RightNow, Demandware Mash Up CRM, E-Commerce

October 30, 2007

RightNow and Demandware have developed a new mash-up that integrates the former’s CRM and customer service offerings with the latter’s e-commerce suite.

The result is an application that incorporates product content management and promotion with such interaction functionality as click-to-chat, while marrying order-tracking and management functions to the agent desktop.

Specifically, the new application connects RightNow’s service, marketing and sales applications with Demandware’s Web platform and e-commerce services.

RightNow’s contributions to the mash-up are its inbound and outbound sales and service desktop, multichannel customer service, marketing communications and customer feedback capabilities.

Demandware is providing its online storefront, site search, guided navigation, product catalog and promotions, Web development environment, user profiles and online content.

Suite Approach

On one hand, this mash-up can be viewed as a shortcut to bringing a suite application to market, as it eliminates much of the work involved in developing one from the ground up.

However, it is a mistake to assume that RightNow or Demandware have joined forces in such a manner strictly for competitive reasons, Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone told CRM Buyer — specifically with a vendor like NetSuite, the top online suite provider offering deep CRM functionality.

“RightNow rarely goes up against NetSuite in deals,” Kingstone said. “Also, RightNow’s target audience is larger than NetSuite’s.”

Rather, the larger point behind the mash-up is that it is emblematic of RightNow’s MO of automating integration around the customer experience.

The territory that Demandware owns — namely the order management process — is a critical integration point that RightNow has thus far not touched.

“Unfortunately, it is only offering this integration for the Demandware customer base,” Kingstone said.

Integrating the Online Channel

Later this year, the two companies plan to cross-sell and upsell the joint application to their respective installed bases, Scott Todaro, director of product and industry marketing at Demandware, told CRM Buyer. There is little overlap among the two firms’ clients.

There are no concrete plans, however, to embed the joint functionality in future releases of the respective applications. It may be, though, that the mash-up is enough to satisfy users’ needs — at least in the immediate term.

The driver behind the joint application is the growing necessity of integrating the online channel into back-office functions, explained David Hayden, director of product strategy for RightNow. That’s especially relevant as more companies rip out their legacy systems and replace them with SOA (service-oriented architecture)-based applications.

Vendors and their customers alike, Hayden told CRM Buyer, “are really looking to connect the various business units around solid, go-to-market strategies.”

Kingstone echoed that prediction — at least in terms of the mash-up service providing a faster time-to-market vehicle.

“The future of software will focus on mash-ups like these,” she said. “At bottom, they are all about breaking down the barrier posed by integration.”


Growing Pains: Can Web 2.0 Evolve Into An Enterprise Technology?

October 30, 2007

By Andy Dornan

Forget outsourcing. the real threat to IT pros could be Web 2.0. While there’s a lot of hype and hubris surrounding wikis, mashups, and social networking, there’s also a lot of real innovation–much of it coming from increasingly tech-savvy business users, not the IT department.

“We’ve cut IT staff by 20%, and we’re providing a whole lot more in terms of IT services,” says Ken Harris, CIO at nutritional products manufacturer Shaklee. Harris started with a mashup platform from StrikeIron; he found mashups such an effective way to integrate multiple Web services that he turned to Web-based service providers to replace in-house functions. Now, Shaklee gets its ERP from Workday and search from Visual Sciences, and it’s looking at other IT functions that software as a service can replace.

And Web 2.0 means more than just SaaS. Though the term is often abused, all the various technologies, products, and sites grouped together as “Web 2.0” do have one thing in common: interactivity. Web 2.0 is designed for two-way communication. At the technical level, it replaces static HTML with (usually) JavaScript apps that continually send and receive small chunks of XML or text. At the social level, it means Web sites that let people communicate, not just read or shop. Instead of passive consumers, Web surfers can become active creators.

All that interactivity ought to make Web 2.0 ideally suited for business use. Most workplaces are about production, not consumption. However, enterprises lag far behind consumers in adoption of Web 2.0 technologies. What’s more, our online poll shows that interest in technologies such as blogs, wikis, and mashups has gone down during 2007, despite explosive growth outside the firewall.

Part of the reason is that business users already have access to more sophisticated versions of the same technologies. Blogging is publishing, a wiki is a CMS (content management system), and Ajax is a more standardized way of achieving what many internal enterprise apps already do with ActiveX or Java. Now, that doesn’t mean new technologies can be ignored–their lower costs and simpler administration mean they will quickly overtake legacy platforms, and already have done so in some areas. But it does mean they need to fit in with their predecessors.

“It’s awful having an artificial distinction between a wiki and a CMS,” says Aaron Hathaway, CIO at investment bank Prager, Sealy & Co. In common with most of the users in our poll, he sees wikis as having greater use within enterprises than other Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs. Wikis’ other big attraction is that, in keeping with their collaborative nature, almost all of them are free.

Hathaway started using wikis four years ago to manage the IT department’s internal documentation, but soon saw that the technology could be more widely applicable. In 2005, he decided to roll out TWiki, a popular enterprise wiki whose other users include Yahoo and British Telecom.

It was a decision Hathaway came to regret in fairly short order.

... In With The New: Are these tools very important or critical to your organization?

The problem was that TWiki couldn’t easily share data with Alfresco, the bank’s open source CMS. Users who needed information had to look in both, while those adding documents risked duplicating effort. The bank didn’t want to give up on either, so Hathaway turned instead to Deki Wiki, which is also open source but backed by a commercial vendor, MindTouch. Deki’s Web services API eases integration with other applications. “It means a Google map can show up on a Deki page, and we’re building an über-search,” he says. “In my ideal setup, Deki would be a front end to Alfresco.” The API also lets the wiki use the bank’s existing security architecture to limit user access to specific pages, important for preserving the wall between analysis and sales. According to Hathaway, the wiki is now providing a real return on investment.

A wiki is easier to use than a full CMS, but on its own it can’t yet provide some CMS functionality, such as working with documents and files. This has led several wikis to add extension capabilities, such as Deki Wiki’s API. TWiki also has a plug-in system that lets programmers extend it without editing source code; more than 200 modules are already available to cover applications such as calendaring and automated editing. The most ambitious is IBM’s QEDWiki, which aims to be a platform for user-created mashups and other simple applications, rather than just content. The mashup aspect empowers users even more than the “edit” button and also helps integrate the wiki with IBM’s other applications.

Still, companies like Prager, Sealy can’t abandon their content management systems just yet, and the most popular collaboration platform remains Microsoft SharePoint. SharePoint also is at the center of Microsoft’s online Office Live strategy, best described as “software plus service.” Rather than a Google-style suite of online apps that would compete with its own products, Microsoft sells SharePoint and Outlook as services, with a subset of the full functionality soon to be available at no cost. Users still need a client-side application to edit documents, theoretically giving them the best of both worlds–and preserving Microsoft’s Office revenue stream.

Of all Web 2.0 technologies, social networking is the one that gets vendors and venture capitalists most excited. At least 17 startups are pitching social networking technology to business customers (see table, Social Networking Technology Startups), while countless social networking Web sites are chasing individual users. But it’s also the one about which our readers are most skeptical: When asked to rate the value of technologies, 68% say that public social networking sites are of no use at all. Only 5% rate any kind of social networking as very useful.

Still, one type of company finds these public sites very exciting: recruiters.

“We have great expectations for Facebook,” says Jason Blessing, general manager of the small and midsize business division at recruitment service provider Taleo. “The thing we really like is that it has a heritage from the top universities, and it’s a place where the Gen Y’s or millennials like to hang out.” His company rolled out a Web service that its SMB customers use to advertise jobs through Facebook’s API, letting users recommend their friends (or friends of friends of friends) for specific positions.

Rather than joining the big social networking sites, many enterprises are trying to compete with them. Though few respondents to our poll have yet added social networking to their Web sites, many of the startups pitching the technology have scored big-name customers. The media industry is particularly well-represented among clients of companies like KickApps and Leverage Software, with newspapers and TV stations trying to find a way to keep their audiences interested. The panic is driven by surveys showing that people under 24 prefer user-generated content and connections with others over traditional media.

Other enterprises can benefit from setting up social networks as a means to communicate with customers–and let customers communicate with one another. The big question for enterprises: Do we buy dedicated social networking technology or wait until it becomes a standard feature of Web servers and hosting services?

As the table below shows, startups differ widely in how they sell their technology, or in some cases, give it away. The majority have SaaS business models, but some sell software or appliances. Free services can seem attractive, but in most cases vendors retain ownership of users’ data, something that could threaten both trade secrets and customer privacy. This is a particular risk given the likely fate of at least some startups–privacy policies and contractual obligations don’t always survive bankruptcy and liquidation. Though they all try to sell to enterprises, some vendors such as Pringo Networks and Kick Apps are finding that their largest market is niche sites, where social networking is an end in itself. These sites are essentially in the media business, with business models based on selling ads. They’re betting that users will ultimately be more loyal to sites narrowly focused on an industry, sports team, or hobby than a giant network that anyone can join. The relatively few vendors focused on social networking for use within an enterprise intranet, such as Awareness Networks and Tacit, often provide these features as part of a larger Web 2.0 suite that includes blogs and wikis.

When database vendor Endeca wanted to roll out a social networking site aimed at customers and system integrators, it rejected off-the-shelf software in favor of a homegrown system. Though enthusiastic about social networking for customers, Endeca isn’t convinced it has a role to play internally. “We’re still holding off on what the ROI is for our own employees,” says Colby Dyeff, Endeca’s IT manager. “It’s hard to say if that’s a valuable use of their time.”

Many of Endeca’s contributors are system integrators selling their expertise, giving them a direct financial incentive to be highly rated. But the same lessons can apply to social networks elsewhere, where rating content is also a way to help people find others with similar interests or locate related information. The former isn’t of much use within an enterprise, but the latter could be, especially given the poor state of enterprise search compared with the big Internet search engines.

This kind of tagging isn’t strictly social networking, so it’s usually described as social bookmarking, based more on Del.icio.us than MySpace. It’s a big part of Connectbeam’s social networking appliance, as well as new Web 2.0 platforms from IBM and BEA Systems. IBM’s system is called Dogear, part of its larger Lotus Connections suite that also includes blogs, wikis, and shared workspaces. BEA’s entry, AquaLogic Pathways, is sold alongside its Pages and Ensemble mashup tools. Both products are relatively new, as is the concept of enterprise social bookmarking itself.

Relatively few vendors are pushing full-scale social networking for intranets. Of those that are, Visible Path is the most ambitious. Its service tries to span the extranet as well as intranet, linking staff to contacts within other organizations as well as their own. Its pitch is heavily oriented toward sales staffers, who can use social networking as a way to reach prospects, as is its own go-to-market strategy: Rather than sell directly to enterprises, it prefers to go through partners like Oracle and Salesforce.com, whose CRM systems its social networking is integrated with. Most people won’t join a social network just so that salespeople can contact them, of course, so Visible Path emphasizes its security and privacy controls at both the individual and corporate levels. Users can decide what sort of introductions they want to receive, while companies can override employee choices. That might seem to make Visible Path impractical as a sales tool, since blocking unsolicited sales pitches is a no-brainer. According to its users, however, this isn’t necessarily the case.

“People don’t have to be users to be accessed through it,” says Rod Morris, VP of business information solutions at LexisNexis. Morris uses the tool to promote his company’s ExecRelate service, which tracks relationships between C-level executives and board members in publicly traded companies–people who are more likely to rely on the old-boy network than LinkedIn or Twitter.

Still, vendors will have to show hard ROI before these technologies will be adopted by enterprises, and that could be difficult with so many free alternatives. The long-term evolution of Web 2.0 in business is likely to trace a path similar to that of instant messaging, which has comparable social characteristics to wikis, blogs, and social networks, and initially followed a parallel adoption curve in business. IM was brought in by people who used it in their personal lives, and though many people resisted it at first, IM quickly became an enterprise staple: Three-quarters of all organizations in our survey use it; half say they find it very useful or critical to their business.

IM Technology In Use

So far, so much like any other technology. Home users are driving innovation, so it’s no surprise to see the enterprise lagging. But unlike the PC a generation ago, IM has managed to colonize the workplace without going native. Despite frequent warnings from security vendors that unrestrained use of consumer IM technology can violate privacy policies, give attackers a back door into the network, and even send executives to jail, most companies happily use the same free services as teenagers. Fewer than 30% of respondents in our online poll have enterprise IM servers such as Lotus SameTime. Actual use is likely a lot lower, as staff in many companies ignore the officially sanctioned software and install their own. The move to enterprise voice over IP is bringing other players like Cisco Systems into the IM game, attempting to converge IM’s presence features with telephony, but they could be too late. The public IM services are already integrated into cell phones, another technology frequently used in the workplace but not controlled by IT.

