Who should #fixwcm?

It started with an intention to solve the world’s WCM problems at Aarhus09.

Analysts felt that there is something broken in WCM that needs to be fixed. To figure out what exactly is broken they all jumped on Twitter under #fixwcm hashtag and started tweeting it with a whole lot of questions, comments, concerns, advice, and inputs.

What motivated me to write this post was the fact that most of the tweets were just raising the issues and none of the Analysts tried to address the way they would want to fix a particular issue. Then the tweets took a bizarre turn and the blame game started. Fingers were raised against Customer’s Business Team, Customer’s IT staff, Vendors, SI’s, Architecture, a mix of all these and whatnot.

Sitting at my office, I was wondering if anything was perfect. Well, there is always room for improvement, keeping this in mind I start by saying that WCM is not weak and down and does not need an instant hotfix to have it up and running. However, we need to identify the problems and fix them.

I could not restrict myself to 140 characters, so here is my take-

WCM Market/Vendors: It is a mature market with a high level of healthy competition with quality offerings. Vendors have gone beyond providing workflow, publishing, multilingual, multi-site capabilities. Competition among vendors is high and those who provide innovative solutions out of the box, easy to implement utilities at a lower cost, usually take the pie. They keep their product abreast with Web2.0, integrations with LDAP, Content delivery on the portal environment, or adhering to open standards and the list goes on.

#fix: Every platform/product has limitations, therefore, Customers need to identify which vendor suits best for their requirements. Customers should take help from analysts firms or consultants and include their IT staff to identify if the offerings from the vendors are technically correct.

Roadmap and Objective: OK, so you want to implement a WCM for your enterprise. Good…btw what are you going to do with it? What are the purpose and the business objective? Will it be a profit center or a cost center? Who is the target audience? Is it for internal employees, customers, partners, microsite, or a website? Where do you see the WCM implementation after 3 years?

Primarily, figure out your business objectives. It is important to align business objectives with the WCM solution. You should have a clear roadmap and your profit objectives must be aligned to your WCM investments. Profit not just in terms of $$$ but maybe in terms of relationship with your customers, partners, suppliers, etc etc. You should also keep a track of the returns on your investments. You might need to revisit your objectives and the implementation if you are not getting the expected returns.

#fix: Change your ideology. Use WCM as a tool that will give you some profit. Do not invest just for the sake of implementing a technology or a product. Have a business justification for the investments you are going to make. Associate each of your high-level needs with some measurable CTS (critical to success) parameters and keep measuring/refining until you get the expected results.

 

 

System Integrators (SIs): These folks contribute a lot to a WCM project’s success and failure. Know your SI, make sure they have enough expertise and experience in the solution design, implementation, and delivery. Ask for proof of concept, not in the content authoring, workflow, publishing, archiving part but specific to your implementation standpoint. Check what they have to do for the integration points. SI’s on the other hand must refrain from being biased towards a particular vendor and influence the customer

#fix: Customer should communicate their business and technical requirements to the SI’s to get what they need. Do not hide anything to save cost, this might lead to an adverse effect in near future. Do not go ahead with any WCM vendor/SI if you have only 20% of the requirement. SI’s at the same time should tie the solution around customer’s present and future requirements around WCM products. System Integrator should educate the customer if a single product or a mix of few can fulfill the requirement. SI’s should also educate/advise the customer on how to leverage the best of WCM by integrating it with the Customer’s existing infrastructure (If, in case).

End Users: You have to know your audience- People accessing CMS directly or indirectly, from the internet or intranet, be it partner, customer, supplier, website visitor, personalized content visitor, etc. You need to know who is invited to your party. Are you giving them the attention they require? Are you serving the right content at the right time when they need it? Are they party-goers/ regular visitors?

Investments in Web Analytics might be a bad idea for few companies during a recession, but I think they act as a guide to know your WCM implementation better. Try to factor in Analytics while budgeting for WCM, this is going to help you to find the source of your profit.

