Staying ahead of the curve in content management is a tough assignment when Web 2.0 technologies, user habits, and content distribution methods seem to evolve on a daily basis. The decade-old content management fixture Ektron not only kept up in 2008, it led the market into technologies that embraced the social networking phenomenon as well as the ways in which user-generated content make all sites hyperdynamic. The 7.5 upgrade of the core CMS product, CMS400.NET, drove Ektron’s substantial business growth last year as well as spearheaded its innovation. The new version introduced out-of-the-box social networking functionality so users could create their own personalized workspace to discover and communicate with others on-site. "We believe social networking is going to play a big role in searching on people and to find content," says CEO William Rogers. Ektron maintains a vision of usability, making a CMS suite that is deep enough for developers but easy enough for the folks in the cubicles to update and manage. "We need to make these things available to the world to drag and drop and to customize," he says.
In 2008, version 7.5 paid off for the company, which enjoyed 60% growth, now with a roster of 7,000 clients. The company was included on Inc.’s list of 5,000 fastest growing private companies and was among Deloitte Technology’s Fast 50 list for New England. The Nashua, N.H., firm has about 200 employees and counts LG, Sony, and Johnson & Johnson among its clients. Vignette, Interwoven, and SilkRoad are just some of the vendors that OEM the Ektron product. While Ektron has been a major presence in the U.S. market for some time, in the past 2 years it has put deeper stakes abroad to stimulate international expansion, opening offices in Australia, Canada, and the U.K., as well as in San Francisco.
Just as version 7.5 of CMS400.NET drove Ektron’s growth and philosophy in 2008, the September 2008 release of 7.6 charts the company’s future. The revised CMS anticipates the Web 2.0 world in which most sites will live in 2009 with greater personalization features for users on the front end and more sophisticated back-end management of multisite businesses and marketing. The new design recognizes the importance of the search ecosystem and now builds in SEO-friendly features such as human-readable automated URL aliases and an SEO Site Checker that maps a site’s visibility to search engine crawlers. Synchronization "will be revolutionary" to content management, Rogers promises. In the old days, simply synchronizing information from a staging environment to a development environment was the trick. "In Web 2.0 that becomes more complicated," he says. User-generated content, wikis, blogs, forums, commenting—all dynamically change your site in ways that are hard to track and develop around. The new version of CMS400.NET includes eSync, a technology that synchronizes production and staging environments in a highly dynamic UGC world. It even allows for geosynchronization of multinational environments and facilities, so company sites around the world can sync overnight. "I believe this will be the most significant feature Ektron has ever delivered into the market," says Rogers.
Ektron maintains its prominent place in the market by staying spry and by looking down the road and having a good idea of what is around the next curve. Rogers sees much greater enterprise demand for Rich Interface Applications such as Silverlight and Adobe Flex as authoring tools. RIA further democratizes the authoring environment by letting nontechnical people within organizations construct real applications. "We think as time goes on more and more companies will use this richer experience but manage it through content management."
And while it takes a couple of years for the reality to catch up to the hype, Rogers believes mobility is about to have its impact on web-based CMS structures. iPhones and smart phones are following that lead and finally impacting the way organizations view their own web content. "We are starting to see different types of devices getting to web content, including more and more cell phones. There will be an explosion in how people get information out of their websites and onto these devices," says Rogers.
The Ektron staff certainly won’t mind content becoming more accessible from mobile devices. The crew has a penchant for staff clubs and teams that involve things such as floor hockey, hiking, gardening, and even cricket. How do the top execs such as CEO William and COO Ed Rogers stay ahead of the curve? Well, one way is that they are both members of Ektron’s company motorcycle club.
Fun Fact: Before the company’s founding in 1998, William Rogers built a management system for a dentist who wanted to manage and edit dental wellness articles from his website. That system evolved into Ektron’s first product, eWebEditPro.
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