Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Virtual Presence Management vs. Web Experience Management

I have introduced Virtual Presence Management (VPM) in two previous blog posts (The VPM Turing Test and the VPM maturity scale) and we published a technology brief about virtual presence management on the Magnolia CMS site. It is even part of Magnolia's brand promise.

With our focus so strongly on Virtual Presence, you might wonder where that leaves us on Web Experience Management. We actively participate in the Web Experience Management Interoperability standardization effort,  which we co-sponsor through our OASIS membership. But this blog post is not about our involvement there, it is about the differences between Web Experience Management and Virtual Presence Management.

WEM is all about personalization – bringing the right content to the right person at the right time. Its driver is the organizations wish to optimize (usually in terms of revenue) each interaction with their customers.

LeShop allows you to buy exactly the same articles that you get in the local supermarket. A great example of Virtual Presence by the Migros retail group.
VPM on the other hand provides people the opportunity to interact with an organizations through virtual channels like the web or mobile instead of a physical interaction. It supports the drive of today's organizations to "virtualize" their presence, i.e. to reduce their dependency on physical resources like brick & mortar stores or call centers. It also helps people to do "business" on their own terms – where, when and how they want to interact with a company. This is paramount in a world that is increasingly mobile, and increasingly global.

Where WEM tries to provide an experience that is tailored to the visitor, Virtual Presence Management looks at the world from the organization's perspective.  How can an organization generate more value for their clients/members/citizens? I believe it can do so by opening up more of their services and processes to "virtual" channels, e.g. the web, mobile web, apps or any other form of "virtual" interaction. Recent Open Data and E-Government initiatives are examples of opening up and providing  access to data and processes for the good of citizens. This clearly is not about web experience. It is about adding value using existing data and processes by bringing them to the web and mobile.
Long lines could be a thing of the past if the DMV would have a Virtual Presence.
Image http://morefunthanblackboard.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/waiting-in-line-at-the-dmv/

For instance, if you are an expat, say from the UK, working in the US, you might be interested to watch the BBC news after you come home from work. If BBC only provides their news show through broadcast TV, you typically have no chance to watch them (since they are in a different time zone). A Virtual Presence activity for BBC would be to make the news available through the web or mobile on demand. This is in fact also a good example of VPM's focus on opening up an organization's data and processes. The news have already been produced, it is already available in digital form at BBC, so why not open it up to the virtual channels and in this way provide benefit to or widen your audience?

This is exactly what Magnolia's customers have been doing for a while now. When we were analyzing why our customers chose Magnolia over alternatives, we realized that they were typically working on  virtual presence. Magnolia's open attitude and our technological toolchain are the foundation for a solid virtual presence strategy.
Screenshot of Navy Reserve Drill Pay Calculator

Take navy.com, or navyreserve.com. These sites provide deep back-end integration, they go way beyond a traditional brochure ware site. For instance, you can take the Navy Life-Ops personality profile test, or use calculators to determine pay. Another example would be ticket.se, an online store that allows you to book tickets. Recently, the City of Lausanne has launched a new public administration site based on Magnolia, which offers all sorts of citizen services online. Their expectations for its use have been exceeded within 2 month by 25%.

So back to WEM. Web experience management is like thinking about the choice of drinks you wish to serve a passenger on a flight. Yes, a passenger might be happy to have her favorite drink when she gets on the plane. But she might be even happier not to have to hop on the plane in the first place.

So think about the trip, not the drink.

BTW, next week at the Magnolia Conference, Virtual Presence will be part of the keynote, where we will add a new dimension to virtual presence management (stay tuned). We'll also have an experts panel discussing VPM. So see you there!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Enjoy the Party with Magnolia CMS, Skip the BYOD Hangover (part 2)

In my last blog post, I discussed the BYOD challenges being faced by many enterprises, together with the needs of mobile professionals to be able to interact with content swiftly and in an error-free manner. While the typical solution to these problems is to build and deploy native apps, this is not a perfect solution. Key issues include the cost of supporting multiple platforms, the difficulties of ensuring that apps are correctly provisioned, and providing a seamless interaction experience across multiple apps and devices.