#fix: No fix required, add sugar to make your coffee sweet. Try playing “Roller Coaster Tycoon 2” (Part of my #sixsigma project these days) and analyze your customer’s view/take on your park and try to co-relate with your WCM objective.

Yes, the stats of WCM project failures are bad. We can’t blame a single entity in the WCM ecosystem. If vendors are involving themselves in CMIS or JCRs, why can’t analysts develop WCM  benchmarks, models, evaluation criteria and then trace it to see who needs a #fix 🙂

How IBM is #1 in web portal software?

IT analyst firm Gartner, Inc., has ranked IBM as the worldwide market share leader in the Portal Products and User Interaction Tools enterprise software segment. Here is my take –

There is no question on the capabilities and functionalities of IBM WebSphere Portal V 6.1, which is well designed to collaborate the information from users, communities, corporate enterprises, and the Web. I will not discuss the cool and robust features of IBM but will list down the external factors that might have influenced the ranking-

1. Technology: Still the market share of .net is much less than java. IBM being a java based portal and is adopted by organizations who either already have java based software infrastructure or their decisive people are pro-java. I agree with Janus

“Microsoft is known to give away SharePoint like candy, so SharePoint might indeed have less revenue. A substantial portion of SharePoint licenses remain unused.”

Yes, the Adoption of SharePoint (MOSS) is much higher than any portal in the market (07-08), and who does the marketing better than MS, but the point has still not reached where SharePoint can be ranked as #1.

2. Choice: Do customers have choice?..ummm –lets find out-
a) Opensource/Liferay: Even though Liferay is named as the Visionary portal product in Gartner’s magic quadrant, the financial industry has no confidence in this open source portal. On the other hand, IBM software is being used by the top 10 global banks.

b) Sun JES Portal: before the acquisition: The setting sun finally decided to stop the further release if its enterprise portal product (last version 7.2) and decided to contribute towards Websynergy and Webspace (Liferay-Sun combo Prj).

c) Oracle/Weblogic/Webcenter: Oracle invested huge $$$ in their Webcenter portal project but failed to market their so-called strategic portal product. Market still questions Oracle’s portal leadership. With five portal products under its belt, seems like that sale and marketing team is confused on which portal to highlight. I believe that aqualogic and weblogic are doing pretty well but not widely adopted as IBM WebSphere.

3) Leadership/Support/Cost: IBM tops the chart in terms of cost for its product, services and support. Even then, organizations opt for security, availability, collaboration and other web2.0 stuffs over the cost. It might be because IBM promises better ROI. I believe that 2011 will be a crucial year for IBM portal after the economic recession ends as most of the organizations have kept their decisions on hold for buying an expensive portal products.

There can be other reasons as well such as innovations, industry types, underlying architecture etc that might have valued customers more in buying this product.

More information about the report, features, and a case study is here-
http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Web-Services-Web-20-and-SOA/Report-IBM-Number-One-in-Portal-Software-333186/

All in one: ECM vendors tale

Just read Russ’s blog. It’s a nice post that made me think if there is a single ECM vendor who really managed to make their customer happy with full-fledged ECM requirements.

I think its not only mergers and acquisitions that led the large or mid size, organization to have various sub-ECM products from different vendors but it’s the piling of softwares that grows during the period. The reasons may be a not-so future oriented solution from service providers or a highly effective sale person or a customer with no or very less IT experience.
There are numerous cases where customers have enough ECM softwares and do not know what to do. E.g. I have come across with customer with Sharepoint already in place and looking for Livelink as DMS or customers with Livelink as DMS and Fatwire as WCM in place and then looking for integration.

