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Nov 15, 2006

December 2006 Issue


Blogging has emerged as powerful way to communicate to a large audience without the hassle of trying to get through email filters and clogged inboxes, but initially it was not seen as a business tool. That perception is changing, in large part because companies like iUpload now provide the necessary tools to enable enterprise users to set up and maintain blogging platforms.

Robin Hopper, CEO at iUpload, sees blogging as a part of a larger change on the web that many refer to as Web 2.0, a movement he feels his company is at the forefront of. "EContent's recognition reinforces our leadership position in the emerging social media and blogging space as well as our commitment to helping our customers use Web 2.0 technology to develop creative and effective solutions to business problems."

For a time, many companies seemed to be afraid of blogging or were unclear how to get started, but as iUpload and others have brought blogging into the enterprise, companies are beginning to see it as a route for building two-way communications with customers, suppliers, and other interested parties.

"I think we're redefining the perceptions around corporate blogging and dispelling the myth that companies need to be afraid of it," says Hopper. "We enable our customers to deploy blogging initiatives in a tactical way such that they are useful to solve both internal- and external-facing business problems, build employee communities, and strengthen customer relations."

iUpload began business in 1998 as a content management company. In September of this year, the company released the latest version of its flagship corporate blogging platform, The Customer Conversation System. The platform is a content management system that has been tuned specifically for corporate blogging by providing tools that include features such as editorial control, template and taxonomy management, security, and versioning. Earlier this year it was named the top-rated corporate blogging platform by Forrester Research. iUpload boasts such high profile customers as Kodak, Northwestern Mutual, Newsweek, Condé Nast, and The New York Times Company.

The latest iUpload release provides increased collaboration and customer participation by including new voting capabilities along with increased customization capability and integration with NewsGator Technologies' RSS platform. This strategic partnership with NewsGator combines the RSS platform with iUpload's Customer Conversation System providing an avenue not only to deliver internal blog content, but also to tap into any content delivered on an RSS feed within a portal or other enterprise-level delivery system. To that end, it also announced full integration with Microsoft Sharepoint, allowing enterprise IT departments to deliver the iUpload/NewsGator solution inside the Sharepoint portal using Sharepoint Web Parts.

But iUpload doesn't focus solely on the enterprise. The company has also been a leading contributor to the community journalism movement; its software is used at the Northwest Voice, one of the movement's pioneers. In addition, "Canadian Idol," Canada's version of "American Idol," has used iUpload software to provide a platform for viewers to share their views about the show's participants and for the participants to blog about their experience as contestants. This has given publications and broadcasters an avenue to open up a dialogue with their readers or viewers something that up until recently, was not possible in this fashion.

"We've been right at the center of the development of community journalism. Many of the earliest initiatives in the area have been deployed using our Customer Conversation System platform. Our technology not only enables initiatives by publishers like The New York Times Co., but also introduces social networking capabilities that are helping to move journalism from a monologue of publisher-to-citizen, to a dialogue between readers and writers," he says. "This new level of conversation and interaction provides content providers with more in-depth and personal information about their communities, resulting in stories that are more relevant and interesting to readers."

Blogging might have started as a way for individuals to communicate with the world, but more companies are seeing it as a key way to interact both inside and outside the organization. Hopper believes his company's solutions are helping improve internal and external communication while fostering collaboration and cooperation: Power to the people through people-powered communication tools.

—Ron Miller

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Justsystems, Inc.

Japanese software firm Justsystems was doing multiple platform document development long before XML was cool. Its Dynamic Document Framework, launched in 1996, anticipated many of XML's fundamentals for creating compound documents and separating content from views. In 2004, its own XML platform, xfy, became a powerful force in the market through partnerships with IBM and Oracle.

This year, the company wisely purchased XMetaL, one of the most popular and flexible XML and DITA suites available, from Blast Radius. XMetaL boasts over 1,000 customers, including DaimlerChrysler, Continental Airline, the European Space Agency, and Texas Instruments. After bouncing among several companies, XMetaL has finally settled into a large, deep-pocketed, multi-national company that can give this market-leading solution the global reach it warrants.

Last summer, Justsystems leveraged its new international presence by unveiling its Content Lifecycle Solutions. The new package includes XMetaL Global Content Delivery, which lets companies create and manage content as multiple deliverables to recipients worldwide. A partnership with translation software-maker Idiom further enhances localization and the CLS Practice brings XMetaL into enterprise consulting. In short order, Justsystems has demonstrated the business savvy of this acquisition and shown how it benefits customers.

"For global organizations, it's easy to lose control over content when it's surrendered to complex publishing and translation processes. The results can be inaccuracies or delayed market entry, which can also damage company reputation and brand consistency," says Bruce Sharpe, president of JustSystems Canada.

