to get a better understanding of the many vendors that are claiming to be leading.

To help me learn, I've created a table with European CMS vendors and encouraged everybody to submit input and potential omissions.

As usual, my intention with this list is to help equip CMS buyers, to be able carry out CMS selections on their own and to get a clear overview of their local country marketplace.

I'm expecting that the list might explode and have created some rules for making it onto the list. Feel free to challenge me, either by posting a comment on this blog, or sending an e-mail.

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Remember to meet the implementation team

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constructionWhen you are selecting a vendor for your web project, would you prefer to meet the sales team or the team which will actually be doing the implementation? I'm convinced most buyers would prefer a conversation with the implementation team, but still many vendors, in particular the larger ones, send their sales crew.

It would seem such an obvious detail and therefore that buyers don't explicitly ask for this when inviting vendors to a meeting. Some vendors, e.g. EPiServer, might propose to use another vendor, e.g. LBi, to do the implementation. In that case, make sure to include LBi early on in the process.

I've talked to many buyers, including members in our community of practice, who compare selecting a new vendor to hiring a new colleague. I am fairly certain nobody has experienced that a job applicant has not turned up in person. So when it comes to vendor selection, why are you not meeting with the implementation team themselves?

Don't be tricked into thinking that the fact the vendor turned up with their management team makes you a key account. The vendor is probably just eager to win your business. So how do you ensure that you can actually work with the implementation team? You'll be spending quite some time with the winning team, so beyond experience, chemistry is crucial.

Let's imagine you invited 3 vendors, say competing digital agencies, to pitch on your project:

  • Vendor 1 send their friendly and experienced head of development together with a more smartly dressed head of sales
  • Vendor 2 turned up with a project manager, a sales executive and a young newly hired techie to do a demo
  • Vendor 3 has decided to send an account manager, and a project manager together with 2 consultants and started the meeting by saying that this is your implementation team.

From the perspective of the buyer, I would hope that the meeting with vendor 3 goes well; if vendor 1 or vendor 2 comes out as winner, you should probably do yet another meeting to meet their implementation team, challenge their experiences and find out whether they would be a good fit for your project. Yet another meeting you could have saved yourself.

NB: Thanks to the CMS selection team at home, a Danish chain of real estate agents for this improvement to our list of best practices for selecting a CMS.

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Would you prefer to be a whale or a herring?

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killer whaleEarlier this week I met the CMS selection team at home, a Danish chain of real estate agents. While I quickly reviewed their comparative vendor sheet, I found that in between the usual plus/minus grading, they had used the metaphor of fish to describe their size and relative importance to each vendor. For some vendors, home would be a whale, for others only a small herring.

This lead to a good discussion around the pros and cons of being a big fish with a small vendor or of being a small fish with a large vendor. Which is better?

On the one hand I know many customers who have preferred being a small fish, e.g. with IBM, Microsoft or Oracle, as they deemed this a  less risky choice, both in terms of vendor stability and of applying shared experiences from other small fish they have had on their books. Naturally the problem with being a small customer in a big ocean, is that it can be difficult to get attention and influence the big vendor to move their solution in your direction.

On the other hand, as a big fish, many buyers feel they have more persuasive powers over the vendor. We have some members in our community of practice which represent more than 50% of their particular vendor's total revenue. This might make it easy to get attention, but is obviously also quite risky as the survival of the vendor more or less depends on your continued investment.

So, which scenario is best? As usual, the answer depends on your preferences. Depending on your circumstances, the ideal compromise might be to choose a large software vendor, but work with a small local implementation partner.

If I could share one serious word of advice, it would be that the past 10 years have shown that being a small fish is not any less risky than being a big fish. Many thought they were safe when they picked the now discontinued Microsoft CMS or when they bought from big CMS vendors such as Interwoven and Vignette which have recently been acquired.

Good luck in the big ocean!

Thanks to the CMS selection team at home for adding some fun to a common discussion! Thanks also to Carsten Paul at exa-online and Volker Grünauer at Wienerberger for additional inspiration.

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Another day, another vendor

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business manDespite talk of consolidation, there is still an overwhelming number of vendors to choose between. How do you navigate a crowded marketplace and avoid risky bets?

Not a week goes by when I don't discover several new vendors, be it CMS, portal, wiki, search or whatever. Many of these have actually been around for a while, have a reasonable amount of employees and a long list of references.

You may not find the lesser known vendors at trade shows or in the analyst reports, but several of our community of practice members rely on vendors which are relatively unknown on a global scale. Often these smaller players are not only viable alternatives to the global leaders, but are also better equipped to meet local requirements. And they also tend to come with a significantly lower price tag.

