Monday, September 30, 2013

It's time to say goodbye

I’ve been pretty fortunate.

I’ve been a member of the workforce for twelve years and have had the privilege of working with some pretty amazing people. And while my role has changed over the years and I’ve even changed companies, there have always been constants in my professional life – good people, good technology, and a good work/life balance.

But I’ve realized something very important, and that is that when it’s time for a change, it’s time for a change. Whether that change is being driven by technology problems, personnel changes, or any of the other factors that cause you to be less than satisfied, when it’s time, it’s time.

And it’s normal to be afraid. Everyone fears change.

The idea that you’re essentially throwing away everything you’ve invested to start anew is a scary proposition, especially when it’s coupled with the notion that the grass isn’t always greener, that perhaps you’ll find yourself in a similar (or worse!) situation in the not too distant future if it doesn’t work out.

But, we can no longer settle for second best. Just “getting by” means getting beat, and that costs people their jobs. You need to have the power to do whatever you need to do to be successful and as famous entrepreneur Daymond John once said, "the secret to power is being decisive," so being afraid won't get you anywhere.

If you’re relying on an old, out of date technology to support your web initiatives, you’re making it easier for your competitors and harder for your customers. As a marketer, the pressure you’re under is exponentially higher than it was even three or four years ago and because of that, you need a technology that affords you the opportunity to get the best of the best across all of your digital channels.

But most importantly, you need a partner. You need someone that will take the scary aspects of this change away. And that’s where I come in. I'm here to help you say goodbye to your old web content management system and hello to Ektron. I’ll help you unlock the potential that your digital strategy holds to provide a measurable, noticeable ROI. And I’ll build a relationship with you so that if you ever experience tough times, you’ve got someone to turn to.

If you’re thinking about upgrading your web content management system, now is the time. It's time to seize the opportunity to replace an outdated technology with a better product and keep your business moving forward. It's time to say goodbye because only then, will you have the power.

And for those of you thinking this post was about something completely different, well, I’m sorry to disappoint… ;)

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Friday, August 23, 2013

In a Minute: Why Global Content IS the Next Mobile

As a thought leader in the space, Ektron prides itself on being able to offer our customers the latest technology when they need it. A few years ago it was support for the mobile initiatives, today I believe it's delivery global content in a localized fashion.

Check out the video below to see what I mean:

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Should Every Employee Think Like A Sales Person?

I was 22 when I started my first full time job. I was right out of college and eager to make my mark on the world. My father, who had a very successful business career, has always been my mentor personally and professionally, so I wanted nothing more than to impress him, and help him see that all of his (and my mother’s) hard work in raising me was going to pay off.

And so like every other like-minded person, I was the first person in the office every day and many times, was the last person out. I was making ok money for someone my age and knew that because we were a small company and I was the lone sales and marketing person, there were a lot of people depending on me to keep the lights on. The place wasn’t going under if I sucked, but we certainly weren’t going to grow very fast if that was the case.

It took me a little while to get going, but once I did, we started winning a lot. We won so much, that we had to move into larger spaces (twice) and grew the company more than 500% personnel wise. But it wasn’t until I was a couple of years in that I realized the most important, career changing concept that altered my work behavior forever.

It’s not how long you work, it’s how effective you are when you’re there. Yes, it’s very cliché and I know I’m not the first person to share this thought, but it was a big, light bulb moment for me, so I’ll take it a step further. 

I believe that every employee should think like a sales person. 

Here’s what I mean. Sales people are compensated in a very clear and precise manner. Sell this much, earn this much, rinse and repeat. And great sales people generally become sales managers and know that whether you work 40 hours a week or 60 hours a week, as long as you’re hitting your numbers, you’re good. 

But other areas of the business usually aren't able to do as good a job clearly defining the goals for their employees. So, why can’t this concept be applied to other areas of the business? For example:
  • To the web developer, complete projects X, Y and Z. Just focus on these three projects. 
  • To the marketing executive, your target for the month is to drive X number of leads and get this number of attendees to the event. 
  • To the customer support engineer, your target is to close X number of cases each month. 
And so on. It seems simple, but so many businesses don't really have direct targets in place (or don't tell the employees about them) to help provide this kind of direction.

The point I’m trying to make isn’t that we should set minimums for every role in the company, it’s clear we have enough people trying to get by with doing the minimum. My point is that we should set more clearly defined goals for everyone in the company because so many people wander through their career feeling that as long as they’re busy, they’re doing their job. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works; when I realized that busy doesn’t equal productive, I became a much stronger member of the team.

