Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Open Text Acquires StreamServe

Open Text announced the acquisition of the Swedish-based company StreamServe today. And since I happen to be in Europe and it is after hours here, I thought I should comment. StreamServe is a strong player in the space traditionally referred to as Document Output Management (DOM) and, with 5,000 customers, StreamServe is certainly one of the leaders in this space.

Document Output Management is a solution that allows customers to create personalized documents for their business communications, most frequently used in the B2C space at organizations that have to communicate with thousands of customers. Often, this communication occurs on a regular basis and automating this process makes sense to achieve efficiencies. Sometimes, the communication is also subject to legal or compliance requirements that require, for example, that all customers are to be informed at the same time to prevent selective disclosure.

The DOM solutions are usually based on a set of business rules that can specify what content is to be included for a particular customer or group of customers. That ability is now increasingly attracting the eyes of marketers who can define some very specific and targeted promotions for particular products or services. And as the CMO is emerging as one of the strong buying centers in the enterprise this year, marketing solutions are heating up – just look at the recent acquisitions of Omniture and Day Software by Adobe or the acquisition of Unica by IBM.

The marketing solution based on the traditional DOM technology is often referred to as Customer Communication Management. At Open Text, this is a great addition to the already powerful marketing offerings based on web experience management (Vignette), portal, digital asset management and social media. And while I expect a lot of the StreamServe opportunities to be focused on efficiency, I am excited about the new types of opportunities this software is going to create for the CMOs when combined with other solutions.

Open Text of course didn’t buy StreamServe just for the technology. SAP partnership, professional services expertise, and geographic presence in Scandinavia – all those reasons make this acquisition very compelling. You can find more about that in the press release.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Geoffrey Moore, AIIM, and the Future of ECM

The industry organization AIIM issued a press release this week about the work they conducted through a task force of the leading vendors in enterprise content management (ECM). For the task force, AIIM recruited Geoffrey Moore, the renowned business analyst and author of business classics such as Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado. I have been fortunate to be part of this task force, working with Geoffrey, the folks from AIIM and my peers from all the key players in the content management industry.

The challenge at hand was to formulate a strategy for ECM in light of some of the disruptive changes the industry is going through. Basically, there is a lot of content being created, shared, and even stored today, that is considered outside the scope of traditional content management applications. This content is the result of online social interactions between people – just think about all the interactions happening on Facebook or Twitter. We are posting comments, exchanging messages, sharing pictures, video clips, and other content assets. While none of us think of content management when we do so, we are effectively creating and sharing content – and that is the essence of content management.

Together with the task force, Geoffrey has formulated a concept that includes the definition of the Systems of Records and Systems of Engagement. The Systems of Record are some of the traditional use cases for ECM, including compliance, archiving, and records management, while the Systems of Engagement include the more end-user facing applications based on web experience, media management, and social media. Check out the findings on the AIIM web site.

This is very much in line with Open Text positioning. We talk about content lifecycle, transactions, and engagement as the key areas of the ECM Suite 2010. In fact, we are well along the path of convergence between the Systems of Record and Systems of Engagement. The Systems of Engagement require the services of the Systems of Record to be enterprise-ready – they need security, compliance, and archiving capabilities.

The real issue at hand is the definition of ECM going forward. There is clearly a need to expand that definition to include additional types of solutions and capabilities to address the “consumerization” of the enterprise and its impact on enterprise content management. I am excited that the AIIM, as a non-profit industry organization, is taking on the leadership role in this endeavor. After all, the goal is to grow the pie because if the pie grows, every slice gets larger.

Images: Geoffrey Moore and the AIIM Task Force.
Courtesy of Mr. John Newton, the Founder of Documentum and Alfresco

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Future of Book Publishing

Two pieces caught my eye recently. First, I read in an article by Julie Bosman in New York Times about the fact that the latest Ken Follett book is more expensive as an e-book than as a hard-cover. Then I saw a blog post by Ron Miller that independently comments on the fact that the pricing of e-books is too high and not in line with customer expectations. And since I have been thinking a lot about the price of content recently, I had to comment.

First, I agree that the current pricing of e-books is wrong. They are simply too expensive. E-books are significantly cheaper to “manufacture” than paperbacks and thus, their price shouldn’t be the same as hard-covers or even higher. If it is cheaper to wait for the paperback than to download an e-book, people will wait for the paperback like they always did in the past.

Compared to paper books, e-books don’t have any cost of material, cost of manufacturing, and presumably a much lower cost of distribution. Could we do without the publishers altogether? Can the authors publish directly through the new breed of distributors with their reader gadgets such as Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Apple? After all, that’s what’s being done with mobile applications.

Probably not. There are at least two other important functions that the publishers fulfill: quality assurance and promotion. The quality assurance is done through editors who today work for the publishers and their job is it to assure the quality of authors’ work. The authors could have their own editors but those could too easily develop into ghostwriters and so having editors independent from the authors is probably a good idea. That said, the editors could just as well work for the distributors to keep the authors honest.

The second, far more important, job of a publisher is promotion. Starting with talent discovery all the way to blockbuster book tours, the publisher makes sure the right books get noticed. There are about 200,000 books published each year in the US alone and to get noticed is critical. This function is even more important in the world of e-books where some of the traditional means of differentiation such as the book size or binding are not available. We can see the problem with the lack of coordinated promotion in the world of mobile applications – it is extremely difficult for applications to get noticed among the 250,000 apps available on AppStore. But even this role of publishers could be taken over by either the distributors or the authors themselves using PR agencies and other services.

