Monday, March 23, 2009

Xythos ECM Zimlet for Yahoo Zimbra Now Available!

While it seems like we’ve been talking about this Zimlet for a long time, it’s right on schedule and ready for you to try out now. The new Xythos Zimlet is ideal for integrating advanced document management functionality with Zimbra Collaboration Suite using easy Web 2.0 functionality.

If your organization is looking for a secure method to share documents among Zimbra users or maintain a compliant Zimbra email archive, the Xythos Zimlet is definitely worth checking out. You will need Xythos Digital Locker or Xythos Enterprise Document Management Suite version 5.0 or higher to use the Xythos Zimlet.

If you want to learn more about the new Xythos Zimlet visit.

There’s a nice recorded web demo there that will give you even more ideas about what you can do with Xythos and Zimbra together.

Friday, March 20, 2009

AIIM 2009 - Déjà vu for ECM, or Not?

It’s March and while we’re not busy trying to figure out NCAA brackets here at Xythos, we’re reviewing our final plans for this year’s AIIM conference. It kind of seems just like last year and the year before that, but is it really? I’m not sure. Industry trade events appear somewhat less important amidst the economic chaos of 2009. Business travel and entertainment are almost taboo and TARP funded bonuses are the new personal finance plague.

Let me first avoid any confusion. I think the folks at AIIM are doing a great job representing the ECM industry and educating the rest of the world about the benefits of content management technology. However, I am worried about the continued relevance of AIIMExpo. As an industry who’s primary goal is to improve the efficiency with which we interact with information, I have to wonder if the traditional trade show forum continues to best serve that purpose?

Like any event, AIIMExpo still serves as a convenient meeting location for vendors and channel partners to get together. It helps us conduct product updates and training sessions in a more efficient few-to-many equation that can enhance relationships and save some money. However, I’m not sure that events like AIIMExpo any longer function effectively as a forum to develop new customer relationships, or even increase awareness about ECM products and services.

Our own CRM data demonstrates that we’re seeing more of the folks we know each year at AIIMExpo and fewer new prospects. This may not necessarily be bad and may speak to the maturing nature of our business and the industry itself. However, it is something we need to align our business plans and expectations with. We have already reduced our floor space at the event for the second year in a row. Partners, like Ricoh don’t have a floor show presence at all for 2009.

Discovery and learning is taking place in different places and in different ways than on the trade show floors these days. We’ve had to radically adapt our marketing plans at Xythos in response to this change. It’s not just about saving money. Customer behaviors have changed considerably too. No one has time to wander through events these days with the hope that they’ll stumble upon ideal solutions for their business.

ECM customers and prospects are a technologically sophisticated group. They know they can find the information they need when and where they want it. Increasingly that “place” is online where they can learn at their convenience and interact with vendors when they are ready. For Xythos, that’s required developing new methods for creating awareness, delivering content and engaging with the community.

In several ways, we’re migrating the introductory elements associated with traditional events to the web. For example, we’re relying more on social networks as a means by which prospects can casually be introduced to our products and services and like-minded peers. We’ve also become dependant upon the location-neutral benefits of web seminars to provide in-depth solution demonstrations. Recording these events also helps us respond to the 24x7 response expectations of our growing global market. (Having a super-scalable ECM system like Xythos EDMS helps a lot too!)

The benefits of this change aren’t limited to better serving the needs of our customers, although that should be enough justification. We’re saving money and becoming a little “greener” too. We are attending fewer events this year and that saving goes right to the bottom line. When we do attend events, we deliver brochures, data sheets, etc. electronically saving our clients some hassle and saving us printing and distribution costs. We’ve even begun sending ourselves (and customers) to events electronically – using web conferencing & video to include guests unable to participate in person at our presentations.

So if you haven’t guessed already, I won’t be at AIIM 2009 this year. It will seem strange, like not attending COMDEX anymore, and I will miss a real Philly cheese steak sandwich. However, we’ll have a great team from Xythos at the event and plenty of new ECM solutions to introduce. Of course, I’ll be participating virtually, while I try and continue to feed the content appetite of our growing online document management communities.

(OK – Truth be told, it is warming up nicely here in San Diego. We can already leave the windows open to the Pacific breeze at night again. Would you want to leave if you didn’t have too?)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

ECM on My iPhone with Xythos!

Finally, there’s a native application for managing enterprise content on my iPhone. That’s right, I’ve begun using DAV-E to access and share the content I’ve stored in Xythos Enterprise Document Management suite (EDMS) and I’m finding it quite useful. Even as a first edition, DAV-E offers some powerful functionality that will encourage me to leave my laptop at home more often.