No matter which vendor you are considering, well-known or unknown, a key recommendation from our recent research into selecting a CMS, is that you avoid a scoring methodology. Comparing Autonomy to a local Austrian vendor will never be an apples-to-apples comparison and the vendors are likely use many fancy industry buzzwords. Look beyond the marketing by staying focused on your own requirements and evaluation criteria.

If you are concerned about risk and think that the local vendor may not be as safe a choice as say IBM, Microsoft or Oracle, I recommend that you connect with peers and learn about their experiences with vendors. Which ones do they favour? Which ones do they avoid? You can also post your question on the J. Boye LinkedIn group, which is a free forum exclusively for practitioners.

Rather than spending too much time researching the marketplace and listening to sales pitch after sales pitch, my advice is that you insist on real dialogue from the outset. Take control of the agenda and tell the vendor clearly what you expect. Also, listening skills on both sides of the table is key!

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The real definition of a “key account”

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dream_graphBuyers who account for the majority of revenue for a given product are normally offered preferential treatment of some sort. This would seem fair, but to the surprise of many online professionals this is often not the case when it comes to software vendors or digital agencies.

Over the years I've talked to practitioners around the world from large and complex organisations who have been genuinely disappointed by how they have been treated by their vendors. Despite having been big spenders on licenses or in terms of consulting hours (or both), they still feel that the vendor is not listening to requirements and paying any real attention to their needs.

A good example is how Microsoft have treated their CMS customers in the past. The early adopters were left behind with Microsoft CMS 2002 without an upgrade option when Microsoft released SharePoint 2007. Large organisations, such as drinks giant Carlsberg, global manufacturer Danfoss and Royal Mail in the UK, did adopt CMS 2002 yet still Microsoft decided that it was best to ask customers to start all over again.

For smaller vendors, there are several worse examples of poor key account management that have left customers frustrated.

My usual advice is that it helps talking to vendors. It helps even more if you join up with other buyers. Even if you don't work in a large multinational or for a world-famous NGO, you can become a key account by using diplomatic skills and engaging in a dialogue with your vendors, so that your projects are visible inside the vendor organisation.

The real definition of a key account is not necessarily tied to revenue. You are a key account if the vendor listens to you, accepts your feedback, specifies appropriate actions and shares a timeline with you. You need to be patient, you need to be forgiving, you need to be reasonable, but the rewards in potential cost savings and ability to plan better should make it well worth it.

Thanks to @brendanquinn and @twentworth12 for valuable input.

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When the economy goes down implementation costs go up

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These days it is not unusual to hear about vendors that may seem like established and safe choices closing offices, cancelling their user conference, announcing disappointing earnings, firing people and even discontinuing products. Among other less visible goings-on in the world of vendors, although much less visible, are daily decisions by engineering staff and product management people to cut corners when working on new product releases. These decisions have a tremendous impact on the final product that is shipped to the customers and typically the consequence is longer and more costly implementation projects.

Here's what happens at vendor X working on that exciting new release that needs to get out the door:

  • New features requested by the sales team are prioritised as new revenue becomes increasingly important.
  • Fixing bugs, in particular those that normally reside below the uninformed management radar, is postponed to a distant future, so customers are left to fix accessibility, harmless URLs, and the flawed rich text editor themselves.
  • To close even more deals, additional modules with specific features are released, perhaps even for free download. Unfortunately, each and every module is conjured up in a rush and all in a slightly different way. Thus, implementing one module is easy, but implementing and maintaining multiple modules is very difficult and costly

To make matters worse for your implementation, documentation staff and usability engineers are often among the first to be fired, since their work tends to have a direct impact on cost, but only a longer-term impact on revenue, at least in the minds of most vendors.

As a customer, I recommend you do the following:

  • Have regular conversations with the vendor about your bugs and problems, upcoming releases and any updates to their roadmap. Apply as much pressure as you can to move things in your direction.
  • Talk to other customers, either via user groups, a community of practice, conferences, informal meetings or simply by picking up the phone. This will help you identify the best implementation partners and together you can also exercise more influence on the vendor.
  • Save your money and postpone the upgrade for as long as you can. In a future version your issues are likely to be resolved; it may just not be the next release.
  • Be cautious when considering beta products
  • Get trained and build your own skills, making you less dependant on the integrator
  • Take a closer look at the available documentation before you get started.

Act! Otherwise, I'm afraid that my prediction about 2009 as a tough year for integrators will not come true.

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