While they still play an important function, the publishers need to understand that they compete with other forms of entertainment and they need to evolve their business models. In the world of digital content, they cannot hold on to the same pricing model as in the paper world. It happened to music and films and it will happen to books too. The publishers have a role to play as promoters but they need to adjust their pricing accordingly. If they don’t, they will become obsolete, just like software distributors and resellers have become for mobile applications. Or maybe, Apple will start selling e-books at $0.99 per chapter…

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Virtual Reality and Real Virtuality

I have written before about modern software and hardware systems that help us practice our skills in new ways in Virtual Reality with Real Pain. As a follow up, I have assembled a small collection of examples that I have stumbled upon since.

The first video is of a painter David Jon Kassan, demonstrating how the popular sketching on iPad can be taken to the next level. Or maybe a few levels above that:

This next video is of a Japanese magician Shinya showing some really interesting tricks that combine the iPad screen magic with off the screen magic – moving seamlessly from virtual reality to the 'real reality'.

The final video shows the band Atomic Tom improvising a real song with real arrangement on a set of iPhones. This definitely takes the iPad jamming to the next level:

As you can see, all these examples have one thing in common. They combine the virtual reality with the real experience. They don't replace a skill through automation but rather they allow us to exercise the skill without having to have what often amounts to very expensive set of tools or materials.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Fallacy of Twitter

I am a big fan of Twitter and other social media. I even wrote an article on the 8 Business Use Cases for Twitter a while ago. But I feel that there is now a social media bubble that might burst anytime soon. There are some overinflated expectations that people have on the amount of influence Twitter might have.

Thought leadership in 140 characters
The Twitter limit of 140 characters per message can be a challenge. Yes, it keeps us succinct and it makes the Twitter interactions very agile, but you won’t be able to convey a whole lot of deep thought into a Twitter message. So it’s no surprise that so many tweets include a link. Most of our ideas do require a little more space. You need to complement your Twitter presence with additional communication to share your thoughts.

More followers does not mean greater influence
Forget Ashton Kutcher, his 5 million followers are not looking for any thought leadership. They are virtual groupies. But when I see a social media guru with 100,000 followers, I get suspicious about the social aspects of those relationships. With 100,000 followers, there is not much social interaction happening – this person is broadcasting. There is nothing wrong with being able to communicate to 100,000 people but that kind of number usually suggests more breadth than depth of thought. If you are after a LOT of breadth, Ashton is your man!

Ignore the manipulators
Twitter is based on unilateral connections. That means that you are followed by people you don’t know and you don’t have to follow yourself and vice versa. I follow Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt and they are not following me back. And that’s OK. But some people expect reciprocity. They follow you and expect you to follow them. And if you don’t, darn you I will “unfollow” you within 48 hours! In fact, there are automated services that facilitate this kind of follower boosting. Don’t get fooled by it – these thousands of followers are worthless.

If you follow too many people, you are not following anyone
You shouldn’t expect to be able to follow everything the people you follow tweet about. But to stand any realistic chance to keep it social, you have to match your number of people you want to follow with the volume of updates they post. Just do the math. If you follow 3,000 people and each tweets 3 times daily, that’s 9,000 tweets per day that you would need to attempt to keep up with. That’s hardly realistic even if you spend your entire day in Twitter. Try to stay engaged and focused on who you really care about.

Twitter is an exciting tool that can really help you to get your message out, position yourself as a thought leader, and be an influencer. It allows you do things not possible before. But avoid the wrong expectations or you end up either disappointed or discredited.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Price of Content

I've been pondering the value of content today. Actually, not the value but rather the price. The eternal question, of course, remains whether or not content should be free. With all content being digital and the cost of goods and distribution converging down to zero, it is a tempting proposition. The consumers want it and the authors and publishers fight it to death. This tug of war has been going on for years.

Today, a lot of content is already free. Whereas, some LOOKS free while in reality it is not. Based on its price, there are three main types of content:

1. Free content – the quality of this free content can vary from highly professional to poor. This free content is being created for different reasons:
  • a) Content created by amateurs for the pleasure of creating it. If you share your family pictures on Flickr or if you write a blog about your bird-watching hobby, you are creating content for pleasure.
  • b) Content created by professionals for motives other than money – prestige, recognition, need to share etc. This is the category into which most blogs fall, written by professionals related to their work – like the blog you are reading right now. Also, content created under the Creative Commons license falls into this category.
  • c) Content created by professionals to directly promote other products or services. This includes any marketing web site, catalog or advertisement which may be some of the most costly content assets of all, considering the high production and placement costs.
  • d) Content originaly created by professionals as premium content, but with copyrights either expired or donated into the public domain. This content includes all the works of old masters such as copyright-free e-books or classical music.
2. Content with indirect price - this content does not have a direct price tag but there is a clear indirect price associated with it:
  • a) Content that seems free but you pay for indirectly, with your time and attention. It includes any free content that is subsidized by advertizing. Most news and magazine media sites are financed this way which is not surprising as that's exactly what they do in the physical world.
  • b) Content created by professionals in the pursuit of money. This content doesn't have a direct price but the indirect price in form of labor cost can be quite high and is paid with the expectation that it enables a revenue stream. This is about office documents, emails, spreadsheets, PowerPoint decks that the knowledge workers create, share, and consume every day.
3. Premium content – here, the content is the product. This is content that has an explicit price either à la carte or though some package or subscription fee. This can be about consumer content or about business content. iTunes songs and movies are priced à la carte while Audible also offers e-books through a subscription. An analyst report can be purchased as part of an annual package fee and the design plans for a new building might be part of the overall construction cost.

As we can see, not all content that looks free is really free. And not all content that is created by professionals is premium content. All the content (well, at least most of it) has value, all of it has cost of creation but not all of it costs money.