XMetaL provides a family of solutions to aid these problems and promises better integration with the DITA Open Toolkit, for less expensive single-source publishing to countless output formats. XMetaL also recently partnered with Mekon to add a FrameMaker Adapter that lets them use DITA authoring tools and maintain compatibility with existing FrameMaker assets.

As Sharpe points out, "More and more enterprises are embracing industry standards like DITA as a means to shift from managing documents to topic-oriented content management practices. This shift not only involves technologies, but also a change in the way people work—ultimately it will enable organizations to manage a single source of truth and publish that in several languages. This practice is being widely adopted as organizations reduce the high costs and complexities associated with authoring and publishing high volumes of content, so they can deliver products and information faster and simultaneously in multiple markets."

—Steve Smith

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Mark Logic Corporation

Founded in 2001 by Christopher Lindblad and Paul Pederson, Mark Logic Corporation has asserted itself as a leader in the field of search engine and database technology. An XML Content Server marketed as the MarkLogic Server is the heart of this Silicon Valley firm. Users can load text-based content such as documents, web pages, emails, reports, and Microsoft Office files into the MarkLogic Server, and it enables them to query the information much as you would a search engine. Because it's based on XQuery and XML, the customer can target the query at a specific type of information—searching for authors, titles, footnotes, paragraphs, or whatever the client wants or needs.

Mark Logic currently employs about 55 people and has almost as many customers, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, The New England Journal of Medicine, Congressional Quarterly, JetBlue Airways, Oxford University Press, and the Defense Information Systems Agency. Business is booming, with Mark Logic bringing on five to seven new clients per quarter and doubling sales on a year-by-year basis. Privately held, Mark Logic is backed by Sequoia Capital and Lehman Brothers. David Spenhoff, the company's VP of marketing says, "Our early government projects have been in the military and intelligence community. They have massive amounts of content, and they need to be able to analyze and align that content for the types of details that search engines don't necessarily readily present through the normal keyword search ‘link-to-documents' type of processes."

The MarkLogic Server also allows publishers and content suppliers to create custom-built publications. O'Reilly Media, Inc., a publisher of technology-related publications, used the MarkLogic Server to create SafariU. SafariU lets clients search across O'Reilly's catalog for topics, merge specific content with their own content, sequence it, and publish it, complete with ISBN and price. MarkLogic believes this places them solidly in a post-search engine world, where information is delivered in the way the consumer wants it to be delivered—quickly, intuitively, and prepackaged. Because the technology is built on XML-based metatags, it allows the MarkLogic Server to place searches into a context so companies are able to deliver the content a given user needs in a contextual framework.

JetBlue Airways uses the MarkLogic Server for the creation of its "Quick Reference Handbook" (QRH), a manual that airline pilots keep in their possession during flights that provides all the information needed for dealing with different types of events or incidents. Using this type of technology allows for fast, online cross-referencing of materials from different sources such as JetBlue's "Flight Operations Manuals," the Federal Aviation Administration's "Operations Procedures," and AirBus, which manufactures most of JetBlue's aircraft. Thus, these various content sources are tied into a single online reference handbook that is cross-linked and easy to search.

Mark Logic Corporation and its technology represents a fresh spin on the industry perspective—much of the information that companies need to run their business is not necessarily in a database. It won't even fit into a database because it's not numbers and short strings of information. It's made up of reports, contracts, web pages, memos, and emails. Search engines that rely on keyword searches aren't effective at sorting and connecting information of that nature and complexity. Mark Logic's XML approach provides a way to create a content application in the same way people create an application on top of a relational database.

"Content consumers are demanding greater flexibility in their selection and use of information," according to Dave Kellogg, CEO of Mark Logic Corporation. "The ability to unlock the value of content is increasingly critical to maintaining a competitive edge. MarkLogic Server is the foundation for a new generation of content applications that enable our customers to do things with information that they didn't think possible."

Mark Logic follows a Silicon Valley tradition of what it loosely calls the "Weekly Beer Bash," although there's not always beer or alcohol. On Friday afternoons at 4:00, anyone who's in the office gets together to share tales of their week; sometimes it's to socialize, sometimes it's to talk about business such as deals won, or projects underway. It's a way for Mark Logic to keep people, and their ideas, linked—putting unstructured, even intangible, content into a context and tying it all together.

—Mark Terry

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Open Text Corporation

The overall enterprise content management (ECM) landscape keeps evolving and Open Text is pleased to be part of the picture. However, the company continues to strive to become an even larger part of the masterpiece. "There are powerful forces at work in ECM which will continue to change the market landscape dramatically over the next year," says president and CEO John Shackleton. "We will see more industry consolidation and major enterprise players will continue to offer basic ECM capabilities as part of their broader portfolios."