Loss of IT control is a consistent theme as Web 2.0 penetrates business. The greatest upheaval is likely to come from enterprise mashups, which combine the social and technical aspects of Web 2.0 by letting users develop their own applications. Though very few businesses use mashups at present, those that are see great benefits, and larger players such as BEA, IBM, and Oracle are entering the game. Cutting out the middleman–that’s the IT department–can be a great way of aligning business and technology.

“Mashups have let end users do more of what used to be done by IT,” says Warren Breakstone, executive VP in charge of client services at investment tools provider Thomson Financial. Although not in the IT department, Breakstone started using a hosted mashup service from Serena Software and now runs a team of business analysts who develop Web-based applications for sales, marketing, and other personnel. “Now we’re moving into traditional IT services: The IT department is using apps that we built.”

Breakstone says this doesn’t bring his team into conflict with the IT department. “It frees IT up to do those mission-critical tasks behind the scenes,” he says.

IM itself is already giving way to newer technologies that are even further outside IT’s control. The leading candidate so far is Second Life. Though often seen (and increasingly scoffed at) as a marketing vehicle, its true potential is as a glorified chat room. Like IM, it’s free, but it gives users a more immersive experience and is designed for multiparty conversations.

“We found that Second Life allows more user engagement than traditional video or phone conferencing,” says Breakstone, who is testing Second Life as an environment for meetings. “One employee told me, ‘I’ve participated in lots of meetings and I tend to be very quiet, but I felt very comfortable opening up in Second Life.'”


EveryScape Introduces Virtual Search of Real-World Cities

October 30, 2007

EveryScape, a developer of interactive, local search using 3D mapping and digital photography, on Monday announced the launch of “The Real World Online,” which allows users to explore recreations of cities created using stitched-together digital photos.

Initially, EveryScape offers recreations of New York, Boston, Miami and Aspen, Colo.

The company’s service lets users explore city landmarks, travel any street, find businesses by category or name, and look up any location, with links to complementary sites like Yelp, Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia and Yahoo Local.

Everyscape is also partnering with local businesses to create their listings, charging fees for uploading additional photos of interiors.

“It’s more than just reading about a place or ‘walking’ down the streets of a city or town — we’ll take you inside to see exactly what it’s like to be in the midst of Times Square, walk through the hottest hotel in Miami and onto the beach, or to ride in the gondola in Aspen,” said Jim Schoonmaker, president and CEO of EveryScape.

Waltham, Mass.-based EveryScape said it has received venture capital from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Draper Fisher New England, Draper Atlantic and Launchpad Venture Group.


Other news related:

Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2008

October 29, 2007

Gartner, Inc. analysts today highlighted the top 10 technologies and trends that will be strategic for most organizations.

See more at http://www.unitedBIT.com

Will mashups ever be mass market?

October 26, 2007

By Jack Schofield


When Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer spoke at last week’s prestigious Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco, he announced a public beta test version of Popfly to try to impress the crowd. Because it’s based on Silverlight, Microsoft’s alternative to Adobe Flash, it can certainly do some nice visual tricks. Its practical value is, of course, another matter.

Popfly is an online system where anybody can create a graphical web page, a mashup or a Windows Vista Sidebar gadget by “drag and drop” programming.

The term “mashup” comes from the music business where it is used for mixes made from two or more different songs. In web 2.0 terms, it means combining data from two or more sources. One of the best known mashups takes government crime figures for Chicago and plots them on a Google map of Chicago.

When Yahoo! launched a beta test site for creating mashups in February, it had the idea of streams of data being changed and combined: the result was Yahoo! Pipes. Popfly uses a different kind of imagery that’s much more like object-oriented programming. Everything comes in a red box or block, and you create your mashup by linking red blocks together.

The Popfly toolbox already contains dozens of blocks. Look under Display, for example, and there are blocks such as Bar graph, Carousel, Chat bubbles, Page Turner, Photosphere and Slideshow.

Other blocks offer streams of data, including RSS feeds of news reports, Twitter and Upcoming. There are also blocks such as Combine, Filter, Sort and Timer so you can do things with data along the way. If you can’t find the sort of block you want, you can create one.

Each block contains lines of computer code, so when you link them together, you are actually writing a program. What’s cool is that it doesn’t feel like it.

Popfly has lots of nice visual effects, but I found some things didn’t do what I expected, and it wasn’t always easy to see why.

For example, I did an extremely simple mashup to fish 100 random Paris Hilton pictures from a search engine, and display them in a mini-album on my Facebook profile page. Actually it showed only 20 images, and it didn’t display them on Facebook: it just put a link to the album on Popfly. It was easier to post it to a blog: even I can manage a one-line copy-and-paste operation!

There are several sites doing the same sort of thing as Pipes and Popfly, and Intel has just unveiled MashMaker, promising “Mashups for the Masses”. Google also has the Google Mashup Editor, which is only suitable for programmers. No doubt there will be many more.

Microsoft’s mantra is “developers, developers, developers,” and naturally it wants to make programming accessible to people with no programming skills.

Given enough pre-created blocks, I can imagine lots of people connecting two blocks, or even a few, if it does something they really need. But a mass market? I don’t think so!


Influential Customers Think User Reviews are Planted

October 25, 2007


According to a new study, some of the most influential consumers believe companies are guilty of manipulating reviews through other means, as well.

PR firm Burson-Marsteller surveyed 1,000 influential consumers and found that an increasing number of them believe fake reviews and positive comments left by corporations are prevalent and problematic. The study revealed that 30 percent of consumers are concerned, up from 20 percent in 2001. Fifty-seven percent said they’d be less likely to buy a product if they suspected the company paid someone to leave a positive review.

Marketers depend on “e-fluentials” — people who influence their social network’s purchasing habits and decisions — to interest others in their product. But most of these people aren’t on board with the whole compensation-for-recommendation idea. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to use their influence; they just have other motivations — such as an honest interest in offering helpful information.

Ame Wadler, chief strategic officer at Burson, says companies can feel free to leave reviews, so long as they do so honestly:

“There’s no rocket science here: transparency matters. Those entities that are the most transparent and say, ‘It’s us and we’re proud of what we’re saying,’ do far better than those organizations that don’t reveal themselves.”

A Practical Internet for Your Phone

October 19, 2007

By Kate Greene

In theory, at least, Internet access on cell phones is a useful thing. However, the slow speed at which Web pages load, their small formats, and the phones’ clunky interface collectively make extracting information from the Internet excruciating. But now a new startup based in Cupertino, CA, called Mobio aims to directly connect cell-phone users to the information they want, allowing them to bypass Web browsers.

This week, Mobio will introduce its first product: a suite of free, downloadable “widgets” for cell phones. These widgets can collect real-time information from a number of different Web services–for instance, mapping services and directory listings for restaurants–and combine them into a simple program on a phone. Mobio’s suite features nine collections of 50 widgets, including ones that give quick access to the phone numbers of local cab services and locksmiths, ones that provide maps to local restaurants that are open late, and ones that let a person buy movie tickets and book a table at a restaurant.

The idea behind widgets isn’t new, of course. Apple’s OS X operating system has offered them for years, letting people track sports scores, compare gas prices, and search the Web, all without using a browser. And recently, a number of established companies and startups have been working to put the same sort of capabilities on cell phones. Nokia, for example, offers a collection of feed services called WidSets that let people get blog updates and see recently posted Flickr pictures. A startup called Plusmo, based in San Jose, CA, offers a similar service. Both Nokia and Plusmo’s applications, however, draw from a single source at a time.

What distinguishes Mobio, says Sanjeev Sardana, the vice president of products, is that its widgets show information and provide access to a combination of disparate services. The information is provided by partners such as OpenTable, an online reservation service. The information is then collected on Mobio’s server; combined with other services, such as directory listings and an online map; and downloaded by phones that have Mobio’s software. Mobio acts, in effect, like the middleman, aggregating the useful data from around the Web and dispensing it to phones over the cellular network.

To get the widgets, individuals need to register themselves and their cell phone on Mobio’s website. Following authorization, the software will be downloaded to a person’s phone. Depending on the network connection, this should take about a minute.

It’s not easy to manage the data that is streamed to and stored on resource-constrained gadgets such as mobile phones. However, Sardana believes that Mobio’s technology addresses some of the major technological challenges. For one, the data that’s sent over the network is compressed by the server software so that it doesn’t eat up as much bandwidth, which makes it faster to update. Additionally, only the information that’s needed for a specific query is sent. For instance, if someone is leaving a movie for which he or she reserved tickets using a widget and wants to find a restaurant nearby, that individual won’t need to reenter his or her location information. The data from the movie transaction is used by the application to locate the individual at that time; the restaurant widget then searches for eateries near the theater.

Mobio’s widgets currently only work on phones in the Cingular, Sprint, and T-mobile networks, and only if they’re Java-enabled, although the company expects that future versions of the software will be compatible with Windows Mobile and Blackberry. This somewhat limited availability highlights one of the challenges of offering Web services to mobile phones, says Daniel Dailey, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, in Seattle. “It’s hard to have client software run on all the phones,” he says.

Sardana thinks that in the future, the widgets could take advantage of real-time location information provided by the phone. Existing applications were designed with GPS in mind, but the location-based feature will have to wait until more phones have the capability. “As more handsets become GPS-enabled,” Sardana says, “then we will seamlessly blend that into our applications.”

MIT Technology Review

InformationWeek 500: 20 Great Ideas

October 19, 2007

>> WEB 2.0



Social Revolution

The 2007 InformationWeek 500

Motorola revved internal communication and collaboration by providing its 69,000 employees in 70 countries as well as 9,200 external partners with Web 2.0 tools to publish, maintain, and share content. Intranet 2.0, as Motorola calls the effort, includes bookmarking and tagging that lets users share knowledge company-wide. It provides social search technology that improves the quality of searches by injecting results that other users found most valuable. The company has RSS-enabled its entire knowledge repository, letting employees subscribe to content related to their work. A whopping 92% of employees are using the tools. The company has 38 Tbytes of data in the system, including 5,400 blogs, 4,500 wikis, 65,000 social bookmarks, and 30 million shared documents. Its people add 90,000 documents a day.



Nuts About Blogging

Who wouldn’t want on-call focus groups? That’s what Southwest Airlines got when it took off into the blogosphere last year with its Nuts About Southwest blog as a place to develop a rapport with customers. Employees use the blog to talk about what’s going on at Southwest, giving customers an inside look at the airline. Customers respond, ask questions, and describe their experiences with the airline

and elsewhere. USS Blog Boy, for example, is on the sixth installment of his Deployment Diary, describing life on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

Discussions can morph into virtual focus groups, providing on-the-spot feedback. Case in point: When CEO Gary Kelly wrote a blog about the possibility of Southwest providing seat assignments on its planes as an alternative to its open seating approach, customers had a lot to say, and blog comments surged to their highest level ever.



Microsites Customize The Message

At Accenture, customized microsites are improving communication with customers and driving sales. Working with the Internet marketing group, Accenture’s IT group developed an infrastructure that lets teams of employees who work with customers launch microsites that serve as virtual platforms for sharing information with customers. Using customizable templates, these teams generate content-rich, updatable microsites where information is shared in forums, discussion boards, downloadable content, podcasts, video streams, Flash animation, surveys, and collaborative work environments. The microsites have deepened existing client relationships by improving collaboration and efficiency, and they’ve also proved to be a good way to engage prospective clients by delivering highly tailored messages, while demonstrating a team-oriented approach with clients. Accenture expects to launch about 80 microsites this year and several hundred more over the next three years.



One Step Forward For E-Health Care

Until recently, Baylor Health Care System’s Physician Portal could only be used by Baylor doctors to retrieve information. If they wanted to order procedures for patients, they had to pick up the phone. That changed with a recent electronic workflow project that lets non-Baylor physicians refer patients to Baylor’s facilities and give them access to their patients’ electronic medical records. This is important to physicians who don’t have admitting privileges but want to remain informed about the course of treatment for their patients. The portal also was changed into a two-way communication tool–so physicians can order procedures for patients from various units in Baylor’s hospitals and other facilities. The project improved the quality of care by helping patients get procedures scheduled faster and letting physicians access critical information for more informed and timely decisions.




Against The Outsourcing Grain

While the rest of the world was outsourcing, Heartland Payment Systems insourced its accounting and billing system. Over a three-year period, the payroll and credit and debit card transaction processor built the Passport application using Microsoft .Net, C#, and SQL Server. The result was $3 million in annual savings. Heartland had been outsourcing the data delivery and processing cycles of its accounting and billing system but found that working with a service provider slowed responses to customers, held up information distribution, and prevented it from offering services like next-day funding. Outsourcing also limited the type of statement it could provide customers to whatever its outsourcer’s standard option was. Heartland had to build systems to import and export data from its outsourcers’ systems to make it available to customers.

With Passport, Heartland gets processing results sooner and answers questions and solves problems faster. It can activate new customers faster and provide personalized statement options and self-service tools. It’s been able to lower customers’ processing costs and offer next-day funding. In the program’s first months, Heartland saw a 25% growth in customers.




Lookers To Bookers

Marriott’s goal when it launched OnePath search on its Web site was clear: Get more site visitors to book rooms. More than 6 million customers a month spend about 1.5 million hours on Marriott.com. Seventy percent of them use the search function, yet before OnePath, half never booked a room. OnePath increased the conversion rate by 15%. The search tool provides keyword search and guided navigation that uses clickable filters to narrow results and compare up to four hotels. It lets Marriott offer site visitors products and content relevant to what they’re searching for.



Automated Matchmaking

Law firm Foley & Lardner developed Web-based software to match up two groups it often works with: startups in need of funding and venture capitalists looking for investment opportunities. The Private Equity Matchmaker tool pairs funding seekers and sources based on data Foley & Lardner attorneys enter into the system. It offers matches based on attributes such as transaction size, development stage, geographic region, and industry. When a match is identified, it shoots an e-mail to the attorneys who work with the potentially compatible clients. They then have an opportunity to make an introduction. The system also ranks each startup and investor based on the amount of match activity they generate.




Cell Phones Fuel Supply Chain

Not all IT efforts require a huge investment in fancy equipment. Graybar, a provider of electrical and telecommunications products and services, made cell phones and delivery tracking technology pay off. Its drivers start and end deliveries by entering the time into their cell phones, capturing their location, too. They also use the phones to enter the last name of the person who signs for the delivery and to take pictures of the delivered items and the recipient’s signature on the delivery form. Data is transmitted to a hosted Web site where it’s downloaded into Graybar’s SAP system. Employ- ees access the data integrated with SAP transactions and view delivery documents and packages on the Web. This approach has let Graybar improve collections and reduce customer claims of damaged merchandise.

The technology also lets Graybar more efficiently manage truck routes, resulting in more deliveries per route and a 15% decrease in overtime in the first four months of the year compared with a year ago.



Always On-Call

Intermountain Healthcare was reluctant to go with VoIP or a wireless LAN in its hospitals because downtime comes at a high cost in health care. That changed with the opening this fall of its Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City. The 100-acre facility was built with the goal of providing at least one functioning communication system on every floor of its five specialty hospitals during a power outage or other problem. Intermountain went with GE Healthcare’s GE Enterprise Access universal wireless platform, which supports multiple wireless services over a common infrastructure. It has helped caregivers become more mobile and provides patients with wireless access.



Tablet Timesaver

Homebuilder Pulte Homes last year handed out more than 600 tablet PCs to its customer relations managers and saw immediate payoff. Each employee saved about two hours a day–300,000 hours annually–in time spent traveling and entering redundant data. Before getting the tablets, employees traveled to customers’ homes and took handwritten notes. They then returned to their offices, entered data into Pulte’s eService system, printed the paperwork, and returned it to customers for signatures.

Now, the tablets, equipped with mobile eService apps, let them use touch screens to enter, access, and edit information; research customer concerns; and schedule follow-up appointments. The system also records electronic signatures when customers sign off on checklists and completed work.




150,000 Experiments And Counting

Eli Lilly has created a system of electronic lab notebooks that lets researchers at the pharmaceutical company document the design, execution, and conclusions of their experiments. With more than 800 scientists using the system, it has improved productivity by giving them a knowledge base of more than 150,000 experiments through which they can search. By accessing a central repository, scientists across multiple R&D sites can see the same experiment information and collaborate in real time or offline. The next steps: integrate it with other key software initiatives, deploy it more broadly, and extend it to partners.



High Performance Recycled

Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems group designs aircraft and spacecraft equipment that requires extensive testing that involves analysis of simulation data. These tests were becoming a major time suck on engineers’ desktop computers. IT’s solution: a compute cluster–a supersized calculator and file server–that lets engineers off-load analysis jobs, freeing their desktops and completing jobs faster. The system centralizes data, analysis code, and data analysis efforts, fostering collaboration. And with a Web interface, engineers can initiate sessions from any browser-based platform. The company estimates it’s saving $185,000 over three years in engineers’ time.



A Cooler Data Center

Database management vendor Sybase faced the possibility of having to increase the power and cooling capacity of its data center at a minimum cost of $8 million. Instead, it launched a virtualization and rationalization project that will reduce the number of servers it’s using by about 45%, thus letting it remain within the current power and cooling capacity of its data center for another 10 years. Sybase used VMware Virtual Infrastructure for its Intel servers and IBM Logical Partitioning for its RISC-based Unix applications. It went with Sun virtualization for some Solaris apps, and others were converted to run on Linux in a virtualized environment. It also consolidated the systems it uses for software development to cut down on power use. The company expects to garner at least $1 million to $2 million per year in operational savings, as well as not having to undertake a costly data center upgrade.




Get Your Tickets … And More

Food services provider Aramark is giving sports fans a new way to pay for food, drinks, and souvenirs at sports events. Customers who buy its Loaded Ticket can add dollars beyond the cost of admission and then use the card and the additional dollars to pay for these extras. It’s convenient for customers, and as a result, and fans are spending more inside the arenas. Aramark also uses the tickets to forecast sales and anticipate staff and product needs.



Total Alignment

IBM has a new Web prospecting tool that gives its sales force access to data on 2 million companies. OnTarget integrates third-party data, as well as data from IBM’s marketing intelligence and CRM systems, to create these profiles. It identifies companies that are potential customers and assesses what existing customers are likely to buy next. Another new tool–the Market Alignment Program–coordinates sales resources with market opportunities. MAP displays historical revenue, revenue goals, and sales resource allocation data. Data can be filtered by geography, industry, customer accounts, and sales teams. MAP helps IBM focus resources and set sales objectives.




Grass-Roots Security

Truck and truck parts manufacturer Paccar found that conventional approaches to security were keeping it from providing customers with more information about its supply chain. The company decided to focus on securing its systems at the data level. It outsourced basic perimeter security, including spam control, antivirus, and intrusion detection, freeing its IT unit to put its efforts into innovation in other areas, such as telematics, supply chain integration, and mobile retail sales. Paccar secures data at a granular level, classifying it consistently across the company and encrypting it based on sensitivity. It previously encrypted data on laptops, desktops, and documents; now it also encrypts e-mail and data on backup tapes, handheld devices, and print, scan, and copy equipment.

By structuring the security infrastructure in this way, IT can respond quicker and handle a higher volume of business unit needs, thus lowering costs and increasing the pace of innovation.



Data At Rest–Secured

JPMorgan Chase’s data protection, while adequate, didn’t provide the extreme resiliency and adaptability to emerging technology that the financial services provider needed. Its Data Protection Initiative changed that, centralizing data management for more than 400 sites worldwide. Data is compressed and sent to core sites, where it’s replicated to a centralized bunker using a virtualization strategy that eliminates the need for local tapes. This approach cut the tape backup infrastructure by 40%, improved floor space use by 50%, and made it easier to restore data.

The system, which went live with multiple petabytes of backup data, had an added benefit: Much less sensitive personal data leaves JPMorgan Chase locations in an exposed format such as on tapes. More than 300 employees and nearly 200 vendor personnel participated in this effort.



Bottom-To-Top Lockdown

Security was a high priority when online investment firm Scottrade built a new data center last year. But it didn’t want to compromise speed, performance, or availability of trading capabilities on its Web sites either. Scottrade took a layered approach to security, implementing network and database firewalls, a network intrusion prevention system and anomaly detection, host-based intrusion protection, and strong security policies. But it went one step further than many companies, adding secure operating system configurations. It also used a segmented pod architecture, so it can shut down portions of the network without disrupting other parts.




Glad To Have SOA

When severe rain and hail knocked out power to 52,000 customers on May 3, 2006, Austin Energy was glad it had just installed its first SOA application–AECall–which links the utility’s outage management, billing, and call center systems. It processed more than 20,000 calls per day for three days during and after the storm; the system it replaced hit capacity at 4,000 calls a day. AECall uses five Web services to query multiple databases that contain information on customers and incorporates that information into the outage restoration application. Austin Energy’s SOA will integrate apps across the company and eliminate redundant legacy systems. Next up are Web services to link digital maps to the application that its 600 mobile crews use to respond to customer calls. Austin Energy used IBM’s Rational development tools to reengineer its 72 major business processes.



Knowledge Aggregator

Applied Industrial Technologies’ transactional data was scattered across several applications and platforms. The industrial parts distributor didn’t use an ERP application, instead relying on whatever product was most cost-effective for each business process. That meant Applied had a mix of commercial and custom applications that didn’t talk to each other, making combining information across apps difficult. All applications fed information into Applied’s data warehouse, but the company used a proprietary client that was difficult for remote users–90% of Applied’s staff–to access. It also required customization for specific views of data. The company changed all this with its InfoPort business intelligence portal, a J2EE application deployed on an IBM WebSphere cluster, running Red Hat Linux. The Web app is accessible from any network connection and lets users develop views of information without IT involvement.

Source: Information Week Online

The 10 top challenges facing enterprise mashups

October 19, 2007

The promise of remixing existing online services and data into entirely new online applications in a rapid, inexpensive manner, often referred to as mashups, has captured the software industry’s imagination since the release of first major example, HousingMaps.com, in early 2005. Since then, mashups have offered the potential to finally make widespread software reuse a reality, enable SOA initiatives to achieve positive ROI, and radically drive down the cost of application development while satisfying large applications backlogs that plague organizations almost everywhere.

Applying mashups in a business settings is often referred to as “enterprise mashups” and recently we’ve finally begun to see the tools emerging to bring real mashup capabilities to consumers, business users, and IT professionals.

However, though anecdotal evidence seem to abound — there are a good number of stories about businesses creating isolated mashups here and there — and mashups are again getting placed on hot tech trends lists for 2008, we’re clearly still not yet seeing the flood of mashup-based apps inside of organizations despite their consistent and steadfast growth on the consumer Web.

ProgrammableWeb’s mashup graphs (left of page) currently reports that over 2,400 mashup-based apps currently exist.

The public Web of course has been a global laboratory for innovation for 15 years and it’s not surprising that experimentation and creativity in such a large pool of resources of people and services would generate some interesting outcomes like the several thousand mashup applications currently available. But the question has been: Where is the same result inside our organizations? Thoe same organizations that often desperately need software to solve problems that simply isn’t available — at least without extensive customization — because a typical business problem’s unique nature. In previous posts I’ve discussed how spreadsheets are often the only end-user development tool available to the average person to meet this need today.

So what exactly is holding back enterprise mashups from becoming a more popular phenomena inside our organizations? This has been in contrast to many other aspects of Web 2.0 inside the enterprise, where openness, network effects, and radical power and simply are often driving extremely fast uptake and adoption of new apps and technologies. By many indications, mashups — particularly in the enterprise — have so far fallen short of their potential and the question is why?

I’ve discussed this with a various people in the mashup community and analyzed a number of the leading mashup platforms and have boiled the outstanding challenges down to 10 points I believe are the biggest obstacles. Some of these challenges are counterintuitive and some of them might be self-evident to those that are struggling to enable them but nevertheless are still major issues. But given that SOA, composite apps, Web services & open APIs, and widgets are all receiving significant venture capital and corporate investment in 2007 and heading into 2008, the enterprise mashup space is poised for tremendous growth by all other indications. If only we could discover and resolve with the remaining barriers for their creation and use. Here are what seem to be the biggest issues with widespread adoption of enterprise mashups:

The top 10 challenges facing enterprise mashups in late 2007

  1. No commonly accepted assembly model. The reason that spreadsheets are still so enormously successful is that they are really a highly capable functional programming environment. A spreadsheet has an easily understood visual grid model that can hold data of many different kinds that can then be processed by cell references and user written formulae turning hours of previously tedious work into automatic processes. Spreadsheets are largely intuitive, easy to learn, and used by millions of people on a daily basis. It’s been so successful that some mashup tools actually use them as their preferred model, most notably the pretty interesting Instacalc and BEA’s AquaLogic Data Services Platform that offer good consumer and enterprise example respectively, though there are other players as well. Spreadsheets offer a mashup fabric in a model that is already proven and generally accepted by consumers and business users virtually everywhere.But most mashup tools take a different tack and either reinvent the wheel by offering completely new and unfamiliar types of models, some simple and some quite sophisticated but virtually all of them foreign to anyone who is not a developer. And of course the issue is if mashups remain a developer only phenomenon the larger bulk of their business value will be lost. If only developers could process data with computers, we’d still be in the era where personal computers were primarily used by the few people with coding skills. Spreadsheets liberated computers to be used for number crunching by the masses and mashups have the potential to liberate the browser for software creation by the masses. The big question is who will hit upon the right model that will provide both an incredibly easy on-ramp that also supports the creation of useful business applications but one that can support sophisticated applications and be easily maintained and supported over time.Is the spreadsheet model for mashups the answer? It’s too early to tell, but with IBM’s QEDWiki and Serena’s functional flow model in their business mashup product for end-users, we’ve seen compelling alternative models. So the jury is out on the best mashup model, and when that jury finally comes in — in the form of the mashup platform that gets fast uptake — we’ll have a much better sense of which direction is best.
  2. An immature services landscape. Mashups are predicated upon the ready preexistence of ready-to-use Web services and network APIs which are ready to be used to build on top of. Though many of the leading Internet firms have extensive Web services divisions that offer much of their data and products up through feeds that can be plugged into browser-based mashups, the reality is that the rest of the Web has been somewhat slow to follow. It’s just now becoming well-known that APIs can greatly reinforce the value of a Web application and allow it to be reused hundreds or thousands of times in other products, leveraging a form of Jakob’s Law.But for now, even in organizations that have SOA initiatives in advanced stages, not nearly enough information and functionality is currently “Web-enabled” via feeds and services and hence can’t be leveraged inside a mashup application canvas. Products such as Kapow and other Web-clipping tools have put a decent dent in this problem recently, but we have a way to go before we have enough ready Web services to feed our mashups. The good news: There are a lot of high value APIs that do exist on the open Web today and increasingly inside our organizations particularly in the form of RSS that can unleash the mountains of data and functionality lying largely fallow inside most businesses today.
  3. The splintering of widgets. One of the most exciting phenomenons on the Web today has been the advent of widgets; mobile Web parts that can be used by anyone with a cut and paste. Web widgets actually form the basis of a primitive yet highly end-user friendly mashup model and have been gaining enormous popularity as a quick look at the widget gallery on WidgetBox shows us. It’s the user remixable Web at its best and widgets are distributed and used by millions of people a day.It also turns out they are the other key ingredient to mashups along with Web services/APIs but they are uniquely significant because they are entirely end-user friendly whereas most APIs require much more technical savvy to use. Consequently, widgets make a compelling and ubquitious packaging system for mashup functionality, particularly since most widgets also provide automatic API connectivity back to its originating site (for example an eBay listing widget connects back to eBay from a mashup or Web page live to pull auctions from the API.) However, the widget world is very informal and there are no official standards (yet) and widgets have been co-opted by countless companies and named badges, gadgets, modules, and other things. Some of these companies, particularly Microsoft, Google, and a few others, have been imposing their own gadget models that allow businesses to plug into their ecosystems of users but largely keep their gadgets captive.The real issue is that mashup creators need to have access to the Web’s full inventory of functionality and the different widget models are fostering silos of widgets that it’s not likely most mashup creators will have full access to with their tools. The solution? A simple, open standard for widgets. Are we likely to get it? Not soon unless someone with authority, in a manner similar to the way RSS 2.0 was created and spread, steps up to the plate.
  4. Management and support of end-user mashup apps. If enterprise mashups unleash hundreds of new applications inside an organization, then who will catalog them, support them, maintain them, and fix them when they break? The IT department? The business units? Using what tools? This is an objection I frequently get from enterprise IT about their fears that mashups will bring back the horrors of having unsupported Microsoft Access-based apps running loose in their organization, though much more widespread because of their collaborative, open, network-distributed nature. This is a genuine challenge and the best mashup platforms have some answers to this baked in but there is lots of room for improvement.
  5. Deep support for security and identity. The most useful enterprise mashups will have access to a user’s private individual data and other corporate information protected by security and identity systems. Consumer mashups are challenged in a similar way since it’s hard to provide vital function if a user isn’t willing to trust a mashup with the user IDs and passwords necessary to obtain the data from the back-end services guarding the information the mashup needs to function.The common enterprise solution to this, Single Sign-On (SSO), has not made it fully to the mashup world and the problem is only exacerbated if a mashup is also meant to be used by many types of users including consumers, partners, and suppliers which will all have their own identity requirements and infrastructures. Initiatives like openid are helping but are not a complete solution. Like widget models, this too needs a leadership figure to definitely resolve for the industry or many types of useful mashups are not and will not be possible in the near future.
  6. Data quality and accuracy. This is the classic “truthiness” problem Nick Carr brought up way back when mashups first began to get attention and are still a critical issue as far as enterprise mashups are concerned. How do I know if the data displayed in a mashup is correct I’m often asked? Particularly in many types of applications, the veracity of data is paramount yet in a browser-based mashup, who is to say where the data really came from and if it’s fresh. Formal IT systems have an advantage in this regard, at least for now, because they have controls to ensure they are the system of record. However, the recent advent of reputation systems and provenance indicators can help but there’s lots more work to be done here so that users can be sure of what they are looking at, where the data came form, how it processed, and how recent is it?
  7. Version management. When users can tweak, recombine, share, adjust, and otherwise change a mashup on-the-fly in “edit mode”, how does a business deal with issues of consistency and change management when so many more versions of applications exist than before. Fast rates of change are increasingly becoming the norm both on the Web and in our organizations and mashup platforms that don’t directly have features to support and enable rapid changes in mashup applications will be bringing to their customers as many issues as they solve. IBM’s QEDWiki stands out again as a model where mashups are automatically versioned, just like a wiki page, so that even the mashup can be mashed up again and its clients pinned to particular version. Several of the most recent mashup platforms are making this kind of capability a priority and by the end of 2008, mashup platforms that don’t support version management robustly will likely have serious issues gaining an audience.
  8. Awareness and realization of the potential of mashups by the businesses community. One other problem, probably not helped by the term ‘mashup’ itself, is the general awareness of the business value of mashups and their potential to solve tough business problems by providing faster, cheaper access to the right information and IT capabilities than ever before. The fairly immature state of tooling doesn’t help but a lot more has to be done to educate and bring awareness to the general business community and educating them that an important new model for software is emerging. Businesses should be aware of the potential that smart, appropriate application of mashups in many business problems can bring by unleashing productivity, increasing institutional knowledge, and creating new business opportunities and outcomes that simply weren’t possible before. Prior to mashups, there was generally few ways to buy or create a custom software application in a timely, inexpensive manner.
  9. Low levels of support by major software firms. Though open source software tends to power the public Web, a large percentage of the infrastructure running businesses today, especially in medium to large organizations, are still largely based on commercial software. And commercial software vendors have been slow to provide explicit support for an enterprise mashup friendly environment. What’s lacking? A number of things including support of Web-Oriented Architecture, offering application functionality in useful API forms, “widgitized” content and functionality, offering rich support for RSS feeds and notification, mashup security solutions, and other related topics. This ensures that enterprises have a lot of work to do on their own before mashups are commonplace in their organizations.The good news, Service-Oriented Architectures are growing more common that understand mashup approaches, which strong prefer standards that support easy consumption in the browser, will help but commercial software needs to be much more mashup friendly. Why are commercial software firms slow to support mashups? Part of it is the typically slow pace of commercial software development as well as a wait and see attitude by many to see how mashups impact their business models, particularly around professional services and integration.
  10. Few killer demo mashups. Because of many of the issues above, particularly around security, clearly useful business mashups can be hard to find. Where is the mashup that shows the average user an easy-to-use combined view of all of their calendars: home, business, and mobile? How about the app that allows someone to wire together data from the data warehouse, local SOA, and enterprise content management system? These are still to hard to create for the reasons in the list above and until compelling stories emerge from businesses that have reached the tipping point, enterprise mashups will, like the SOAs that power them, remain a fascinating idea for most but not a significant business motivation.