The problem is on the other side as well. A few genuine ECM vendors really cater to “custom” ers requirements. Therefore, before going for any ECM establishment, customers should check the integration points with their existing WCM/ DMS/RM/BI etc infrastructure and at the same time ask the Service providers to show some kind of proof of concepts (POC) to validate the integrations

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RFPs, Implementation Scope and Costs

It’s been quite some time that I am into responding RPFs and RFIs in Portal and Content Management space and sometimes jump onto implementation for the solution that we have provided 🙂 .
This post highlights issues that project delivery faces when a customer hides the information of its existing software infrastructure during pre –engagement stage.

Most of the customers do not supply enough information while releasing RFP. (for a mid-large size project it might just be a 2-3 pages of “relevant” information).
Along with RFP comes predefined “timelines” and “scope” and as usual, time-bound response is expected from vendors. In any circumstance you are paid to respond and get business for your company. You are not left with a choice, but to provide a solution based on one or two liner requirements with no information or volume of development, enhancement or migration of software/applications. Apart from solution, you have to mend your effort and cost estimations and make then inline with what was proposed to you.

Also, you must have experienced a time gap between the day you get the project and the day your SOW is signed off. What happens in this time gap? Answer is simple. You end up including another set of high level tasks that were neither part of RFP nor you have heard in your pre-engagement calls(lucky if you get this more), which slightly(as of now) adds to what you have proposed.

Few weeks later you will come to know more about customer’s existing s/w infrastructure and you are told that apart from portal development there is/are CMS/DMS/Back Office application that needs to be migrated or enhanced to latest version. Not bad so far. You start analyzing, assume few things, give better estimates and go ahead. Bad happens, if the existing CMS /DMS/Back Office application doesn’t fit in to the portal product that you proposed (Remember: it’s not your fault). Service providers end up doing all tricks to make the integrations work and customer ends up paying huge $$$ to product support and consultancy. These commercials would have been easily eliminated if right information would have given at right time.

“Right information at right time” is what makes a better response, which not only provides a better solution (considering all underlying application, their integration, SSO etc) but also reduces cost (Trust me, Indian service based s/w companies charge far less than any Product base company for their support and consultancy excluding license and training costs))

Portals: Intruding the ECM space?

If Portals are the underlying technology for the presentation, aggregation, integration and SOA implementation (as every vendor talks about it ), then the Content Management System (CMS) is what feeds the portals.

Portals, Ideally meant to be more towards  integration and presentation side, are now coming up with their own version of built-in CMS.

Besides Partnering with vendors from Web Content Management (WCM) / Enterprise Content Management (ECM) arena, Portal vendors are also working successfully towards their own built-in CMS. These built-in CMS provide you the best a CMS product can offer. Journal Content Management, Document Management, Integration with MS office or Open Office, Drag and Drop of your desktop files, Workflow management, Integrated Publishing and Search.

WebSphere Portal 6.0 Integrates externally with CMS products like Interwoven Teamsite ,Documentum etc , also includes IBM Workplace Web Content Management Version 6.0 which itself carries a full fledged WCM capabilities. BEA provides the integration with Stellent, documentum and Vignette CMS products but has its own Content Management system and virtual content repository. Open source player Liferay portal 4.2 has come up with portlets for Alfresco (another open source Leader in ECM),but again it has its own “Liferay Journal” CMS which covers most of the WCM functionalities.

Sun and Bea have partnered with FatWire to provide Portal Server customers with unlimited-use licenses of FatWire Spark Portal Content Management (pCM) software at no cost.

There is a definite and clear separation of a built-in CMS and a third party CMS integration on to the portals. The choice is up to you, it all depends on what satisfies your business requirements. As for small and mid-size customers, these built-in CMS are doing the job, that too with a lot of ease and bringing in cost benefits.

CMS market has always been more mature, streamlined and more professional. On the other hand, the Portal market are not making the impact that was expected of them and was so fiercly predicted by the experts, a few years ago. The reasons could be cost, need, ease of implementation or lack of expertise with the service providers. In such a scenario are Portal vendors adding on CMS to their product feature list to stay alive?

If yes, what next? Would they continue to break ground and venture into ECM territory as they have now ventured into WCM territory?

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