We had the pleasure recently of interviewing Bill Rogers, founder and CEO of the popular content management system company, Ektron.
CC: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, could you give us a bit of an outline as to your history with Ektron and your background?
BR: Ektron was founded in 1998 in the basement of my house in Hollis,NH. In the late nineties it was becoming apparent to me that the Web was going to impact dramatically how everyone did business. With that realization in mind, I started Ektron with the idea of eventually building an operating system for the Web, to empower business people to be able to effectively manage their Web presence.
As part of the initial effort we created a WYSIWYG editor, eWebEditPro which was OEMed by several of the leading players in the CMS space. Through eWebEditpro’s success and the selling of our own CMS offering we gained additional exposure to the world of content management and we have consistently applied the knowledge we gained throughout these experiences to our efforts which culminated in the release of Ektron CMS400.NET.
Now, a decade later, Ektron has grown to over 200 people with office locations across the globe and more than 7,500 CMS customers.
CC: Having recently been identified in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for 2009 in the Visionary’s quadrant is quite the compliment. Why do you think they chose that section?
BR: This placement reflects the fact that Gartner sees an alignment between Ektron’s technology, our product roadmap and where Gartner’s clients are going to be looking to take their Web sites both in the near-term and over the long haul.
In the near future we believe that Web sites will transform into mash-ups that pull data and functionality from other Web sites into one location where clients can access and interact with that content and functionality as well as add their own content and functionality.
We have been building the technology to power this new type of Web site for several years. For instance, our social media platform allows developers to build mash-ups using widgets that pull information from social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or business applications like SalesForce or TestTrackPro. These widgets can then be deployed by business users using our PageBuilder functionality on-the-fly.
CC: What do you say to their comments that Ektron “...may be perceived as only marginally better than SharePoint?”
BR: That perception compared to the reality of the problems we solve is different. If you are talking about document and group collaboration, SharePoint and Ektron are both strong products. If you are talking about building a branded Web site that’s public facing you have to take into consideration dealing with things like site deployments and the management of user generated content (synchronization), localization and the ability for marketers and business users to easily manage their organization’s online marketing and branding efforts. Ektron provides the technology to fully develop and manage a company’s online presence whether it is an intranet, extranet or public-facing Web site.
CC: To what do you attribute Ektron’s success in the market?
BR: The number one thing that Ektron is focused on is the success of the Web project as opposed to just a software sale. We understand that a Web project is about solving a critical business issue and we work closely with both our end clients and our Partners to ensure the project is successful and the end goals are met.
In addition to being committed to the success of their Web projects Ektron always asks our customers the question, “What do you want your Web site to do?” and we take action on the answers. Our ability to quickly bring to market the type of digital marketing functionality that our customers ask for combined with our own experience and understanding of where the Web is taking today’s businesses is another key factor in our success.
CC: Do you have any plans to widen your reach and branch into other market segments? If so, which and why?
BR: As I mentioned, we have had success at Ektron because we constantly ask our customers the question “What do you want your Web site to do?” and we take action on the answers. Because we continue to ask this question we continue to develop new tools and applications that our customers need to take their Web strategies to the next level.
For Ektron, it’s about more than just content management, it’s about listening to our customers’ and Partners’ needs and building the tools they need to align their Web sites with their business goals and their vision. Beginning with version 8.0, you are going to see Ektron continue to move into areas like social networking, online marketing and business intelligence.
CC: What have been your biggest successes for 2009 to date?
BR: When others have said to cut back we have significantly pushed forward with growth and it is paying off. We released game-changing technologies like PageBuilder and eSync. We have also added key personnel and built out our services organization to support the type of enterprise deals we are consistently winning. This commitment to developing our technology and growing our company has led to growth in revenue of 35 percent so far this year and I expect this growth to continue as we come to the end of 2009.
CC: What separates Ektron from its competitors?
BR: The most important thing to Ektron is customer satisfaction and therefore we differentiate ourselves by focusing on more than building great out-of-the-box functionality on a scalable Web development platform that allows for customization. We have built a complete services infrastructure to ensure the success of our customers. No other vendor can deliver the type of Web project support Ektron does to both our end clients and Partners.
We are also committed to innovation around what customers need to deliver engaging user experiences rather than strictly Web content management functionality. This innovation has led to the development of some truly differentiating technologies like our bi-directional synchronization engine and PageBuilder functionality.
CC: Do you have plans to expand into any other geographical locations?
BR: We recently relocated our Australian office to Sydney and opened an office in Singapore. We are always keeping our eye on other geographical locations as we continue to expand. In addition to physical office locations we have a large partner program and distribution channel that is also growing.
CC: What do you think is the biggest misconception about content management systems?
BR: People say the word CMS and the definition that they will receive from each of the vendors is completely different. We more broadly define the term than any other vendor in the marketplace. We believe that anything that interacts with your Web site should be able to be managed through your CMS.
CC: How do you personally define a CMS?
BR: A CMS is no longer about just managing a piece of content on your Web site. A CMS should be able to allow a non-technical user to manage any asset on a Web site that they wish to interact with, whether that is a piece of content, a picture, a video or information that is pulled from other sources. The CMS should allow marketing teams to launch online campaigns and manage rich internet applications. As I say, in the future Web sites will be mash-ups of information and functionality pulled from multiple locations. A scalable Web CMS solution should be able to display and manage that information regardless of where it is coming from.
CC: What situations do you feel best suit the use of Ektron over other CMS platforms?
BR: There are many different situations where a client would look to implement Ektron CMS400.NET. Some of the big game changers for Ektron that truly differentiate our solution from others include our PageBuilder and eSync technology. When organizations have the need to not only allow non-technical employees to be able to manage the content and assets on their Web site but also build new Web pages and add functionality on the fly, they look to Ektron. Similarly, if an organization is looking for a scalable platform with geo-synchronization capabilities they look to Ektron.
In other instances, organizations look to Ektron for social software and community expertise on both collaborative intranets and public-facing online communities. We also offer more out-of-the-box functionality than other vendors but still allow our clients the ability to easily customize the solution to fit their needs.
CC: Do you have any insight you can provide as to what can be expected from the next release?
BR: In the next release you will see a lot of new Social features, completely rebuilt calendaring and event management functionality, PageBuilder enhancements, eCommerce engine improvements, analytics and multivariate testing and a new user interface. In addition, we will also be including more tools on which marketers can build their online Web strategies.
CC: Thank you for your time, Bill.
To learn more about Ektron, visit their website at http://www.ektron.com