Now, I know some of you are thinking “managing content on an iPhone – Really?” I understand. As a content creator, I wasn’t expecting to do much editing, or creating just because I can access all of my files with my iPhone. That wasn’t really the reason I was excited about DAV-E to begin with. Instead, I wanted a content management solution that would simply allow me to control access to, and share my content whenever and wherever I might be.

While those aspirations may appear simple, I had never achieved them before without a PC. So being able to review, approve and distribute content hasn’t always been easy for me and sometimes, practically impossible. Sure, I enjoyed using ACU’s portal based access to their version of Xythos last fall, but that didn’t help me with my own work data. A native iPhone app offers unique advantages that Safari versions can’t match – particularly when you’re out of WiFi range. This is an area where my iPhone completely outshines my Macbook, as it doesn’t have a 3G card in it.

If you’re still wondering how important simply accessing and sharing content can be, consider what most people are already doing on social networks like Facebook and those dedicated to sharing photos like Picasa. My content sharing needs require a degree of security and flexibility these sites don’t provide such as, file level access controls, document tracking, version control and more. Basically, I needed a “button” for my vital business content just like the ones for Linkedin and Google I already have on my iPhone.

DAV-E delivers. Now, I can access my Xythos folders from anywhere. The next time my boss calls about a report when I’m at the beach, I’ll be ready. With DAV-E, I can send email messages that include Xythos files links, manage permissions and contribute content to Xythos blogs or wikis in ways I hadn’t even considered, such as using the photo upload feature.

I wonder what the makers of DAV-E will add next? Audio and video uploads? Oh, I almost forgot to mention, DAV-E offers a file cache too. You can set the size of the cache and use it to work offline for those times when you can’t event get iPhone access, like on the plane. DAV-E should work with most WebDAV servers and Xythos implementations. Of course, you can test that out for free with a Xythos on Demand account too. You can also get the free version of DAV-E here.

Try it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kindle on iPhone a Call for Content Management?

The publishing industry used to look a lot like the broadcast television and music industries. A small group of publishing houses determined which author’s works would reach store shelves, just as record labels and broadcast networks decided what we would listen too or watch. While digital content distribution has begun to dramatically alter the business models for music and video, the model for publishing and consuming books has not appeared to change so dramatically.

Sure, there have been several attempts to publish books online, most notably Google’s Book Search project, but these efforts have generally not addressed the convenience factor and portability afforded by old fashioned books. Even with a laptop, reading an on online book hasn’t always been comfortable or easy.

Some of these issues were addressed with the first Amazon Kindle. Its design and use of e-ink were unique and compelling and its ease of browsing and purchasing books remains unmatched. Version 2 of the device should overcome earlier usability issues and arrives in a more compelling package. However, the market for $359 e-readers will probably still consist of truly committed book readers and gadget hounds with healthy bank accounts.

That’s why Amazon’s release of Kindle for iPhone really grabbed my attention. With ten’s of millions of iPhones already in use and millions more selling each quarter, it would seem like an instant mass market for e-books has just been created. Equally important, Kindle on iPhone and presumably, soon on other smart phones may produce a new publishing model more like the App Store than traditional book publishing.

This may provide authors with a better chance to reach their audience. Of course, that’s assuming Amazon and Apple behave more like a distribution channel for authors vs. an editorial board. It could also require authors to assume more responsibility for the development and marketing of their works. They might need to establish their own “editorial networks” to perform quality control and provide other resources once part of traditional publishing contracts. Social networking and collaboration tools could play an important role helping to establish and support these networks.

Web-enabled content management (ECM) tools could help speed the process of authoring and editing books particularly among collaborators working in different locations. The combination of online authoring, collaboration and research tools could go a long way towards replacing the safety net provided by the traditional publishing model while helping to eliminate some of the overhead costs associated with it.

These same networks could also become useful marketing tools for authors to promote their books. I suspect that many authors are already using content management tools to create and publish their work. Re-using these skills and their own content to increase awareness probably isn’t a foreign concept either. Putting a free chapter on Amazon or Google and hosting subject matter discussions on Facebook or Linkedin would not seem like a big step from there.

That’s good, because the process of gaining recognition for books probably won’t become any easier. With fewer newspapers and book reviews being published, readers may rely even more on best-seller lists and remarks posted on Amazon and other social networks. Authors without big budget publishing contracts are going to have to use all the content management and networking skills they’ve got to just get noticed on the “virtual shelf”.

