Monday, December 12, 2011

Looking back at 2011

Though 2011 isn't officially in the books yet, we're definitely in the home stretch. Therefore, I wanted to get a quick post up with some recollections of the past 11 1/2 months as well as some educated guesses for what 2012 will look like.

Looking back.
2011 has been a really interesting year. Of course, I imagine that at the end of each year, I have the same thought, but nevertheless, I digress..

The Mobile Revolution?
We've heard a lot of people within the industry talk about mobile technologies taking off, and rightfully so. However, it is still baffling to me that mobile is a secondary requirement for many projects. For every client that 'gets it', there's 3-4 more who look at mobile as something they'll do "at some point". That's astonishing to me. Walking down the street, and just about everywhere else, people are consumed with their mobile devices -- yet, you don't think people care what your site looks like on a smartphone? It's just strange, And here we are in 2011, and it seems like companies are OK falling behind their competition, yet again. If you don't know history, you're bound to repeat it -- right?

Ektron 8.5 Delivered.
Many, many years ago, I saw a preview of Ektron 8.0, almost two years before it was actually released. And 8.0 was a great release, with content targeting, mobile support, in context editing, and other enhancements. Unfortunately, 8.0 is easily forgotten when you see Ektron 8.5. Ektron knew it needed to be a big release and it delivers. It's faster. It's easier to use. PageBuilder is cleaner and simpler. The developer enhancements are widely acknowledged (by people with a lot stronger tech knowledge than I). If you're an Ektron user and you haven't upgraded yet, add that to your early 2012 project list.

Newest Buzzword? Risk.
I don't know if it's the down economy, but I've never heard the term risk bandied about as much in my life. Newsflash -- everything has risk associated with it. If I don't put gas it my car, I risk running out and being stranded. If I don't buy food for my family, I risk us starving to death. If I don't pay the heating bill, I risk the gas company turning off the heat. I'm all for alleviating risk, but can we focus less on CYA, and more on ROI?

Alas, enough about the past.

Looking Ahead
I'm smart enough to not go out and make bold predictions about the world ending or Apple going bankrupt, so here are three things that I expect to happen in 2012.

People Actual Get Social.
Sure, there are millions of people of Facebook and Twitter, but many of them don't know why. Facebook is a little easier to comprehend because there are more personal connections forged there and there is a lot of water cooler type talk that's transitioned there. But Twitter/Foursquare/etc. are really primed to go more mainstream in 2012. When people start realizing the power these tools offer, and become more accustomed to seeing and using them on their mobile devices, we'll see a completely different social universe. On the plus side, at least we appear to be past the point of people tweeting 'going to the restroom, back in 5... or 10'.

Blogs will Come Again.
Even with dwindling attention spans, many social posts still reference something else, and blogs are a great landing spot. With the ability to abandon typical writing standards for the more informal, conversational blog tone, users will realize that somewhere between a long blog post (like this) and a tweet, is really the sweet spot for communication.

Specialization will Reign Supreme.
We see this across all avenues. When you go to Burger King, do you want a cheeseburger and Burger King cola, or do you want a cheeseburger and a Pepsi? Of course it's the latter (unless you're in Canada, in which Burger King carries Coke products (which I usually prefer, except during a recent visit where the goal was to find a Dr. Pepper and the local BK let us down)). While many tools will force feed you with their 'all in one' solution, successful vendors like Ektron will continue down the best of breed path, allowing you to pick who you think is best for each of the important elements of your marketing plan, instead of being dictated to you. In my book, it just makes sense.

So, am I off my rocker this fine afternoon? Let me know what you think and if you have something to contribute, be sure to comment below or drop me a note at jon (dot) kee (at) ektron (dot) com. Happy holidays!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ektron 8.5: Strong Enhancements and Improved User Experiences

I've been playing with the Release Candidate of Ektron 8.5, which has been available for a little more than a month now, and there are some noticeable improvements that will make existing customers want to upgrade as soon as the new release is officially available (estimated end of Q3).

For those not familiar with Ektron, you'll want to note that Ektron is firmly committed to a provider model approach, offering a best of breed solution integrated with our enterprise CMS, instead of a one size fits all approach. It's a pretty simple vision -- why settle for average analytics/search/marketing automation/etc. when Ektron has tight integrations with industry leaders like WebTrends, Search Server, SalesForce, and others?

Rather than focusing on trying to be everything to everyone, Ektron has made the conscious decision to focus on creating the best WCMS and allow the other industry leaders (WebTrends, Search Server, SalesForce, and others) to continue to do what they do best -- using Ektron as the common bond. It's really an intelligent approach, especially if you already have some of these elements in place.

