Monday, September 28, 2009

The Next Adventure in ECM Begins...

The press release makes it official, I've joined Nuxeo – the Open Source ECM company as their first ever Chief Marketing Officer. I am absolutely thrilled to take this next step and explore a new angle on content management. Nuxeo is a small company but they are racking up some pretty impressive customer names, showing solid growth, and investing in some strategic hires over the coming months to expand their development, sales and marketing organization.

My path to Nuxeo was fun. Call it Recruiting 2.0 if you must, but it all happened through the online social marketplace of ideas. A few months ago, Nuxeo CEO Eric Barroca set out to find an ECM marketing professional who could help take them to the next level as a company and brand. Eric himself is an active blogger and twitter user, so he looked around the ECM community networks and well, he found me. He looked at the companies and individuals who were doing the things that he liked and took the effort to personally reach out and extend an invitation to chat.

Honestly, I had no plans to leave my last job. 10 years with an ECM powerhouse and I was pretty happy and busy. But the personal outreach by Eric compelled me to return the call, even after years of ignoring head hunters and recruiters. I called because HE reached out personally – a respected veteran of ECM in a very senior role in a small but growing company. I've been in this biz long enough to know that relationships matter. During our first meeting I mentioned this to him. Had a third party recruiter contacted me instead, I never would have returned the call. He said “I know”.

So why Nuxeo, why now? The Open Source angle fascinated me. Could something really be Free? And Good? And have a nice UI? Maybe I really have drunk the Kool-Aid on the concepts of transparency, openness, flatness, simplification. Over the last 18 months I've been living and breathing the world of Enterprise 2.0 and what it means to be 'Social' inside business and strive for collaboration with customers and partners. It just all makes more sense now.

I started to imagine a world where companies could just get on with it. Get ECM tools that meet their needs. Implement on their terms. Stop playing sales-cycle theatre. Ignore the middle men. No more shameful ROI spreadsheet gymnastics pleading for permission to do the right thing.

Nuxeo has created a gift to the community of people and companies who care about our digital legacy. It is a gift that they've offered freely and openly to companies who are ready to just get on with it. My job – the way I see it – is to be Chief Educator. Tell as many people as we can about possibilities, potential and new ways of working. Companies who survive the uncertainties of today's business environment will do so because they've been creative, they've innovated and they've paid attention to the bottom line.

Still have lots to learn, and weeks ahead will be busy. Check out the Nuxeo site, follow us on Twitter... more to come.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

In Defense of the Whitepaper

Some interesting debate on twitter yesterday, provoked by @GeorgeDearing who challenged:

when's the last time you read a whitepaper? That's my #dinosauroftheday

Now I fully admit to being a 'digital immigrant', but not only do I *read* white papers, I like to write them too.

Why not just blog the key points? Does anybody really want to download, print and read a 10-20 page sales pitch? Isn't there a better way to articulate non-sucky vendor messaging? The criticism is fair - but let's try to get to the root of the problem: most technology white papers are now salesy schlock. It's not the container, it's the content.

Here's where I see the value of a good white paper...

  • Complex ideas require more than 500 words. Product strategy, new approaches, shifts in market conditions that compel a rethink or addition to a vendor roadmap deserve full articulation.
  • A white paper is the vendor equivalent of showing their work - it can be the public explanation and rationale behind specific product capabilities, target markets, platform/architectural decisions.
  • Somebody needs to be able to tell a cohesive end to end story - if the big picture story (the "why") can be clearly articulated, odds are the vendor really gets what they're doing. Piecemeal topics scattered across a few blogs that have no apparent common theme, clarity of cohesion don't give me the confidence that there is a common shared purpose behind the roadmap.
  • Good white papers feed the content machine for weeks / months to come. Specific sections CAN be chopped up and tailored for a variety of other consumptions channels - blogs, tweets, short articles for online or print, bullet points for an in person or web-based seminar. So when an analyst, customer, or prospect thinks to themselves, wow, these guys really get it because the message all makes sense, you can thank the white paper that spawned the little content artifacts.
Showing mastery of some concepts *is* in fact an essay question. While readership may be lower for the 15 pg PDF compared to the 500 word blog post, let's not forget the value that compounds from having a rich extended understanding of a key theme.

If white papers are dinosaurs, it's because they've been hijacked by lame marketing hacks, not because our audience is too stupid to read past page 3. Blame the content, not the container.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Skipping the Middle Man

Spent a lot of time over the last two weeks saying good bye & best wishes to many long time colleagues as I get ready for the next adventure in ECM. One common pattern that's emerged from these chats? Inevitably I ended up telling my favourite people: "Skip the Middle Men. They Don't Get It. Talk Directly to Your Audience Because They Do".

Product marketing, product management and consulting professionals in the enterprise software business write a lot. So why do so few of the really good ones blog? Technology companies inevitably spend precious marketing dollars on PR agencies, media and analyst relations, and rightfully celebrate each hard-earned opportunity to submit an article, get interviewed, talk about their product.

But why wait? Why not just write? Umm...for free?

This fear is not limited to software marketers. Was a bit shocked to spend time this week with some friends in the arts - writers, journalists, broadcast specialists. They don't do it either. They rely on agencies, publishers, middle men to find them work. Of course they need to be paid for their work - it's their profession, but how is anyone going to find them? The middle men have all the evidence of their skills but the buying audience can't find it. Talent hidden is talent useless. Tree falls in the forest....etc etc etc.

But who are these middle men in the enterprise software world? It's anyone who is not a potential buyer or user. It's sales, corporate marketing, brand police, R&D who think they know best because they supervise that guy who wrote the code.

It took me a while to put my finger on it, and after talking to people in several other companies, realize it's not a situation unique to any particular part of the technology world. But I see the pattern consistently now - the subject matter experts don't write for their customer audience, they feel obligated to write for the middle men.

Training materials for people who don't want to be trained. Inane verbal gymnastics to satisfy the chieftains wanting to protect their turf brand. High paid executives and flown-in consultants who hide away in conferences rooms squeezing the lifeblood out of any original thought leadership.

So if I didn't get a chance to say it in person, I'm saying it now. Skip the middle men. They don't get it. Write for the audience who wants to hear you. Start a blog, engage in expert communities, go to local association meetings, take off the gag of fear, take pride in your work, feel proud to put your name on something meaningful, put some skin in the game, live in the market, not in a spreadsheet, channel energy externally not internally, share your knowledge, target people who will read you, don't waste time on those who won't.

Related posts: Make Your Content a Social Object / ROI in Age of Narcissism

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Inspired by @Piewords

Was great fun to see Laurence Hart of Word of Pie blog fame recounting our thoroughly enjoyable evening of doc-man nostalgia. Always such a treat to find another closet ERD nerd. Pretty shocking to think that we worked for the same Director at PC DOCS/Fulcrum for a few months in 1999-2000 -- yet we never met in person until this year, despite an incredibly tangled and overlapping professional social graph.

So in response to his query to the ECM community, "What made you commit to the content space", here's mine:

Spring 1990 and I had just finished my first year of History MA classes at Carleton U in Ottawa. The previous fall I had purchased a one-way Greyhound bus ticket, packed up my worldly possessions and left my hometown, despite not knowing a soul in Ottawa or having more than a month's rent in my pocket.

Scraped through that first year working as a Teaching Assistant and evening/weekend coffee pourer (the term 'barista' did not exist in those days). As spring neared, I blitzed the temp staffing agencies with a resume that had pretty solid secretarial & bookkeeping experience, since I'd worked all the way through my undergrad degree.

Lucked into a short-term gig being Girl Friday for a small software/hardware integrator - answered phones, helped coordinate training courses, filed, stapled, licked envelopes. Fast forward 6 months: the office manager had quit, I took the full time job, finished my classes at night.

But along the way, started to hang around the technicians, trainers, consultants. I built a PC with my own hands, mastered DOS 3.3 and WordPerfect 5.1 and learned enough AutoCAD to draw smiley faces with digitizer boards.

But what rocked my world? First exposure to text retrieval technology. The integrator was an Inmagic dealer working with a few Federal departments. I was hooked. The historian in me saw the potential of categorizing, querying, sorting and indexing all of the stacks of paper records, books, manuals, even my own copious research notes. I volunteered to learn the system to help with a time-sensitive project and made extra money working long evenings & weekends cataloging, designing reports, sorting & searching.

After the integrator shut down, I incorporated, picked up that government contract myself, and it funded me as I finished my MA research.

There was no turning back. My academic ambitions went on back-burner, and I let myself get wholly and completely sucked into the world of information management.

It dawned on me one night, waking up in a cold sweat, that if I retired at the age of 60, and decided to go back into the archives and write a history book on the 1980s or 1990s, there would probably be nothing to work with. Those dusty archive boxes would be empty. PCs were showing up every government worker's desk, all the admin clerks were being fired, and no one remembered record-keeping basic principles.

So I knew what I needed to do.

Thanks Laurence, fun to remember where it started.