As an avid reader of listener comments on iTunes, as well as buyer suggestions on Amazon, I’m optimistic. I generally place more faith in the aggregate wisdom of my peers when it comes to consuming content than I do in the so called industry “thought leaders”. I can still remember quite a few unhappy purchase experiences from the pre-sampling/networking days where a rave review in a magazine clearly did not align with my own preferences.

So, I’m excited to get more content I like in my iPhone “book” thanks to Kindle. I also hope authors will take advantage of the many great content management and collaboration tools that are now available to help them succeed in the new e-book marketplace. For those authors plagued with the challenge of exchanging large book manuscripts online I recommend using Xythos on Demand. It’s free for the first 30 days, so that aught to help get things moving.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Xythos and Enterprise Content Management

As a technology marketer I’m feeling virtually bombarded by offers to learn how to master Web 2.0 technologies and social networking tools in order to remain relevant amidst the economic chaos of 2009. If you read half these solicitations, it would appear that traditional advertising and communications strategies have achieved a state of irrelevance, lost in our new multi-channel, multi-media world.

After spending so much effort and time focused on discovery, search optimization and living for keyword ranking results on Google, I’ve almost wanted to dismiss the more obtuse elements of community marketing. It’s not that we haven’t been engaged. We’ve got channels on YouTube and groups on Linkedin and Facebook thanks to more adventurous staffers at Xythos, but I wasn’t convinced yet.

That changed for good when I attended Educause 2008, the annual IT summit for the world’s colleges and universities. As usual, we had prepared for the event with pre-show mailings and other marketing campaigns intended to increase activity at our booth and the various seminars and events that we were hosting. In fact, in order to measure our campaign return on investment (ROI) we asked each attendee to identify what prompted them to visit us during the event.

About 11% reported that they had learned about Xythos, or one of our planned activities at the conference via a social networking site. Wow! I thought when I learned about this data. No, it wasn’t a huge percent, but as an organization we had hardly begun to invest in these networks. Equally important, the total cost of that investment was an incredibly small part of our marketing budget, even for that particular event.

This got me thinking and quickly planning in a different way for 2009. Being discoverable is still ultimately important, once prospective customers begin seeking solutions. However, it’s becoming more obvious that the process of becoming aware of, and learning about new ways of doing things is changing rapidly. Social networks on the web would appear to be important catalysts of that evolution particularly as they relate to the discovery of new technologies.

We’ve already been busy testing the hypothesis this year. While it’s a bit soon to draw conclusions, we’re beginning to see more supporting results. We’ve increased our production of rich media including recorded videos and audio podcasts in addition to updating blogs (like this one) more frequently. We’re using the social networks to promote this content and attempting to develop communities of interest around it.

For some of you, this might already appear obvious and old fashioned, but in the “serious” world of enterprise software marketing it hasn’t seemed all that common. As a result, these activities have helped improve search and discovery performance for some of the keywords and phrases important to our business. We measure these results using Google analytics and by monitoring inbound email and telephone requests.

If you’re wondering how all of this relates to enterprise content management, I can tell you without a doubt that many of our activities related to creating and managing rich media could not have happened very easily without an ECM system. For example, we develop and record audio and video content in multiple locations and need to share it quickly. Individual files can easily exceed 100 Mbs and would be prohibited from our company email system. Instead, we store them in shared folders within Xythos’ EDMS where all participants can see them, be notified when they change, etc.

Our ECM system also serves as our staging area for the main Xythos website essentially allowing us to proceed from concept to publication for all the content we create. Integrated collaboration and workflow tools help us to better automate the process and we make sure to use the version control features as well. Most importantly for our team, we’ve integrated our use of email with content management so that we dialog about projects in messages that include links to our media stored in Xythos. This relieves our email system significantly and makes accessing and sharing files a whole lot easier.

Of course, there is a penalty for having an easy to use ECM system and rich media authoring tools. Fear! Creating and distributing rich media content on social networks has become absurdly simple. While that may be OK for teens on YouTube or Facebook, it can be quite scary for corporate marketers. Fortunately, our ECM system promotes a healthy editing and review process, although its still no guaranty of quality. However, given some of the early results we’ve seen, I guess we’ll just have to swallow some pride and practice, practice, practice.

So, what’s your experience been like using rich media and social networking sites for your business or organization? Do you have any good stories you’d like to share?