As Nuxeo General Manager for the Americas and APAC, Brendan Coveney knows more than a little about how content management has changed over the years, and how Nuxeo is playing a key role in the new way of supporting content-services in business applications.
We took some time to talk with Coveney and hear his perspective on Nuxeo’s growth and the content management industry overall.
Q: When you first started with Nuxeo (2.5 years ago), what were the typical reasons prospective customers reached out to Nuxeo?
BC: At the time, it was much more content management/document management as an evil - something that had to be done rather than what they wanted to be doing. The impetus in a lot of cases was “we have this amount of content, we need to manage it and it’s going to be crazy.”
Q: Things have changed a lot since that time. What have you seen happen?
BC: We started off with systems of record - essentially the managing of content. Then we moved to systems of engagement - where organizations needed to provide tools that enabled employees and customers to collaborate.
Today, it’s about systems of exploitation. We’ve come to a point where most organizations realize the productivity gains earned by computing and technology over the last twenty years are at a finite limit. We now need to empower workers. Organizations can’t simply computerize and think they’ll gain 20% efficiencies. Modern organizations need to enable their employees to do their jobs properly and become more efficient themselves - that’s where content plays a big role.
In addition, we have seen an enormous amount of data captured by organizations today, as our industry loves making new names, we now call Big Data. We now have systems capable of capturing this data. What is missing are systems that help people make business sense of it all.
In my opinion, content is a realization of this data in human digestible form. So we need systems of handling content which can manage the reports, the business intelligence - in other words, the real jewels of big data.
Q: You’ve said that many organizations come to Nuxeo initially for document management, but leave with the realization that there’s much more to the platform. Can you explain?
BC: A traditional organization would come in for document management. Then they realize that although managing documents is good, they’ve just created another silo. And that’s the last thing a modern organization wants to do.
Today’s organization doesn’t want silos of information, they want everything to be part of a corporate ecosystem. One of the big things they realize when they see the Nuxeo platform is that they can integrate and use all their information in other applications and other ways.
One Nuxeo example is the Navy, where they use content managed in the Nuxeo Platform in 80% of their applications. Nuxeo is a headless backend, where other applications can access information, so they don’t have to develop content services and manage content within the application directly - Nuxeo provides a ready-made content platform. This approach also enables them to take advantage of other information that may not otherwise have been available to them.
Another great example is Leroy Merlin. They built an Employee Intranet on a standard content management system, then expanded with social collaboration. They have one of the highest employee satisfaction rates for any retail organization because they empower employees through information. They provide an environment where employees can easily get the information they need to do their jobs. Traditional retail has been about low cost, but Leroy Merlin is a very advanced organization and they have used this new social intranet to empower their employees. Employees know how to do their job, know what to recommend and have the information needed to upsell themselves. As a result, sales are going up.
Q: When you look at the competitive landscape, who do you see as Nuxeo’s biggest competition? Has this changed much in the last few years?
BC: That’s a great question. Generally, we don’t see a lot of competition from the older legacy content management vendors. What we are seeing more and more, is build-it-ourselves type organizations. These organizations are struggling to see how they can exploit what they have.
There’s no precedence here. There’s no set way of doing things. The traditional approach to building content-based systems was to build it all in-house. Now what we are seeing - thanks to the Nuxeo Platform - is organizations choosing the platform rather than building it all themselves.
The most important thing we do is make organizations aware that the platform is already there, that it’s much quicker and more efficient to use the platform than build and maintain everything on their own.
Q: Organizations come to Nuxeo looking for different capabilities - what are the most common needs they have?
BC: There are two groups primarily. One is the organization who wants to embed the Nuxeo platform - essentially wrapping their own application around Nuxeo. The other, and more growing need, are the customers who use Nuxeo as a standalone platform, as a content-services provider. Other applications connect in and make calls for content through APIs. We’re seeing real growth in this area. A lot of organizations are building applications such as customer information systems and customer interaction systems, whether it’s a financial organization that needs to get brokerage information out to its clients, an energy company who sends out energy bills, or a bank who sends out statements. These organizations use the Nuxeo platform as a place to store, manage and serve this information, and have their customer-facing applications connect in to get it through REST APIs.