Improved UI
One of the first enhancements you'll notice is a simplified user interface. Gone is the blaring orange background that while useful as an added source of light when working in the dark, was often cited as an area that needed improvement. The text based navigation and use of contrasting greys/blacks/blues in 8.5 is much easier on the eyes and is simply cleaner from a graphical perspective, and the Workarea performs noticeably faster.

A second area included in the 8.5 improvements is Ektron's localization and translation capabilities. In prior versions, site visitors would automatically see the default language match when content wasn’t available in the selected language. In 8.5, users can designate a fallback locale, ensuring that visitors receive content in the most appropriate language based on their geographic location. In addition, Ektron's best-of-breed provider model approach includes integration with tools like LioNBRIDGE and other leading translation providers, giving you the best of both worlds.

Now based on the Microsoft Search Server, Ektron Search brings new features including faceted navigation, dynamic search relevancy tuning, federated search, automated query suggestions, search analytics reports, and more. Search is another area where the provider model comes into play and Ektron plans to offer support for additional search tools in the very near future (stay tuned).

Developer Improvements
I've seen tweets that call Ektron 8.5 a "love letter to developers", so I have to assume that there are major improvements to the development layer (though I'm not a dev and can't comment personally). I do know that the Framework API (initially introduced in version 8.0) provides an added layer of consistency that helps developers maximize their efficiency when developing Ektron websites. In addition, 8.5's support for a true three tier architecture providers IT with increased flexibility and scalability when architecting their Ektron solution.

There's always excitement when an industry leader like Ektron offers a new release, and 8.5 has had no shortage of buzz thus far. I've been showing 8.5 to new prospects for about a month now and the response has been overwhelming positive. While there will always be ways to improve and evolve the software, 8.5 is definitely another big step in the right direction. If you're interested in downloading a version to play with today, feel free to email me and I'll be happy to help you out.

What do you think? Have you tried 8.5? How can we improve Ektron? Your feedback is appreciated, and encouraged. In fact, much of our roadmap comes from direct feedback from partners and clients, so tell us what you think!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'd like a cheeseburger, fries, and a mobile strategy, to go!

We’ve heard the drums beating for a while now…

The mobile web is coming…

The mobile web is here…

Why isn’t your site mobile friendly?

The truth is, as much as we all know as marketers and technologists that we need to embrace mobile as a platform, most of us still aren’t quite sure how to do it. And so it sits in our pile of projects, never really getting the attention it needs – and deserves.

And with each passing day, building a mobile web presence continues to further transform from a ‘nice to have’ to a necessity, so if you haven’t already, developing a strategy for how you are going to embrace mobile devices has to be first and foremost on your marketing agenda.


Even if you don’t own a smart phone (and seriously, who doesn't these days!), just about everyone has had a chance to play with an iPhone, Blackberry, Android, iPad, etc., and seen the power these devices can deliver.

Whether it’s allowing a user to get directions to one of your stores, allowing a worker to reorder a part while he’s standing next to the machine in the warehouse, or allowing prospective clients to learn about your products while sitting on the train, the possibilities are endless. The key is to identify how your users are using your current website, and how those trends translate to the mobile universe.

Ask yourself this question: “if I was a customer/user/student/member interested in your organization/company, why would I come to your website?”

Think about the context in which the user is coming to the website. What types of tasks do they routinely perform? Information gathering? Online ordering? Accessing private/member’s only content? Thinking about the context of potential visits will help in developing your actual strategy.

In its simplest form, ask yourself “why would someone look at my website on their smart phone or tablet” and you’ll be off and running.

Once you’ve identified the types of interactions that a user will have with your site, start by cataloging and evaluating your current web content to see which types of content it makes sense to expose for mobile viewing. Not every page of your website needs to be ‘mobilized’ – though that certainly is an option.

When your content inventory is complete, you should be able to then build an information architecture and navigation strategy for your mobile site. With a mobile device, so often the menu system really is the site, so making it clear, concise, and easy to navigate is essential.

From there, identify the platform that’s going to help you deliver web content. Tools like Ektron CMS400.NET have a mobile framework built-in to support multi-channel messaging.