You might think I paint a bleak picture of the enterprise mashups world and nothing could be further from the truth. The last couple of years have taught us an enormous amount about what is possible and what needs to be changed. Most of these items above will likely be addressed in some form or another in the next year or two. Even solving a couple of the key issues will change the software development landscape considerably. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to provide a front-row seat to the unfolding story of what appears to be the next major new software development model.

Source: http://blogs.zdnet.com/Hinchcliffe

Do You Know Where Your Content Is?

October 19, 2007

By Anita Campbell

Web content used to just appear on individual webpages. But now your content now may be accessed by people in dozens of other places. Your content can become a “roving ambassador” for your business.

It’s 10:00 p.m. Three people are reading their favorite business information online:

  • John in Alabama opens up Bloglines to catch up on reading the latest RSS headlines from his favorite blogs and news sites.
  • Maria heads over to Inc.com to read the latest articles online. BlogRovr, a free application she uses, retrieves and displays the latest blog articles linking to the Inc articles she is reading. That extends the conversation surrounding the articles she is reading, as she can now see what her favorite bloggers have to say about the articles, right while she is reading them.
  • Marcus fires up iGoogle to the start page he has set up containing a dozen and half gadgets containing bits of information, such as RSS headlines or interactive applications, from his favorite sites. For instance, he uses iGoogle to monitor activity on his profiles on social media sites, such as Facebook, as well as the latest “twitters” of the people he is following on Twitter.

John, Maria and Marcus are each reading and interacting with their favorite sites and Web applications. They may be reading YOUR blog articles or pulling in information from the application they use from YOUR site.

But you’ll notice one important fact: none of them actually visited your Web URL that evening. In fact, they haven’t been to your site in weeks, maybe months.

Welcome to the cut-and-paste Web, as it has been dubbed by blogger and PR executive Steve Rubel. The cut-and-paste Web is where the Web reader (user) is in control. It’s where the reader can decide to move content around. Today’s Web consumer chooses what he or she wants to see and where.

What’s more, most of the activity involving your site may be happening off your site.

I’ve had personal experience with this. Just in the past three months on three separate days, the number of article views via RSS feeds from one of my own websites exceeded the number of on-site page views that day. Think about that a moment. On three different days more people consumed my content off of my site, than on it. At present growth rates, I project that within a year, more people regularly will be viewing my site’s content off-site than on-page.

The thought is staggering. It changes everything about how I view what I am doing, from my site’s business model, to how I define a “community,” to how I go about adding new features.

Portability of content has profound implications for Web publishers and site owners:

  1. Make it embeddable. Content wants to be free. Set up your site so that chunks of it are portable and easy for users to embed into other websites, such as start pages like iGoogle or RSS readers. Better yet, have your development team create widgets or gadgets and submit them to widget directories or start-pages sites, for users. Another important step is to create an “app” or application for Facebook, so that users can use it there. This will extend the reach of your site and broaden your community base. Learn how to leverage sites and tools such as: WidgetBox, iGoogle, Netvibes, PageFlakes, FreeWebs.

  2. Think desktop widgets. Widgets are not only embeddable in other Web pages, but increasingly users are placing them on their computer desktops. You can’t get much more visible than that, when users see your widget every time they boot their computer up and see their desktop screen. Try these sites for desktop widget building tools and directories of places to submit your widget: Yahoo Widgets; SpringWidgets.

  3. Use other measurements besides pageviews. If people don’t actually visit your URL, then you cannot very fully measure your site’s reach using traditional metrics of visits and page views. So you will need to start tracking alternative measurements. One of the easiest to track is RSS subscribers and RSS item use. For this, the hands-down best solution today is FeedBurner.

  4. Rethink advertising-based sites. If your business model is advertising based, calculated on CPM rates (i.e., number of page impressions), start now offering alternative ad placements and rate structures. One option is ads in your RSS feeds. Today advertisers still are not willing to pay the same advertising rates in RSS feeds as for on-site or even newsletter placements. But in the future as RSS becomes more accepted, that could change. FeedBurner offers a feed-based ad network for publishers to monetize their feeds, as does Pheedo.

  5. You will no longer control what people see. Get over the idea that you can control what the user sees. That may be true if users come to your website (and plenty of people still do today). But in the future, as increasing numbers of consumers come only once to your site to check it out or set up an account, thereafter they may not only display your content where they want it, but even start changing how it looks. For instance, some widgets allow users to change background colors and other display features.

The bottom line: Embrace the portability of content as a kind of roving ambassador for your website and your business. Your content and your site’s applications can be working for you around the Web in dozens, hundreds, thousands of places.

Anita Campbell is a writer, speaker and radio talk show host who closely follows trends in the small business market at her site, Small Business Trends.

Source: INC magazine