For the next three months, I want you to try something. Set clear goals for yourself and really focus on them. Don’t get bogged down by all the other side BS, just focus on your goals, like a salesperson focuses on the deals they’re working that quarter. 

I promise you, you’ll be more productive, the results will be better, and you’ll be home for dinner much more often.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why I Love Disney World

This Saturday, my family is heading down to the happiest place on earth, otherwise known as Walt Disney World.

We, like many others (including just about any family with young children) love it there. But it's not because of the warm weather (you can go lots of places for that) or the rides (Six Flags is 30 minutes from here), to me, it's the way people are when they're there that makes this place so special.

As a child, I had the privilege of visiting on several occasions. My parents purchased a timeshare (that I think they still regret today) that forced us to go there every few years. I have nothing but fond memories, but having been there now a few times as a parent, I realize that it's far from a vacation when you're chasing little ones around in crowded spaces day after day.

But, what I do remember from my childhood is riding all the same rides that are still there (Space Mountain, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, etc.). While these rides have undergone some modernization, they're practically identical to how I remember them.

And sitting down in the seat instantly brings back memories of sitting in those same seats with my parents and siblings (I can still picture my brother Chris reciting the "hold on to your hats and glasses" disclaimer before Big Thunder Mountain starts, over and over again).

It's nostalgia for sure, but it's something more than that -- it's consistency. We all strive to be consistent, yet few truly achieve it. Disney excels at it.

But it's not the rides that make this place special. Maybe it's the characters? Watching your child's eyes light up when Mickey Mouse is 20 feet away, or when Cinderella dances with the prince right before your eyes, or Tinkerbell flies through the sky -- it's difficult to describe. It's like watching the storybook come alive and to a young child, there might not be anything better.

But I don't think that's it either.

I strive to be a good parent, to teach my children the difference between right and wrong, how to be polite and well mannered, and to treat others as you wish to be treated. And often times, it goes in one ear and out the other. I think many other parents have the same experience. They're kids -- they listen when they want to and tune out when they don't. And we're working on this...

But, in the two previous trips that we've taken our kids down to Disney World, I can only think of one time where we had an incident. One. Over almost two weeks time. Fourteen hour days (many without naps). With two kids under the age of 5. That's fairly impressive.

And in fact, I can think of dozens of instances where they were better to and with each other, helping each other, and playing with each other. It's like they put being siblings on hold for those few days.

It's amazing what a Mouse can do.

My point is that while we enjoy the weather, the rides, and the kids being able to see the characters, what I enjoy the most is the atmosphere.

It's a world within our world, where what's happening outside the 30,080 acres of Disney-owned property simply doesn't matter. It's not that it doesn't matter, but that it doesn't impact what's happening inside the parks. The "cast members" that work there make you feel at home and welcome, you're not (really) worried about someone stealing your stuff, and generally, people are all in a great mood.

It's like it brings out the best in who we are as humans, something that I hope we all bring home with us.

I know that there are Disney-haters out there, that can't stand how commercialized it is, that are frustrated that there are full aisles of toys at Target with nothing but Disney toys and clothes, and I get that. But, within the confines of the Disney properties, I'd challenge anyone to find me a better place to show your kids what's possible in life if they believe.

I love Disney World because it shows us what we're all capable of being -- kind, generous, courteous, polite. I know that I strive to be all those things and I hope my kids pick up on that, because it's one thing to tell them to act like a princess, it's another thing for them to see it for themselves.

Seeing is believing, and I love what I see when we vacation there. We're all as humans just better people when we're there, and that's why I'll take my kids there every chance I get.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shaka Smart Doesn't Want to Win

Let me be clear -- I don't blame any coach for not wanting to takeover the basketball program at the University of Minnesota. It's a great institution, but I imagine that when you're recruiting against North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida for the top recruits, winters in Minnesota are a factor...

But seeing this article on last night got me thinking -- coaches like Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens, Mark Few and the like are afraid -- afraid of winning.

Don't get me wrong, these guys are all terrific coaches and based on what I've seen and read about them, they all sound like wonderful people, but how are these guys not getting vilified for what they're doing? They are among the best in their craft and yet, when better opportunities present themselves, they turn the other way.

If a big free agent takes more money to go to a perennial loser, he gets crucified -- but these guys pass on real opportunities to win, and win big, yet choose to stay put, and everyone applauds them. I don't get it.

Look, out of the bunch, Stevens has the most reason to stay because he's taken his program as far as he possibly can without actually winning it all. But, let's be honest, what he was able to do involved the perfect storm of senior personnel, right breaks in the brackets, and a couple of fortunate bounces. He might be lucky enough to have that happen once a decade, which if I'm a true competitor, isn't enough.