Open Text feels that will help the company set itself apart from the competition—by continuing to be an independent selection for customers seeking a content management solution. According to Shackleton, "Open Text is in the position of being the largest independent ECM vendor with both a comprehensive solution suite and a global footprint." That presence is represented by 13,000 customer deployments and 20 million users in 114 countries, and more than 2,000 employees worldwide for this $414.8 million public company, which began as a university project.

Open Text, whose offerings are anchored by its flagship product Livelink, helps organizations better manage their documents and business processes online. Through several partnerships with industry stalwarts such as Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle, Open Text has effectively bolstered the scope and capabilities of its solutions in order to meet the continually evolving needs of its customers—who represent a variety of markets, including automotive, consumer goods, government, and insurance.

In June, the company expanded its relationship with Oracle, offering solutions on the Oracle Content Database infrastructure. As of April, the company became a participant in SAP's Enterprise Services (ES) Community, an initiative designed to provide vendors and customers a platform to collaborate on enterprise services. Open Text also enjoys a partnership with Microsoft, serving as an ECM solution provider to the Microsoft platform. Its 2006 acquisition of competitor Hummingbird should go a long way toward solidifying its position as a major, yet still independent, ECM vendor.

While offering requisite solutions like records, knowledge, and digital asset management, Open Text also provides compliance solutions, which are being sought-after by organizations struggling to comply with government regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX).

Shackleton says, "Key to our strategy is offering solutions that extend customer platforms and drive ECM, in particular, compliance and records management rules, across more content in the enterprise." Open Text not only plans to thrive in the mutable ECM landscape, it hopes to change the face of it.

—Marji McClure

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Plone is probably the only company on the EContent 100 list whose management team's work responsibilities include "chutzpah," "kibbitzing," and "general guruness." Plone's leadership may take a lighthearted approach to its open source community model, but the content management system it has developed is all business.

The Plone CMS is built on the Zope application server, an open source, object-oriented web application server, and Zope's Content Management Framework (CMF). Plone is written in the Python programming language, and is licensed under the General Public License (GPL), a common open source license that allows anyone to use the source code for free. Plone's current version, 2.5.1, was released in September 2006.

Plone's CMS is designed to make it easy for users with limited HTML knowledge to set up, maintain, and contribute to websites in a short time. Plone users cite the ease of installation, flexibility, and technology-neutral design as major benefits of the software. "Someone with only ten minutes of Plone training can start adding content to a website," says Plone co-founder Alexander Limi. Recent releases have included more workflow and approval functionality, to ensure that customized review and approval procedures can be built in.

Limi sees an increasing demand for open source applications by corporate customers. "I see more and more RFPs that specify an open source solution." According to Gartner analyst Ray Valdes, "Major vendors like IBM and Dell now ship units loaded with the Linux operating system and Apache web server. As these become more common within enterprises, adoption of open source solutions for applications that layer on top of that tech stack, like content management, will also grow."

A common concern for companies considering an open source application for an enterprise-critical process is support—that is, who will ensure performance levels and solve problems that arise? Limi characterizes the Plone network as a responsive community where it is not uncommon for a bug to be fixed within a day of its discovery. And he points out that there are 150 companies offering Plone support and maintenance for enterprises that require a higher standard of performance. Nokia and eBay are among the companies that have turned to Plone to address their content management needs.

Plone has also gained traction with non-governmental organizations; Limi estimates that NGOs make up about half of the sites being powered by Plone. "Like many of the NGOs, Plone is a community with a business mission. So our product is a good match for their needs." Non-profits currently using Plone include Amnesty International Switzerland, Oxfam America, and the Rosetta Project.

A key element of the Plone CMS is its international pedigree. It was designed from the ground up to offer multilingual support, and is now available in more than thirty-five languages including Chinese, Japanese, and right-to-left languages like Arabic and Hebrew. "Other content management systems treat multilingual support as an add-on," says Limi, "but it's impossible to do it well that way." He also notes that the more languages spoken in a country, the more popular Plone is because of it advanced translation support.

Plone was also designed to provide high levels of usability and accessibility. Limi recalls the first time he saw a blind person using Plone and calls it a formative experience. "It just solidified that accessibility is going to be a priority for Plone." It already meets accessibility standards set by U.S. Section 508 as well as the W3C AA standard. Plone programmers are working towards meeting the W3C AAA standard, the highest level accessibility benchmark.

The Plone Project was started in 1999 by Alan Runyan, Alexander Limi, and Vidar Anderson. Plone isn't a single company; it's a network of Plone companies and developers that manage themselves as an open source community, providing support, development, and maintenance of the software. Limi, in fact, started working for Google in the fall of 2006 as a user interface designer, but continues to work on Plone issues as part of his Google role.

Plone developers are currently working on Version 3.0, scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2007. The new version is focused on user interface improvements; it will be Ajax-enabled to allow faster performance speeds. Plone's commitment to making content management easier, more accessible, and more efficient for businesses shows that this open source community understands how to get the job done.

—Nancy Davis Kho

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