It’s really part of the composable enterprise where you have different applications talking via APIs and things are very dynamic.
Q: The industry has evolved from a simple need to manage content, to actually leveraging that content in business applications. When you talk to organizations about their needs, how you get past the “managing” part to actually understanding their full needs?
BC: There are a lot of very bright people out there and when you start talking, the light bulb goes on that it’s not just about managing content, it’s about systems of exploitation. People know there’s something missing, that they are looking for something. And when you show them what the Nuxeo Platform can do, things start to click.
I was showing someone what they could do one and suddenly they said, “Oh, I have three other applications that could use this!” I’d like to say there are some magic words, but it’s simply a matter of explaining what content is and what it can be used for. Once that’s understood, people can see how to use it in their organizations.
People know their business better than we do - that’s a given. What we do is talk about content, then they put it into their context and it becomes clear to them how they can use it.
Q: Is there a set demonstration you show prospective customers?
BC: It’s case by case. We try to figure out what their business needs are. Then typically, we go into a technical presentation where people are looking at a very low level system and they tell you what they need technology-wise. We try to focus on the real business need, more than the technology itself because in most cases there’s a deeper need to understand.
Sometimes they come with a very narrow need and we determine after talking to them that there’s a larger one. We try to talk about that and how Nuxeo can help them. The idea is really trying to understand, not just by hearing the words they say, but really trying to understand what they need.
Q: You say that Nuxeo’s job is to help organizations solve a crisis. Can you explain what you mean?
BC: Many organizations come to us when they have a crisis. Certainly from a business perspective you don’t make sales unless there is a crisis, because there’s no money unless there is one. Think about it, you don’t buy bread unless you need it.
People buy because they have a perceived need. Sometimes that need isn’t apparent to them, in the sense that they are looking for something to manage their content - rather than something they can use to exploit their content to further their business.
Enlightened organizations are now at the stage where they need to exploit content. Business is so competitive, they need to figure out how they remain competitive and, even better, stay ahead of the competition. These organizations realize the best way to do that is to empower their employees and the best way to empower employees is to give them the information they need at the time they need it. It sounds simple, but in my 25 years of IT, I think the hardest thing is to do the simple stuff.
Q: Nuxeo has a unique position in a growing market. What makes Nuxeo unique? How would you characterize Nuxeo’s market?
BC: First of all, we’re not trying to be an application. We’re are not trying to be an end user app, and we don’t try to solve every business need. We understand that we don’t know a customer’s business better than they do, so we provide them with the tools necessary to solve their business needs. We’re not trying to solve that need directly.
Most vendors out there, the traditional enterprise content management vendors, are trying to solve the business need directly. And maybe they solve 60-80% of it through front-facing or cloud based applications. But they don’t solve the system. The people who can solve the system are the people who know the problem best.
Exploiting content is not as simple as building accounting applications. There’s no one standard. If you look at our success stories they range from Jeppesen Boeing managing content for Flight Bags to EA managing binaries. There’s a full range of applications that you would never ever think of. We help companies solve these problems. Rather than develop and manage everything from scratch, we provide organizations with a complete platform that they can not only develop on today, but extend and grow over time.
Q: Why do you market to architects/technical leads?
BC: We focus on architects who have been tasked with solving a problem. Usually they are the ones looking for a solution. There are some architects who think they should develop everything from scratch. Others look around. They might start with that approach, but realize it’s going to take them much longer than they have time for, so they look for solutions that will help them speed up the process to get them on time and on budget. That’s what brings them to Nuxeo - there aren’t many platform providers out there like Nuxeo.
Final Take: What Nuxeo Brings to Content Management
It’s clear when talking to Brendan that the organization’s need for content management has grown up. We are moving away from monolithic document management systems that required extensive training and administration to solutions that provide content within the context of business processes.
There has been a big shift in user experience overall and the easier a system is to use, the more efficient the worker becomes. This is the same for content management. Content is no longer limited to a file or a document, much of it is managed through online forms, and today’s content management systems need to provide the structures and workflows to process this content efficiently and distribute to those that need it.