You’ll want to make sure whichever solution you go with offers:
  • Support for all mobile devices (phones and tablets, and only God knows what else is coming)
  • Includes automatic device detection (the ability to automatically determine which device a user is using so that it can render the appropriate display/content)
  • The ability to determine whether you want a granular approach (content specific for each individual device) or the ability to setup groups of devices (smart phones, tablets, etc.), that make it easier and more efficient to deploy your first generation mobile site
In short, building a mobile strategy is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, there is such a high level of cool factor (partially because it is taking some time to get adopted by SMB and mid-market entities) that you’ve got an opportunity to be the first among your competitors to start benefiting from a mobile presence.

Think of the difference in your market when a competitor introduced eCommerce first and you watched your sales go to them because of the ease of the transaction and initial coolness of being able to order online? You’ve got a chance to make that same kind of impact with mobile, but you better act fast.

Analysts predict that by 2012, mobile devices will be the most popular internet browsing device, surpassing PCs. The question is, will users be able to browse your website in a mobile-friendly manner? I sure hope so.

Enjoy what you just read? Think this guy couldn’t be more off his rocker? Leave a comment below and help influence future entries.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Power of eSync

Ektron’s eSync synchronization technology is a real differentiator in a marketplace filled with products that have a lot of similar capabilities. Ektron’s eSync provides the ability to manage content and code changes across multiple environments, without having to manually move changes from one instance to the next.

So How’s It Work?
Let’s say that you’re a large, international operation with offices around the globe. You definitely don’t want any users authoring content or testing out new development in production, so you setup a staging site where authors can create all their content and a development site for developers to test out new functionality.

To move changes from one environment to the next with most content management systems, you’ll need to create some kind of manual process using a collection of tools such as FTP/file backups/database backups/etc. and the like. Or, you’ll be restricted to a virtual staging type model, where it may appear that there are several instances, but they’re all really tied to one database (this should be a red flag for IT as this creates a single point of failure!).

With Ektron’s eSync synchronization technology, you can simply schedule the eSync process to run using our intuitive interface, and all of your content and code changes will be automatically moved from one instance to the next. Pretty powerful, huh?

But let’s take this further. Let’s say that you have hosting operations in multiple data centers for redundancy, staging sites on each continent for local authoring, and disaster recovery servers in Canada because really now, what could ever go wrong in Canada? eSync allows you to manage data across all of these environments and can be configured to connect and share content and assets across all of those instances with ease. Check out the two videos linked below and you’ll see what I mean.

eSync for Everyone!
Make no mistake -- eSync was created for the enterprise. Global content and file sharing was a primary motivation for its development, so you should always be thinking of ways you can use it to make those processes more efficient.

For example, if you’re a Fortune 500 company with a corporate website and 40 regional sites, you can use eSync to take news releases from the corporate site and automatically push them down to the regional sites.

If you’re a national association looking to build chapter websites on a shoestring budget, eSync can help deploy these sites quickly and more cost efficiently by sharing functionality developed for one, with all of them.

Ektron eSync really allows you to think outside the box. And for all of you that just spent the last four minutes humming Huey Lewis and The News "Power of Love" (as I did the entire time I was writing this), this is for you:

Ektron eSync for Marketers

Ektron eSync for Developers

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Web Content Management Fantasy Draft

Tonight, I’ll participate in my first fantasy sport draft since I was in high school. A lot has changed since then.

As the commissioner back then, I had to grab the newspaper each morning, update the stats in an Excel spreadsheet, and show the other players to get their approval. Now, everything is automated (thank goodness) and up to the minute, with minimal manual intervention.

But it got me thinking – if I was doing a fantasy draft around .NET WCMS tools, how would the top ten draft picks go?

