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: