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[A] Podcast: Bridging Silos with Unified Content Portals

Interview With Jim Edmunds

Jim Edmunds, CEO of Ingeniux, discusses key forces in bridging silos, providing adaptive CX, and improving digital authoring experiences, rich semantics, and solid content infrastructure.

Bio

Jim Edmunds is the Founder, CEO, and President of Ingeniux Corporation, a leading provider of digital content management software. Ingeniux software is used by organizations around the world to create and manage websites, communities, and enterprise knowledge. The company was founded in 2000 to create innovative tools for managing and delivering content for the emerging digital marketplace.

Jim possesses a unique background in technology, publishing, and entertainment. He has worked as an independent filmmaker, digital media producer, video game producer, and senior technology manager. Prior to starting Ingeniux he held leadership positions at Electronic Arts and Microsoft MSNBC.

When not talking about content management, you may find Jim crafting a new wine varietal. Ask him about his CMS (Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah) Meritage.

Transcript

Cruce
Hello and welcome to Towards a Smarter World. This is Cruce Saunders, your host, and I'm here today with Jim Edmunds, founder, and CEO and president of Ingeniux Corporation, a leading provider of digital content management software. Ingeniux is used by organizations around the world to create and manage websites, communities, and enterprise knowledge. The company was founded in 2000, to create innovative tools for managing and delivering content for an emerging digital marketplace. Jim's been all around and seen everything in the industry with a background in technology, publishing, entertainment. It's worked at Electronic Arts and Microsoft, and when he's not talking about content management, Jim is a wonderful wine connoisseur and host of amazing dinners. You can ask him about his CMS, the Cabernet Merlot, Syrah combination. So, Jim, it's a pleasure to get to speak with you in podcast form here. Thanks for joining us.
 
Jim
Well, thanks for having me, Cruce. I really appreciate it.
 
Cruce
Absolutely. So we both just returned from LavaCon, the annual content community conference that's held each fall and it's always such a great source of inspiration. I'm curious, what were some of the biggest takeaways for you?
 
Jim
I think, coming away from each LavaCon I'm amazed at how much passion and energy that group of attendees has for the work they do and the digital content space, generally. I think two big takeaways for me this year. One, in it sounds a little bit strange coming from the CEO of a CMS company, but the quality of the authoring experience really matters. and I say that because our industry, the CMS industry really has put a lot of focus in the last few years on all of the kinds of bells and whistles around the mechanics of delivering content. This is broadly known as digital marketing features, but what you realize when you talk to this group of people is that they're working in digital authoring tools for 80% of their professional working hours. And that quality of that experience, the depth of the features, the ability for them to address their needs is very critical. I think we, as an industry and certainly Ingeniux as a company, we're really focused on how we can extend the depth of those features and improve that overall authoring experience.

Cruce
That makes sense. I mean, we've been noticing just the number of enterprises that are dependent upon Microsoft Word as the primary authoring environment and a big part of that comes down to the ease of use and transportability of the format. As that content moves from, Word into a CMS, usually there's a manual transformation. That ends up creating a sort of a friction point. Content also gets lost in translation often. So, anything we can do to improve that authoring experience really makes a difference for content integrity as a whole and in an enterprise environment that's very busy.
 
Jim
Yes, I agree completely and it's a good segue to my second takeaway, which is the increasing value of the semantic layer in enterprise content. In order for that content to have value, in order for that content to be portable, there needs to be a very rich metadata layer for how that content is categorized for its use throughout the enterprise content lifecycle. And where in the past, this conference has been very focused around an audience who are technical content authors and managers, this year and a little bit last year, you're seeing a whole new group of people attend this conference. They’re the marketing managers and the sales managers who realize that this technical content is essential to their job of the deep content well and accessing new audiences, new customers, and fulfilling those engagement needs throughout the lifecycle of that customer engagement process.
 
Cruce
In your experience as you look across the enterprise, what are you seeing as some of the biggest challenges these different authoring groups are facing when it comes to organizing effective content strategy - especially in a unified way?
 
Jim
Uncertainty. I think is a huge challenge to the old concept of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. So a lot of organizations and individuals who are responsible for technical content or content strategy within those organizations are really uncertain about where to start and where to go. And as you know, in my keynote address at the conference, I told a story about maps and any journey you have to start with a map and that map may be wrong-  it may be right, but it gets you focused from how you get from where you are now to how you get to where you want to go. And once you get to where you want to go, you may find out you're not actually in the place you thought you were, but at least you have a baseline reference of what you were setting out to do. And you can compare your results against that baseline reference.
 
So getting past that uncertainty and having a map that points you in the direction and being able to refer back to that. I think, another challenge, and again, maybe weird for a software company executive to say, but I think there's an over-reliance on technology. There's a sense that technology's going to solve the problem. There's almost sort of an application feeding frenzy right now in the enterprise. We can buy this application, this application, this application, they're going to solve our problems, but at the end of the day, content is created by humans and you have to invest in human capital. You have to invest in the systems and processes that allow those humans to create content and manage and effectively so it's not. The technology isn't going to solve the problem. The technology is just the tool. And then it’s not necessarily a challenge, but I think a mindset is you have to be willing to iterate because chances are that map you draw is not going to be completely correct. And so you have to start out the process knowing that after you're finished, you're probably going to start again and it’s through that iteration that you get it right.
 
Cruce
Got It. What do you think the Ingeniux content strategy around unified content portals does to kind of help fix some of those challenges in the organization? What is a unified content portal? Why should enterprise owners consider one?

Jim
Yes, great question. So, just to answer the question, what is a unified content portal.  It's a way of providing unified access to information for a particular audience. So in today's digital content world, most organizations are experiencing both a proliferation of content because there's so much content that needs to be created in so many different formats for so many different audiences, and at the same time of fragmentation and segmentation of that content so that content is getting siloed in multiple places. Simply put, a unified content portal bridges those silos. And so, kind of getting back to this over-reliance on technology and this proliferation of applications, a unified content portal is a way of basically saying, look, you have this huge investment already in content creation processes and content applications. Those may or may not be a good way to solve the problem, but they’re what you have now and a unified content portal basically provides a way to bridge those silos, bring that information together, and allow the audience to engage with it in the way the organization needs to manage that engagement. So, it's not necessarily a single source of content and it's definitely not a place where all audiences are managed. For instance, you wouldn't necessarily want to manage information for your internal employees in the same portal that you manage information engagement for your customers. A unified content portal is typically very audience specific, but it gathers together all of the information in business processes for that particular audience.
 
Cruce
Got It. Is single source a reasonable goal for organizations? I hear that term and it always baffles me a little bit. It's as though knowledge exists in one place.
 
Jim
Yes, it's an admirable goal. Probably not reasonable. Just given the mechanics of the way content is created, and managed, and delivered. At the baseline, what a unified content portal is doing is it's authenticating users, identifying who they are, managing their access to and permissioning of content for them, and then really applying a sort of the workflow processes and business rules of how you want to engage with that particular audience member in that audience, in general. And then delivering that across a multitude of platforms, targets, websites, what have you. It would be great if you could do that from a single source, but the, the time investment and level of effort and investment in doing that is prohibitive for a lot of organizations.
 
Cruce
Yes. The movement we've been working towards with clients at [A] is this multisource or omnisource kind of mindset. We're looking at needing to reconcile many sources into many destination points. So the content technology stack becomes an intermediary helping to facilitate the movement of that content into the customer experience end points, or employee discovery endpoints that are necessary to make that knowledge, that content in its various forms, useful and employable for work by machines and by humans. So it's that intervening connective tissue or content technology helps to connect those source points with those destination points. Does that kind of resonate for you as well?
 
Jim
Yes, definitely. Do you find that organizations tend to look at their content on the basis of the methodology or the application with which it's created rather than looking at the content for its sort of fundamental or underlying value?
 
Cruce
Sure. This is maybe the, one of the biggest mental transitions that organizations need to embrace as they work towards a new content operating model is this general notion that content needs to be elevated in importance above tooling and above process. Process and tooling need to support the content itself, but the content with its structure and its semantics is its own endeavor. The tooling and the infrastructure and the process around that content need to ultimately serve its durability and transportability and a value to producers and consumers of the content itself.
 
Jim
Yes, once you can make that conceptual shift, then you sort of opened up the discussion to, okay, how do I start looking at this content in a way where it's, I have a much more flexible, analytics, much more agile strategy for how to create it and how to deliver it. You sort of break down those contextual barriers of “this lives here and I have to work with it here,” or, “this lives there, and I have to follow this process in order to get it there.”
 
Cruce
Adaptive structure to the content or adaptive nature of the content is something that enables organizational resilience and also customer experience flexibility. When we're focused on tooling, we get kind of mired anchored into creating experiences, that are tied, are constrained by the tooling or by the process. But when we focus on building an adaptable, nimble brain out of which customer experiences come that gives us that flexibility that you're speaking of for orchestrating lots of customer experiences across lots of endpoints with content coming in from multiple contributors. It just requires some level of standardization and process normalization in the middle to, to make that possible. Because without standardization, we ended up with a just mess. So, this vision around the unified content portal is interesting because it starts to look at, how do we work our way out of that mess and into coherence within the content sets in the way they're delivered.
 
Jim
The tip of that spear is the marketing and sales and fulfillment departments. They're not familiar with the technical landscape and the technical challenges. And frankly, they don't really care. They just know that there's this content there that has value and they want to get their hands on it. It has to move upstream into the enterprise, for people who deal with this on a daily basis to figure out, okay, how are we going to enable this content? But they’ve identified the value in that and they're changing the discussion about how that content is accessed and used. And that's really what drives what we see driving the unified content portal market.
 
Cruce
The CMO has been the ultimate sponsor of most of the content intelligence initiatives that [A] has enacted over the last year. We have found marketing teams have some of the biggest driving underlying need for availing themselves as structured content and of intelligent and nimble process improvements across the new operating model for content and that the CIO and CTO are more than willing to participate when they realize the streamlining that that offers the IT functions within the organization. But we would absolutely agree that the folks dealing with customer experience in a topline revenue-driving functions of the organization are the ones I'm a really feeling the most pressing need for change now.
 
Jim
Absolutely.
 
Cruce
We've talked in the past about various kinds of stacks that enable a more nimble future for content. You've done a talk about futurizing the digital content stack and I'm curious about your perspective on how organizational leaders can stay ahead of all of the evolving changes across, digital marketing in particular, but the landscape in general.
 
Jim
Well, a familiar refrain from us, and I know you heard me talk about it ad nauseum, but is that it starts with structure. It’s in structuring your content and that means obviously, getting it out of emails and getting it out of Word documents, and it also means being able to add a semantic layer - the metadata that categorization, the reference, the Schema structure allows you, in essence, to atomize that content because you have to stop looking at the way content is being created and you have to start looking at the way content is being consumed. So what really impacts the future use of your content in what really drives making sure your content is future proof is getting it out of the constraints of the way it's created, whether that's a particular application or whether that's just the lack of semantic value resonant in the content and looking at how you can add semantic value at the metadata layer. So, you can basically keep that content portable, whether that's multichannel delivery, whether that's a multi-device, multi-format delivery or whether it's eventually moving it into new technologies. If you won't get it right, I don't think the first time, but, it's an iterative process and you've got to start that effort to start adding a value in the form of structure to your content.
 
Cruce
Related to that and maybe directly content as a service and as an endpoint. What is content as a service and why should content owners be thinking about content APIs?
 
Jim
Content as a service is really about the delivery of content rather than necessarily the creation of content. It stands the traditional notion of a CMS on its head and traditional notion of a content management system - content is created in and deployed from a single system or application environment. Content as a service takes the content creation process with the notion that it's going to be delivered to other application environments in other content repositories and other delivery mechanisms. So it's really about being able to take the structure of that content and make it very portable in the way it's delivered. And I think it recognizes, just the current a maturation lifecycle phase that we're in right now. We've spent the last 25 years building digital infrastructure, and organizations have a huge investment in that digital infrastructure.
 
They've invested millions of dollars, thousands of hours in creating applications, creating websites, creating digital delivery mechanisms and those span a range of technologies and the range of formats. So I think the next big value-add for content management systems is to be able to deliver into that infrastructure without requiring organizations to rip them out and replace them or to retool them. I think that's a huge value add for organizations as they look at their investment and how they're going to get the content agility needed to move content and address opportunities in that existing infrastructure investment.
 
Cruce
Now I’d like to bridge the to the Ingeniux platform. I'm curious about your vision for how Ingeniux fits into that service-oriented architecture approach. Where does Ingenix fit within the whole landscape of content technology?
 
Jim
Well, we made some very fortuitous decisions when we first founded the company in and defined our architecture. So, at a baseline level, content in our system is structured, it's structured at the schema level, it's structured at the metadata level. So we paid a price at that I think of the outset in that, maybe the initial investment curve in using that system, was a little more demanding than other systems, but I think that has really paid off for us in that any content that is in the Ingeniux CMS is inherently structured, inherently portable, and that lends itself to the current landscape that we're dealing with in content management and content delivery. Another really fortuitous architectural decision we made was to have a decoupled CMS. So we separate the content layer from the presentation layer, and that's done both at the architectural level as well the physical server level.
 
So what that means is you create content in one environment and you deploy it from another environment, and so just by nature of having that decoupled, we automatically support content-as-a-service because we're already in an architectural situation where content’s being managed from a structured perspective, it can be atomized and it can be delivered to not just our content management delivery environment, but any content delivery environment. So, I think we're somewhat unique in the marketplace because of that and I think we're really well positioned for what I see as kind of the next wave, what David Hillis in our organization calls the third wave of content management. We're very well positioned, I think for that.
 
Cruce
Wonderful. What's next for the platform?
 
Jim
Well, we're definitely focused on how we can continue to improve the authoring experience for our users. How we can add more depth to features there. It's very important, I think, to recognize the way a digital content working processes are changing. I think in the first phase of digital content management, we're really focused on disintermediation. How can we reduce costs for content delivery? I think the next wave of content management environment is going to be content creation. How can we improve, the content creation process and how can we cut costs in the content creation process and we're going to do that by, as you pointed out in your keynote, we have to reduce this incredible human investment in copying and pasting and creating for multiple environments and multiple targets. So, it's always a pleasure to hear you talk about those kinds of things because it resonates very well with our product roadmap. I think the other thing we're focused on is really looking at our entire architecture and how that becomes more modular so we can take any aspect of our architecture, content planning and governance, content creation, content workflow, content delivery, and we can apply it to any particular problem whether that problem is behind the firewall or that problem is in front of the firewall. So, just making our overall platform more agile and more modular. I think those are the two big directions we see in the near future.
 
Cruce
Thank you. I'm inspired by the XML and faceted content architectural approach of the platform and it's something that we're very glad to see evolving towards that same level of commitment to providing infinite endpoints, through content APIs, and through increasing connections through this semantic layer both on platform and expressed externally. I think that is in the finest traditions of product management approaches in the industry. So, thanks for including us in your ecosystem. As the last question, I'd love to talk a little bit about a wine, for those in the listening audience that share your passion for wine. And some people may not know, as a winemaker yourself, you've been making wines for many years and I'm curious what makes it an enjoyable wine and are there any parallels between content and wine?
 
Jim
Well, I'm a home hobbyist, so I'm very familiar with failure and embracing my failures as a winemaker. There's an old saying, “Winemaking is 80% materials in 20% technique. Beer making is 20% materials and 80% technique.” I don't know if that's actually true because I think there actually is a lot of complexity and technique to making good wine as I've discovered over the years. But it's an interesting metaphor, I think, for content strategy and content management. Good content strategy, good content management starts with great content. Good wines start with great grapes, and if you don't invest in the content and the human capital needed to create and manage that content, you won't have a great content strategy. That's one parallel I often make about making wine and making great content. The other one comes back to structure. What makes a great wine is great structure. You've got a nice balance between the fruits and sugars on the one side and the acid on the other. That's what makes wine really stand up, what makes it last, and what makes it an enjoyable experience to drink. Content is in the same way. What makes great content, what gives that content life and longevity is a structure in that content. So that's another metaphor I like to like to use.
 
Cruce
I love it. And that CMS blend is famous throughout your user community.
 
Jim
Well, I'll try to sneak some into Texas next time I come to visit you, but I think they're checking at the border in Texas now for bringing in any outside wines.
 
Cruce
I know the wine country trying to keep a monopoly locally. Jim, thank you for your time today. I appreciate you sharing all these insights with our listeners and look forward to seeing you around in the industry.
 
Jim
Thank you, Cruce. I really enjoyed it.

Cruce
Okay, bye-bye.


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