Well, here’s what my “cheat sheet” looks like:
  1. Solid Company / Support – Regardless of the technology, I need someone I can depend on. Every project has a problem here or there, so I need a partner that can provide the support I need, when I need it. Therefore, as long as the technologies are fairly equal, a partner I can depend on is the top pick every time.
  2. Easy to Integrate With / Open Architecture – If I’m like most people (and I am), I’m not interested in rebuilding my entire infrastructure at once. Therefore, I need a tool that allows me to utilize the elements I’ve already built, within the new system, until I’m ready to replace those pieces too. That’s why a good API and any other integration hooks available make this the second pick.
  3. Great Marketing Tools – Marketers are equipped with so much more data and capabilities than ever before, so when I start getting into “feature picks”, an innovative marketing suite tops the list.
  4. Synchronization Capabilities – If you’re considering authoring on your production site, or even with a staging site that’s connected to your production database, you’re asking for trouble. If the WCMS doesn’t have the ability to manage multiple sites with multiple databases and automatically transfer data from one instance to the next, I’m not buying. That’s why synchronization slots in at number 4.
  5. Mobile Site Management – I may still design my PC version of the site first, but the mobile version is a close second (if not the first). The tool needs to support our mobile initiatives and while this may be a pick that goes higher for some, it definitely won’t drop lower than number 5.
  6. Enterprise Search – A real bargain at number 6, search is so critical to today’s web users. Because it has become a part of navigation, having a clean, easy-to-use, effective search should be a top feature for any website. Having a WCMS tool with an enterprise-class search makes this a great pick at number 6.
  7. Clean WYSIWYG and Drag and Drop Editing – As we move into the later part of the first round, we start looking for value picks. Just about every quality WCMS is going to have a WYSIWYG editor, but those that can give me more than that have an advantage. A safe pick at 7 for sure.
  8. Social Media Features – Social is more than just tweeting and Facebooking, it’s about connecting with your customers on a more personal level. And truthfully, we really can these days. Some WCMS tools offer content targeting, multivariate testing, and personalization technologies to enhance the overall user experience, as well as the ability to integrate with Facebook, Twitter, and the like, making this a great pick at number 8.
  9. Integrated Commerce Package – For those that don’t have commerce requirements, this likely isn’t a top 10 consideration. For those that do, it might be a top 3 pick. WCMS tools that have an integrated commerce package make product and order management infinitely easier than those that don’t. 
  10. Analytics Support – The industry still seems somewhat divided on this one as some WCMS tools choose to integrate with existing analytics providers like Omniture, Web Trends, and Google Analytics, while others build their own. Because of the complexity many marketers utilize in establishing their analytics configuration, I tend to lean towards integrating with the existing carrier as it removes one roadblock that can sometimes slow down the speed to web. A good pick at number 10 for sure.
So there you have it, my top 10. Did I get it right? What am I missing? Be sure to comment below, I’d love your feedback.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Should You Have Two Facebook Accounts?

Have you accumulated 500 million friends yet? Me neither. But, it hasn’t stopped me from trying…

When I first got on Facebook, I was rather skeptical. All I heard was that it had this annoying Farmville game that was all anyone ever talked about. However, I knew that to help my company grow, I needed to get active on the social media channels.

Therefore, I started connecting to business colleagues that I found on Facebook. Then, predictably, I got flooded with invitations from former classmates, long lost friends, and family members.

The first group was interested in posts about recent site launches and new technologies, but the latter group, not so much. Likewise, the latter group constantly asked for baby pictures and things like that, things that the business users didn’t really care for.

So for me, the line got very blurry – how should I be using Facebook?

It is Blurry, If You Think About It

In the social media realm, no site has been more successful than Facebook. Facebook’s subscriber numbers are through the roof and it continues to grow at a ridiculous pace. Heck, Facebook even had a movie about it released this past year.

However, no site is also as ambiguous when it comes to how to make the divide between personal and business use. Sure, you can setup User Groups, but you can't really restrict business colleagues from seeing personal photos and personal friends from seeing business posts.

A site like LinkedIn makes its objective very clear: “a networking tool to find connections to recommended job candidates, industry experts and business partners” (from There are no personal photo galleries; Friends are called Colleagues, and even “wall posts” are almost always business-related (and never talk about getting inebriated on Friday night…).

However, with Facebook, that's hardly the case. Facebook’s objective reads: “Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them” (from Not exactly a clear distinction between personal and business use.

With Facebook, one post could be a picture of a young child playing baseball and the next could be directing users to a recent blog post. So it begs the question: should you have two Facebook accounts?

Is Two Better than One?

A colleague of mine doesn’t really utilize LinkedIn, but is an avid Facebook user. Therefore, he connects with business contacts all the time on Facebook.

And, while Ektron management isn’t thrilled with some of his college-age photo galleries on Facebook, they certainly want to encourage him to continue connecting with business contacts because it has proved to be a successful approach to building relationships with our clients. Because of this, I believe he is the perfect candidate for the two Facebook account approach.

His current Facebook account can remain for personal use. Pictures of him at the Red Sox games can remain, noting that he’s 'in a relationship’, etc… He can then create a second account and re-connect with his business contacts there.

In that account, he can post work-related information and downloads, information about his professional background, and other material that his personal friends likely don’t care about. And the best part is that this allows him to continue using the tool he’s most comfortable with to manage both sets of relationships.

Naysayers will say that maintaining two accounts is too much work, but is it, really? With mobile devices capable of supporting multiple accounts, and tools like Tweetdeck for your PC, it is easier than it has ever been.

And just think, if we all start setting up two Facebook accounts, there will be twice as many friends out there to connect with to get to 500 million…

What say you? Is having two Facebook accounts a bad idea? Comment below to tell everyone why.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Are Social Sites Indeed Making Blogs Irrelevant?

I came across an interesting blog today courtesy of LinkedIn (linked below), that basically asks the question, are social sites indeed making blogs irrelevant? I had never really thought it about it that much, but then I began to think about my own user behavior.
Maybe Others Don’t Act Like Me
I used to read blogs all the time and still do, occasionally. But, I’m much more active on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, because the barrier to accessing and interacting seems much less painful.
For example, in one application (Tweetdeck), I can manage all three of my accounts on those sites. If I want to post something, I can enter it once and post it out to any or all of the sites. If my post exceeds a known character limit, the program is smart enough to let me know. Plus, just about anyone I interact with has access to my posts and those that don’t, can easily search and find me/my posts. Pretty easy, huh?
But I’m Reading Your Blog
Very true. Those of you reading this BLOG are likely acknowledging that I’m a HYPOCRITE, but that further lends to my point. How did you find it? Likely, you came in from one of those other sites where this blog was posted (and the blog’s analytics support this). So, the real question is, can social media replace the need for a blog or will we get to a point where 140 characters is more than enough space to share our message.
A Simple, But Possible Example
The blog I mentioned in the opening paragraph (that’s also linked below) spends almost a full page talking about how today’s youth is becoming less and less likely to blog. But, after reading the blog, couldn’t the entire thing be shortened to this: Youth less likely to blog, doesn't have attention span for it. Favoring FB, LinkedIn, Twitter and other channels. I mean, when is the last time you were recapping an article or blog to a friend and it took longer than a sentence or two tell them what it’s about?
The Future, in 140 Characters or Less
In the late 90’s, many sites had message boards and discussion forums. But, in the early 00’s, many of those disappeared in favor of blogs and chat technologies. Why? Because forums can be difficult to navigate, cumbersome to moderate, and nightmarish from a UI perspective. Aren’t some of these complaints being made about blogs nowadays?
Perhaps it’s time to seriously consider the idea that social media could be the one replacing blogs, the way they replaced discussion forums.
I’m not saying that we’re approaching the end of modern literature because there will always be a place for that. However, I am beginning to think that maybe the usefulness of blogs is starting to wind down. What do you think?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Adapt or Die. Welcome to the Adaptive Web

Ektron's new partnership with Baynote is extremely exciting. Therefore, I wanted to make sure everyone in the Midwest had a chance to learn about it via a recent blog by Tom Wentworth, Ektron's VP of Web Solutions. Enjoy!

You have seven seconds to engage a visitor before they leave your site.  Or maybe it’s ten seconds.  Or three.  Whatever the exact number is for your site, you’ve got a finite amount of time to engage a visitor before they’re gone.  Content is the cornerstone of visitor engagement on the corporate website.  It entertains, educates, and sometimes even inspires your customers.  The challenge faced by marketers is to get the right content to the right visitor, in the right context, across every customer channel.  Managing content was so much easier when you could create and publish content without putting much thought into how the content generated business outcomes like new customer acquisition, retention, lead generation, etc.  Today, companies look to web content management systems like Ektron to serve as the foundation for their web strategy.  While content management remains a core challenge for marketing teams, the ultimate goal is engagement, not management.  So how do companies use content to engage site visitors?  Enter personalization.

Web content management systems typically address personalization through rules-based content targeting.  Content targeting allows marketers to define business rules to personalize content delivery.  For example, a promotion on a landing page might be tied to a specific search engine keyword.  Or a site might deliver promotion to existing customers based on their prior purchase history.  Content targeting is often combined with multivariate testing to uncover the best combination of copy, layout, imagery, and other factors to drive conversion.  Content targeting works well when marketing teams have a fixed number of customer segments and are able to clearly define those segments based on behavioral, environmental, or user profile data.  But often marketers want to evolve beyond a customer segmentation strategy to reach the Holy Grail, 1-1, real time, intent-driven personalization.  Welcome to the adaptive web, powered by Baynote.

Baynote’s Adaptive Web suite compliments rules-based targeting, where companies need to deliver a personalized web experience to each visitor in real time based on context and intent.  Baynote operates using the collective intelligence gained from the interaction patterns of site visitors.  Each page on the website automatically adapts itself to provide the right recommendation, the best content, or the most helpful search result, all based on the collective intelligence learned across hundreds of thousands of visitor interactions.