But look at Gonzaga this year -- their bracket was setup for ultimate success and they fell short. What more could they have asked for?

Can you go 20-9 at VCU or Butler or Gonzaga, get a good seed in the tournament, and play to the second weekend, probably. But, can you do it consistently and hang banners -- highly doubtful.

I understand why these guys are staying put (high income, lower pressure, personal reasons, etc.), but passing on opportunities to win at big time programs like UCLA shouldn't get these guys kudos, it should get their AD's worried that "good enough" is all they are striving for.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What’s the (Share)Point?

If you’ve browsed the Ektron website, you’ve undoubtedly come across content regarding Ektron’s best of breed approach, the Digital Experience Hub, and “Connectors” to several leading technologies like HubSpot and One of the most prominently featured integrations is with Microsoft SharePoint. And while the integration itself is pretty easy to explain, understanding all the potential benefits of this integration provides isn’t always as clear. 

And while Ektron can replace SharePoint altogether, if there is an opportunity to leverage both technologies for the best outcome, that’s really our preference. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to provide four great examples of leveraging Ektron and SharePoint together:

1. There’s No Way We’re Moving Our Assets
No one denies that SharePoint is at its best when it is being used for asset management and collaboration. It’s what it does and it does it pretty well. Unfortunately, sometimes it does it too well in the sense that an organization becomes so reliant on SharePoint for asset management, that the thought of moving assets away from SharePoint makes IT shudder. 

But, never fear. With Ektron’s SharePoint Connector, this frightening event is eliminated because the Connector provides the ability for content editors in Ektron to reach into SharePoint to grab assets for use on the website. Ektron can run the public website and those assets can either be referenced within SharePoint or duplicated in Ektron, and if it’s the latter, the Connector will create a synchronization relationship with SharePoint so that when either version is updated (via SharePoint or Ektron), both are updated accordingly.

If your assets are stuck in SharePoint, that’s not a problem with Ektron.

2. Our Content Editors Don’t Want to Learn a New System
Similar to the thought of moving a large number of assets out of an existing system, many organizations cringe when the topic of re-training their content editors comes up. You know the old phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – well that applies here. If the majority of your content editors are creating content and completing their tasks as needed, don’t make them change. Instead, allow your power users to learn Ektron so that when enhancement to that content is necessary, a small subset of users can take care of it. It’s not the best scenario to be authoring in multiple systems, but it might be a whole lot less painful.

3. We’re Happy With SharePoint, We Just Need More
Similar to the prior business case, users aren’t always looking to move off of SharePoint because of the user experience (though that’s sometimes the case). In many cases, they just need functionality that SharePoint doesn’t offer. Some of Ektron’s workflow and publishing capabilities, globalization tools, and search engine optimization components are items that SharePoint (and other web content management tools) simply don’t have. Therefore, a hybrid approach also solves this issue in that content editors can continue to use SharePoint as they always have if appropriate, and can now leverage Ektron to take advantage of the benefits it offers.

4. Migration from SharePoint Scares Me
Migrating from one technology to another can be an intimidating proposition. Depending on the format and technology of both systems, sometimes it’s really easy. Other times, not so much. If you want to migrate from SharePoint to Ektron, administrators simply setup the Connector to pull all of the content over from SharePoint automatically. Once this is done, you can re-organize, update, and categorize content as needed. It’s as a clean a migration process as there is.

Look, there are more than 100 million SharePoint users worldwide. It’s not going anywhere and if a vendor tells you that you need to throw out SharePoint entirely (against your will), there’s an ulterior motive there. For Ektron, we’re happy to either work with SharePoint or to replace it, and what that should tell you is that we’re putting your best interests first.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

5 Traits of a Successful Higher Ed Website

Over the past decade or so, we’ve had the opportunity to work on a variety of higher education web projects. This experience includes regional institutions like the University of Tampa and Cardinal Stritch University to nationally-known establishments like Northwestern University, The University of Notre Dame, and Virginia Military Institute. And while each project has distinct goals and objects, there are definitely common attributes that have contributed to their success.

It’s no surprise that Ektron is one of the leading web content management tools for higher education institutions given the expansive toolset and out of the box functionality it provides, and our partnership with Ellucian to provide an Ektron Ellucian Edition only further cements our commitment to higher education. But for me, there are five elements that really contribute to delivering a successful higher education website.

Mobile Really Matters
When’s the last time you saw an <18 year old sitting at a workstation? Seriously, think about it. The next generation of workers knows mobile and tablets better than we can even imagine. So it only makes sense that higher education institutions focus on delivering the best mobile experience possible since it’s highly likely that most students will be visiting the sites on those devices. It leaves the discussion wide open for adaptive/responsive web design versus mobile specific templates and apps, but if your target market is shopping on mobile devices, you best make sure your experience for those users is optimized.

Take a Student Focus
There are two typical ways in which higher education websites are organized from an information architecture standpoint. The first is to organize things by department and by business unit, essentially. And that works, but I don’t find that to be the optimal layout. Instead, I prefer a second option, which allows you to group content by use; using headings like Campus Life, For Parents, and the like leads to a much more engaging experience than Academics, Athletics, etc…

Don’t Hide Your Stripes
Personalizing the web experience is of huge importance for any website, but especially in markets as competitive as higher education. Therefore, it’s critical that on your home page (and high value landing pages), that what makes your institution unique is loud and clear. If you have the top math program in the country, make sure that’s prominently featured. If your basketball team is #1 in the country, that might be just as important to a segment of users. Schools have reputations whether they’re willing to admit it or not, so don’t hide from it, embrace it, and personalize your experience as much as you can.

Big vs. Small is Less Important Than Ever
We all know that David can tame Goliath, but that’s especially true in the higher education vertical. Students are less concerned with going to a large school in favor of finding the school that best fits their needs. Identify your competitive advantages and make sure they’re highlighted throughout the site. Using personalization elements like Ektron’s Content Targeting can help deliver the ideal message to your prospective students. Your basketball program might be 12-20, but if the average graduate earns 15% more than the school with the top program, delivering that message is essential and students will respond to it.

First Impressions Matter Most
I hit on this a bit with mobile, but your user experience has to be truly unique to attract today’s top talent. Stop designing as a traditional institution and instead create your site with the type of experience that engages the user from the first click. Teenagers have an even smaller attention span than us college graduates, so the whole ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’ adage truly applies.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why 2013 IS the Year of Marketing Integration

Marketers have more tools at their disposal than ever before. From marketing automation tools like Marketo and Eloqua to email marketing tools like Exact Target and hybrid tools like HubSpot, the opportunities for marketers to enhance their current campaigns are endless. Please check out the video below to see why I believe that 2013 is the year of marketing integration.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

My Goal for 2013: Slow Down

If you're like me, and I assume if we're connected via any of the social channels in which you're accessing this that you are, I'd like to provide a suggestion for 2013: slow down.

We keep getting faster at everything we do. Our cars go faster. Our phones and computers provide information faster. Heck, even our news is delivered as it's happening. And I'm not saying that it's a bad thing.

But I think we're missing out on a lot by trying to go so fast. For everytime I see a parent checking their email instead of watching their kids participate in something or everyone checking email at a red light instead of enjoying the scenery, I just wonder if we're not all missing the point of life and community.

Life is about experiencing things both through our own eyes and those of others. It's great to be happy for others when they have great experiences or when they find success, but isn't it even more important to stop taking for granted all that we have and to start appreciating the things we've been afforded?

My daughters have all sorts of toys in the car -- without them it'd be tough to remain sane. However, with all the lights up for the holidays, I've encouraged them to stop and look around instead of remaining focused on their various games. When they did, they noticed the excitement and beauty of the different decorations and it made me realize how much we were missing. I'm still going to let them play with the toys on long trips, but on short trips, I'm going to work harder to get them to look around and see what's happening around us because they're missing some pretty cool things.

If you want to talk about the politics of how our country has changed in the last 30 years that's fine, I'm no Obama supporter, but I do think technology has played a large role when it comes to family values, responsibility, and overall goodwill towards each other. Twenty years ago, we had to be decent to each other because we couldn't hide behind devices. We couldn't post bad things about people via Facebook because it didn't exist. We couldn't miss out on our children growing up because there were way fewer distractions.

I'm as guilty as anyone else of always being in a hurry to get to whatever is next on my plate, but I've realized, that I need to slow down and enjoy the moment. Things are really good right now and if we don't take time to enjoy it, we won't have anything to look back on in the future. Rushing to get to the next thing means giving less attention to what's happening right now -- and that's not right.

So go ahead with your diets and exercises and quitting things and any other new year's resolutions you might have for 2013, but also step back and try to slow down life as much you can. Put down your phones and tablets. Look out the window. Take more deep breaths. See what the sunset looks like with your own eyes (and not thru someone's post on Facebook). Enjoy what it is we have, because you never know when it'll be over.

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