With Magnolia 5, we hope to offer a better solution to these issues.

Magnolia 5 Apps

Magnolia provides answers where others leave a trail of failed silo app implementations. In an industry first, Magnolia 5 introduces a revolutionary new interaction concept for enterprise software, based on the simplicity of Apps. All of Magnolia’s functionality is neatly divided into task-based Apps. Apps reduce complexity and allow a highly personalized user experience. They are also an excellent mechanism to customize Magnolia while maintaining the upgrade path. Such custom Apps provide a seamless user experience and can be directly integrated into your business processes. This will reduce the learning curve and the cost of operations.

Apps in Magnolia are written in HTML5 using Vaadin, “a Java framework for building modern web applications that look great, perform well and make you and your users happy”. Since HTML5 is a standard, Apps in Magnolia work across all modern devices and browsers. As a widely adopted industry standard, it is future-proof. In stark contrast to proprietary solutions, standards ensure that talent is either readily available or learning these technologies is seen as an asset to any employee’s career.

Security and Open Standards

Apps are provisioned through Magnolia. Mobile professionals simply log into Magnolia through their web browser (or, if preferred, a “native app wrapper” of Magnolia installed on their device) and are presented with the Apps they may access. If a new App is added to the Magnolia server, it will automatically show up under the user’s Apps if access is granted. No additional device specific installation is required. It is easy to control access not only to Apps but all data since Magnolia has highly granular access control.

With all the above benefits, here is one that tops them all: The core services of Magnolia CMS, e.g. content management, asset management, messaging, versioning, observation, security, caching, workflow, publishing etc. are a unique value proposition to build custom, content-centric Apps for your organization. Where existing frameworks address the problem of building and provisioning Apps, possibly across multiple devices, Magnolia allows you to build Apps that are standards-compliant HTML5, make it very easy to provide specific functionality to specific groups, ensure that updates are instant, user interaction is unified and seamless and Mobile Professionals can work on the same data that office workers access.

The journalist reporting a story can simply launch an article app, take a snapshot and add a couple of lines of text, and push the news through the internal approval workflow to publish it on your news site. Notes taken by a doctor on his or her iPad are no longer separate from the patient data but part of their record. And regrettably, the parking ticket might be in your inbox the moment a police officer registers a parking violation.

In short, if you're a CIO worried about the morning-after hangover of the BYOD party, don't be. The party's just beginning for mobile users, and Magnolia’s exciting cocktail of open, mobile-friendly technologies is just what you need to enjoy it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Enjoy the Party with Magnolia CMS, Skip the BYOD Hangover

Do you have a smartphone or tablet? Do you use it to buy movie tickets or groceries, catch up with news and read your email? Have you ever used it to jot down quick meeting notes, update your Facebook stream or upload a photo to your Web site?

Chances are, you answered yes to at least one of those questions. And if you did, you're not alone. A 2011 study by InfoTrends found that "mobile knowledge workers currently account for more than 60% of the total workforce in Brazil, Germany, India and Japan and more than 70% of the total workforce in the United States. Forecast projections show these regions are expected to show continued growth and penetration through the 2014 period."

Who Are These Mobile Users, Anyway?

It might tempting to discount this as a passing trend, but look around you - in the bus, the train, the workplace, the restaurant - and you'll realize the pervasiveness of mobile. And if you look a little closer, you'll realize that these "mobile workers" can actually be classified into two broad segments:
  • “Mobile Consumers” are those who use mobile access for non-work purposes. Examples include making mobile payments for groceries, getting driving directions and maps, reading the tablet version of the New Yorker while commuting, and so on. These users like mobile-friendly Websites that have intuitive design and workflows and are designed for small(er) screens.
  • “Mobile Professionals” are those who treat their mobile device as an extension of their workplace, using it to receive and send business-related information. Examples include journalists recording interviews on their mobile phones, doctors reviewing patient data and taking notes, and police officers registering parking violations. For these users, it's important that interaction is intuitive and simple so that errors can be avoided. Also, access needs to be scalable, secure and tightly integrated with back-office systems.
How does this trend relate to content management? Well, most Mobile Professionals are using their mobile devices to create or interact with content. Think of patient records being updated at bed side, insurance brokers jotting down client details, or journalists writing a short article right where the action takes place. These are activities that should integrate seamlessly with value-generating business processes to provide the biggest benefit and fastest time to market at the lowest cost.

Granted, there are many providers today that try to solve these issues through app-building frameworks. However, at Magnolia, we believe the problem is not building apps, but providing the content management infrastructure to manage content creation, access and publishing processes.

The BYOD Challenge

CIOs face distinct challenges from the growing trend of mobile usage, both amongst company customers and Mobile Professionals. Most CIOs are already aware of the need to make the enterprise's customer-facing Website mobile-friendly, to ensure that both prospective and actual customers can access the information they need without hindrance. Magnolia has provided support for mobile sites, in addition to existing sites and channels, from a single source of content for a while.

However, faced with the new trend of BYOD, CIOs now also need to ensure that internal resources, such as the company intranet, are accessible and usable through employee-owned mobile devices and that interaction with their back-end systems can be provided on the go.

One option to do so is to build native apps. While this is certainly a valid approach, it introduces a host of issues, such as the cost of supporting multiple platforms, ensuring that the right groups of people have access to the right apps (this is called “provisioning”), and providing a seamless interaction experience across multiple apps and devices to lower the learning curve and reduce data entry errors.

With Magnolia 5, we’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about these problems, and we think we’ve cracked them. More in my next post.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Virtual Presence Maturity Scale

The Web is not what it used to be. It is no longer enough to build static brochureware websites. Businesses today need deep back-end integration to provide a unique, valuable experience to customers. Have you seen how Amazon replaces bookstore chains, Craigslist replaces newspaper classifieds and online travel sites replace travel agencies? Common to these examples is the integration of business logic processes into online channels, making them directly accessible to site visitors.

At Magnolia we call this virtual presence management (VPM). We think VPM is very important. Businesses should understand how to get better at it.

In order to know where you should go, you need to first understand where you stand. Last week, I published a blog post about a Turing Test for Virtual Presence as a first introduction. Extending this, I propose a model for measuring virtual presence. It is a 5-level scale modeled after the Capability Maturity Model, a popular tool for measuring how well an organization can execute a process.

There are several levels, ranging from a simple brochureware website to a born-digital company. Let’s look at some examples.
  1. The first level is a static brochureware website. Typically the only thing a customer can do on such as a website is gather basic information about the business. There is no e-commerce or interaction. Example: Snyder & Brandt, P.A. attorneys provides just a phone number and a description of their services.
  2. At level 2 businesses are aware of VPM and are experimenting with it. But they have not fully incorporated all their business processes to the Web. The website might have interactive features but does not allow you to complete transactions. For example, Morrisons Supermarket chain in the U.K. has a versatile website but you cannot buy any products online.
  3. At level three are companies that already have a deep virtual presence but some decisive parts are still missing. The last part of the transaction such as picking up a ticket cannot be done online. Example: Optimus Primavera Festival allows you to buy a concert ticket online but you have to pick it up from a box office.
  4. Level four is very close to full virtual presence. In fact, here you find businesses that are deliberately physical in some respect of their service offering. For example, when Axa Winterthur sells life insurance the company prefers to complete the process face-to-face with the client even though they could complete the transaction through the web.
  5. Businesses at level 5 are totally virtualized and often don't even have a physical presence. If they have a concrete shop, you can buy the same things as in the online shop. The reach of virtual presence at this level makes the two realms indistinguishable. Example: Amazon
We think that the maturity scale model has some key advantages:
  • It makes the concept of virtual presence easier to understand.
  • It shows that VPM is a gradual process, not an ON/OFF decision.
  • It can help businesses evaluate their current level of VPM.
However, the model also has drawbacks. First of all, it is quite simplistic. There are companies that fit on more than one level. The highest level is not always the goal either: a company may reach optimal virtual presence at level 4.

What do you think about the model? Which level is your company on? Read the whole Virtual Presence Management Tech Brief and leave a comment.