Content, Meet Context

In my predictions for Web CMS in 2011, I proclaimed that content is king, context is queen and together, they rule the fiefdom of web engagement.  Today, Ektron announced a new partnership with Baynote to address the expanding market need for better website engagement.  As Mick MacComascaigh at Gartner said in our joint press release, “Companies across all verticals and geographies are looking to deliver more business value from their online presence.  Next-generation web content management systems must evolve to become context-aware, delivering highly targeted and personal content based on real-time visitor intent.”  Like Ektron, Baynote understands the value of context, and together we now provide a complete solution for organizations looking to better engage their customers across all touch points- including landing pages, microsites, customer support, and more.  Baynote and Ektron worked together to create an integration that allows customers to quickly deploy Baynote on their Ektron-powered sites using Ektron PageBuilder.  Our joint customer Wolters Kluwer had the following to say about the new partnership:  “As a joint customer, we see the value of combining Ektron with the Baynote Collective Intelligence Platform.  Ektron provides us with an enterprise-class web content management system while Baynote lets us adapt the web experience by understanding exactly what customers need.  By combining these previously separate technologies, Wolters Kluwer is able to better service our customers who rely on our websites to manage their businesses more effectively.” 

I’ve long admired Baynote, and now I’m thrilled to be working together to advance the agenda of the adaptive web.  We share a similar vision for the future of the web, and now its time to start helping customers deliver on that vision. Adapt or die. 

Tom Wentworth is an experienced, versatile, and passionate technology executive with over 15 years experience selling, marketing, and designing enterprise software. In his current role, Tom is the VP of Web Solutions for Ektron, where he's responsible for corporate strategy.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is Your Project Facing a Third-and-One?

Football fans know that third-and-one (both on offense and defense) is one of the toughest situations to be in. You’ve got to find a way to pick up a yard (on offense) to keep the ball or stop the other team from gaining a yard (on defense) to get the ball.

So with the Super Bowl approaching, I thought it was appropriate to use this analogy as it relates to projects (full disclosure: this blog post idea was triggered by a quote by Indiana basketball Tom Crean (below), relating third-and-one to basketball).

Why Does Vendor Selection Take So Long?
I’ve spent nearly a decade working with web projects across all verticals and everywhere from SMB to the enterprise, and one trend that I’m seeing is that it’s taking longer and longer to identify and select a vendor. And it makes no sense, honestly. Yes, there are more qualified vendors to choose from these days, but because of technological advances, our ability to evaluate and score them has been accelerated as well.

So, what can we do to make the vendor selection process more efficient:
  • Don’t ask 20 firms to bid on a project; Find a list of three to five quality firms that you’ve identified, and ask them to participate.
  • Identify any major technological preferences/requirements ahead of time; If your development team is dead set on a .NET based solution, don’t involve firms that only work in open source.
  • Meet with every vendor; It’s so simple, but is often ignored. I can only put so much into a proposal for you to look at; but, if we sit down, we can have a productive conversation that will give you a much better idea as to my experience and capabilities. This can vastly reduce the amount of time it takes for you to evaluate a vendor. And, this leads right into my next point…
  • Look em in the eye; It’s easy to hide behind technology these days. Emails can be cleverly crafted. Phone calls can be planned out (or unanswered). Even instant messages allow vendors to digest the question and carefully prepare a response. But nothing is as effective as meeting in person and being able to look someone in the eye to determine if they’re someone you can work with. In many cases, you’re looking at a multi-year engagement, so don’t you need to know that you can trust this person before you sign on the dotted line?
  • Who do you do; Problems will pop up during the course of the project, they always do. Be sure to choose a vendor that has experience working on projects of a similar magnitude so that they know how to navigate through these unforeseen changes during the course of the project.
Following those steps can help speed up the selection process, but what happens when you get to a third-and-one with your actual project?

Why Isn’t My Project Moving Faster?
Similar to the course of a football game, there are certain points in every project that are tougher/more critical than others (the third-and-ones if you will). It’s these milestones that often are the cause of delays, whether they’re on the part of the vendor or on the part of the client. While many vendors are smart enough to build padding into their timeline to accommodate unanticipated delays, others will try to win bids by simply proposing the tightest of deadlines.

In either case, here are some things we can do to power through those third-and-one situations:
  • Establish guidelines; When establishing the project timeline, outline both development time and client review time so that everyone has a clear understanding of their responsibilities and the consequences if deadlines are missed.
  • Identify stakeholders; Knowing who needs to sign off on what allows your primary point of contact to set expectations in terms of client review.
  • Don’t call FEMA; Identify a resolution path in the event that scope changes are necessary or the direction of the project changes midstream – this does happen and being prepared for it makes it smoother for everyone involved.
  • Talk, talk, talk; Email/IM/Skype/etc. are nice tools, but none can replace picking up the phone or traveling to meet with your client/vendor. Talking is still the best way to communicate, so do it early and often.
  • Remember, you’re working together; Even the best marriages can end in divorce. It’s important to remember that you’re both working towards the same goal – a successful project where both parties are happy, and that ideally, leads to a long-term relationship. So many projects fail because one side becomes upset with the other and rather than the project experience being an interactive and collaborative one, it becomes one-sided and resentful.
So there you have it, some good plays to call on third-and-one. I know that adhering to these guidelines is in no way a guarantee for success, but it’s certainly a good place to start.

Be sure to let me know what you do to help reduce vendor selection time and reduce project delays by commenting below.

The Tom Crean quote referenced above, when talking about his young Indiana team needing to get tougher:
"My father-in-law equates it to third-and-one in football. Third-and-one on defense, it's the hardest play. Third-and-one on offense, it's the hardest play. Well, there are certain plays at the rim that are like that in the course of a game. But third-and-one or third-and-two, however you want to look at it, when it's 2:28 and it's a four point game, we still have to believe that we're going to win the game. And that's what we've got to grow through." -- Tom Crean on the Hoosiers' reaction to crunch time vs. Penn State. Crean's father-in-law is Jack Harbaugh, father of NFL coaches Jim and John Harbaugh. (source:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why the Ektron Developer’s Guide is a Good Investment (IMO)

In case you hadn’t heard, Ektron recently authored and released Ektron Developer's Guide: Building an Ektron Powered Website, a 600+ page guide to best practices for building WCMS-driven websites. As a non-technical person, I can’t say that I was super excited to dive into it, but I’ll tell you, it was really insightful.

What’s it About?
Rather that give you my synopsis, here’s how it’s described by the authors:

From Bill Rogers, Ektron’s CEO and Author:
"The goal of this book is to give .NET developers a complete reference guide that they can use as a resource to support their work in successfully creating an Ektron web project. As we've added social software, mobile, marketing optimization and other Web 2.0 tools to our core content management system, it became clear that Ektron developers needed an authoritative guide on how to plan and implement a CMS that can help achieve an organization's overall goals; whether those goals are lowering costs, increasing efficiencies and productivity or better serving their customers."

From Bill Cava, Ektron's Chief Evangelist and Author:
"It's important to note that the "Developers Guide" isn't just for developers who are already familiar with Ektron. We were careful not to make the assumption that the reader had any prior knowledge of the platform. And if you haven't gotten your feet wet with a CMS project in the .NET environment before, this will be a good guide to both the challenges you're going to face and solutions you can implement."

My Weekend
With the upcoming Bears game serving as the highlight of my weekend (until they went on to blow it yesterday), I needed a way to pass the time. So, I locked myself upstairs and started hammering through the book.

A lot of the technical stuff was beyond my knowledge (I’m a sales and marketing guy), but the strategy and methodology information was really astute. And perhaps more importantly, applies to any large web project, not just Ektron projects.

Some of the stuff I found most helpful includes:
  • Understanding/evaluating Ektron’s web project methodology to compare / contrast with other approaches
  • The details of how to truly construct a project plan, and stick to it
  • Learning a lot about CMS400.NET functionality by understanding the backend; giving me an even better understanding of the WCMS’ capabilities
  • Being able to really track a project from idea conception to delivery, and information on the pitfalls that plague many WCMS projects.

Should You Buy It?
It’s far outside my realm to tell you whether or not this book will be as helpful to you as it was to me. But, if your role involves managing or creating large web projects, there is a lot of good information there that can help improve the efficiency of your projects.

We’re always looking for ways to improve how we do things and for $38, this seems like an awful lot of bang for your buck.

To buy the book: Visit
To read the full interview with the authors, click here

Have you read it? If not, are you excited to? Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Ektron Midwest Mailbag

With the new year well underway and many organizations having new budgets, I’ve been getting a lot of questions as to how they can get the most bang for their buck in 2011. Therefore, I present the first edition of the Ektron Midwest Mailbag. If it's popular, I'll try to do these 1-2 times per month.

I know that we need an intranet, but I’m having a hard time convincing management to get on board. What is the value proposition of an intranet that I can sell up the ladder?

