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Enterprise-wide Content Convergence


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Founded centuries ago in Denmark and owned by a private trust, Stibo Catalog is today a flourishing provider of Enterprise Content Management systems (ECMS), with a special focus on Catalog Management solutions for the B2B segment. According to John Olsen, VP for Business Development at Stibo, “The company is positioned at the point where digital assets, records and Web content are converging, ready to deliver full solutions to this new content nexus. At the end of the day, ECMS is all about ensuring efficient internal workflows and infrastructure to meet customers’ future requirements.” Read how an old Europe technology supplier sees the new realities of the global content business.


John Olsen What makes Stibo’s STEP Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS) different from its rivals?

Many companies position themselves as Enterprise Content Management vendors today. But in the eyes of the analysts, the Enterprise Content Management market consists of vendors that at least have capabilities for Web Content Management, Document Management and Digital Asset Management. Documentum is considered the leader in this space.

At Stibo, we see ourselves as an Enterprise Content Management vendor as well, but we offer solutions for three specific sub-areas:

  • Catalog Content Management
  • Product Information Management
  • Cross-Media Publishing

We also have document management capabilities that can be tailored to the needs of our customers, e.g., in the newspaper publishing market. And the same goes for digital asset management. We have a background in print and started our catalog management business in 1976 before the rise of all-digital media. The handling of images has always been a very important dimension for our customers.

How is the “data explosion” affecting your customers?

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We expect the explosion in content needs to continue as the use of Intranets expands and as e-catalogs play an increasing role in the e-procurement process and in electronic market places. The amount and complexity of information within organizations is growing dramatically. Current predictions estimate that the volume of content will grow by a factor of 5 over the current level in the next five years due to the growing popularity of Intranets alone. The challenge is to handle this content in a consistent, cost-effective and integrated manner so that it becomes a business asset rather than simply a cost.

And this is where Catalog Content Management comes in. In the recent past, a company may have had five catalogs a year to produce (for example, a Web catalog, three printed seasonal-specific catalogs and a CD-ROM catalog). But today, that same company may have hundreds of catalogs to manage. The line-up might look something like this:

  • Three printed catalogs, but available in ten different languages
  • Fifty e-catalogs to support with a different selection of product data on e-markets
  • One hundred customers’ e-catalogs, which again offer a different selection of product data, all in different languages

With our Catalog Content Management solutions, the goal is to manage this complexity so that ROI is achieved fairly quickly. To be able to achieve ROI on its content, a company needs to be able to repurpose and reformat content over and over again from a single repository. It needs to organize and enrich its product data so that it can react quickly to new publishing demands and then syndicate selected types and pieces of content in whatever format and in whatever language is required by the business focus at a given time. We believe that what is called Product Information Management is the solution to such massive publishing needs for companies with huge inventories, such as large-scale manufacturers in automotive and other component-intensive industries.

If a company organizes its product data properly in a database with strong Product Information Management capabilities, it can then make selected content available for the right destination through its Catalog Content Management capabilities. The company will then require powerful tools to push this selected content through whatever channel is needed to reach its customer base or partners - this could be an electronic, CD-ROM or printed catalog. We have designed our STEP Content Management Suite to provide powerful tools in all these areas.

What do you consider to be must-have features for an ECMS today?

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These are the capabilities we consider to be critical today:

  • The ability to handle languages, using a variety of translation tools, such as translation memory and translation workflow tools.
  • Advanced templating technology that benefits customers through dynamic updating of Web sites and Intranets, and the complete automation of building pages and indexes for printed catalogs. For example, when a company increases its production rate from 30-50 to 1,000-2,000 pages per day for a 2,000-page printed catalog in fifteen different languages, it will realize tremendous savings and, equally important, reduce its time-to-market substantially.
  • Being able to easily create the same look-and-feel between CD-ROM and Web catalogs to ensure the same customer experience across all platforms. This means combining both types of catalogs so that the customers do not know in which application they are searching for information. This is necessary because many customers still consider CD-ROM to be an excellent publishing option.
  • The ability to nurture online relationships with suppliers. With 1,000 suppliers or more, a company needs tools to import data in all kinds of different formats, plus the possibility to enrich this data to provide the experience that its customers expect. This process also requires efficient approval workflows.

The biggest overall advance we can provide to our B2B customers is the combination of all these capabilities. We focus strongly on providing advanced data management tools and combining these with advanced publishing tools. Other players in this space tend to focus on just one part of the picture and then work in ‘best of breed’ partnerships with suppliers of another part of the total solution. The leading software houses are also starting to provide overall enterprise content management solutions, so it is important for us to be positioned at the point where digital assets, records and Web content are converging, ready to deliver full solutions to this new content nexus.

Now that solutions are available for single sourcing, centralized content management, locale and language tagging, and adequate interfacing with localization processes, do you consider that the localization aspect is now in theory ‘solved?’

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We have never viewed localization/globalization as a major problem. This is probably due to the fact that Stibo Catalog has been present in mainland Europe, the U.K. and the U.S. for more than two decades, and for five years now in Asia (Singapore). Our customers are nearly all international customers, and addressing language and localization has been a “must” for us to deliver effective solutions. We believe that once a company follows the single content repository philosophy, localization solutions fall into place.

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All of our new customers have requirements for both global and local deployment. They often start locally to ensure that the content and publishing infrastructure is put in place before going global. The importance of building a single global repository is to avoid spreading source content across several databases all over the world. Most important is that a single repository offer strong support to a company’s branding.

We have companies come to us with several product IDs for a single product, different names for the same attribute, and a lack of knowledge about what images are available for specific products. If a company builds and uses a single repository, then management gains control. When a global organization knows where to go to find its content, then its management can be sure that all content has been through the approval workflow and is therefore ready for syndication and publishing.

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A further dimension to the single repository requirement is that if a company consolidates its databases, it can create a more efficient environment. In recent years, CEOs and CIOs have been focusing on creating more efficient workflows and infrastructures since IT budgets have been more or less flat. By managing all of this content more efficiently through a single repository, a company can benefit more from all those investments that were made in CRM in the dot.com days when budgets were more generous. The general idea is that Content Management systems can help tie the whole content infrastructure together online – we call this supporting the entire Information Supply Chain. Properly handled, with interfaces to localization tools such as translation memories and to localization workflows, the localization process forms a natural part of this supply chain and will thus deliver a return on the upstream investment.

What are typical blind spots in corporate understanding of the implementation issues for ECMS?

In my opinion, many companies still lack a genuine Content Strategy. They haven’t turned content into an asset, which I believe for many B2B companies will prove to be a critical issue within a fairly short period.

Unless they can transform their content into an asset (probably in the future one of the most important assets within a company, if not the most important), companies cannot react to new needs from their customer base or from the market in general. One of our customers now has one request per week to enter a new e-market. If a company cannot react immediately to this, it may loose out to the competition and suffer from a serious long-term impact on its business.

From an implementation point of view, organizing and enriching product data so that it becomes an asset is a fairly difficult task and must be appreciated as such. Many companies have not started this migration process yet, so this too may have a negative impact on their long-term survival. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey a couple of years back confirmed this, and suggested that content strategy be placed on boardroom agenda, along with the usual financial issues.

A company cannot play its part in an online relationship with its key customers if it cannot deliver the product data they want in the format and with the attributes they require. And even if it can do this, it must constantly ensure that this product data has no errors, since its business as a supplier may suffer if it does.

Where is new functionality emerging that must be addressed by ECMS developers?

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As companies and activity in general become more content-centric, I see the growing importance of such developments as collaboration tools that offer a single interface to various underlying technologies. Such fast-growing areas as e-procurement and e-commerce will therefore have an effect on the very architecture of content management solutions. At the end of the day, ECMS is all about ensuring efficient internal workflows and infrastructure so that a company can meet its customers’ future requirements, and a large part of this is to provide the same customer experience with the right timing across all media.

Although no one dares to make predictions ten years ahead anymore, how do you see the Enterprise Content Management System market developing over the next decade?

There is no doubt that many CMS vendors are now heading the same way and trying to provide the same capabilities. Many companies in this ECMS space have been able to implement functionality by making acquisitions, as we have seen in the case of Documentum. However, I would not like to be just a Web Content Management or Document Management system vendor, because I believe they will soon be facing tough times as content converges.

Vendors that have only Product Information Management capabilities will tend to add more publishing functionalities, but it is not easy to enter real cross-media publishing. It requires deep understanding and knowledge about such areas as publishing cycles and workflows. If you ask vendors about where they are going, you might find that the situation some years down the road looks more or less the same as today’s from the point of view of capabilities. But they will no doubt find other more market- and customer-driven ways to differentiate their offerings. At the end of the day, we are all trying to meet the total requirements of an enterprise. At Stibo, we think that if you are a B2B company with high volume syndication and publishing needs that require powerful channel management, then ECM suites will win out over best-of-breed concepts.


John Olsen is Vice President of Business Development at Stibo Catalog. He can be reached at john.erik.olsen@stibo.com. Stibo is among the sponsors of the Global Content Management Seminar to be held on June 30th during the 2003 LISA FORUM EUROPE in London.

 


Reprinted by permission from the Globalization Insider,
4 June 2003, Volume XII, Issue 2.5.

Copyright the Localization Industry Standards Association
(Globalization Insider: www.localization.org, LISA:
www.lisa.org)
and S.M.P. Marketing Sarl (SMP) 2004









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