I’ve gotten this question a lot actually, so here are some of the answers that seem to be the most effective:
  • Communicates important announcements more effectively than other channels
  • Provides live feedback on what employees think and need
  • Creates an audit trail for management to be able to track what’s going on more effectively
  • Provides a single place for online collaboration, helping ensure that projects are completed more efficiently
  • Offers an option to replace using email for much of a business’ day to day communication

I’ve heard that Ektron is creating an email marketing suite; is there any truth to that rumor?

Yes. The email marketing suite is slated to release with version 8.5 (coming late Q1 or early Q2) and will represent a major improvement over the current web alerts functionality.

I’ve noticed that Ektron’s partner channel has been undergoing some changes, what’s going on?

Ektron has introduced a new accreditation program to further qualify and evaluate our partners. We’ve been actively working with our partners to ensure that if a client chooses to work with a partner, they have the experience to deliver.

Is Ektron going to be hosting Local User Groups again this year?

Yes! I don’t have the dates or locations yet, but I would anticipate another whirlwind tour this spring…

I feel like it’s time for a redesign, but don’t know how to make that decision. Any recommendations?

If you’re not sure what to do, I highly recommend engaging with a firm that offers discovery services. Discovery is normally used in the early stages of a redesign, however, many companies also use discovery services to get a ‘state-of-the-website’, if you will. Therefore, I’d recommend investing a few dollars there to have someone complete a professional assessment of your website first. Then, if a redesign is appropriate, the pros will let you know. And of course, several Ektron Partners offer discovery services. If you're an existing Ektron user, you will definitely want to take a look at Ektron's Site Improvement Services.

Can you use CMS400.NET to manage content that doesn’t live inside a CMS400.NET website?

Absolutely. Because of the flexibility of the platform, users can manage content via the CMS and have it publish out to non-CMS websites. Whether that means it’s publishing via RSS/Twitter/etc. or you’re actually dropping our controls into other .NET websites, you’ve got a ton of options.

I attended Synergy last year and it was great; where’s it going to be this year?

Even I’m not privy to that intel yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I know. You can always check the Synergy website too.

So there you have it, the first edition Mailbag. Hopefully it's not the last.. ;)

Got a question for the Mailbag? Email it to with the subject 'Mailbag'.

Please note that identities have been excluded for privacy reasons.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Intranets – To Build or Buy

With another new year upon us, the following conversation is happening in meeting rooms around the globe:

 Employee 1: We really need to find a way to connect our employees.
 Employee 2: Yeah, didn’t we meet about getting an Intranet up last year?
 Employee 1: Yeah, but it never happened.
 Employee 2: Well, let’s see if we get that conversation restarted.

Every business knows it needs an internal website to do things like share files, encourage collaboration, and provide a means for executive management to directly communicate with the team, but only a small fraction act on it and do so effectively.
Evolution Always Wins
Intranets, like just about everything else, have evolved over the past decade. No longer is it simply a file repository and company directory, intranets now:
  • Have social elements and activity streams that connect users around the globe
  • Allow departments to share information and manage projects
  • Not only allow for, but strongly encourage direct feedback from users, feedback than can be harnessed and addressed by management to resolve issues
  • Connect technologies, serving as a starting page that allows users to get access to all the information they need from one spot
And it’s because of this growth, that users often struggle with the decision to buy an off the shelf intranet product or custom build a solution.

To Buy or To Build – That is, the Question
You’ve identified that you do in fact, need an intranet (yes, we all knew this already!). Here are the best arguments I‘ve heard for why you should build or buy your intranet solution.

Why Buy
  • Quick deployment
  • It allows your business to focus on what you do best and leverages the experience of others
  • Usually has more features that a custom solution 
  • If it’s good – user adoption generally will be high right from the start
  • Generally integrates easier with other applications and websites
  • Lots to options choose from

Why Build
  • You have very specific requirements and a one size fits all option isn’t a good fit
  • The pre-built solutions can be costly
  • The integration points you need to achieve aren’t commercially available 
  • Quite simply – you haven’t found anything that meets your needs
  • Hosting requirements of the pre-built solution don’t match your requirements
I’ve recommended both solutions to clients because both sides have valid points and there is no way I can sit here and tell you what’s best for your organization. However, like any good web project, I strongly encourage you to spend some time working with your team to find out what it really needs to be successful before looking at any solutions, Then, when you get to that point, hopefully this information proves useful as you move through your decision making process.

To learn more about Ektron’s solution, the eIntranet, please visit: