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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Building Success in a Flat Economy: Beating the Vendor Renegotiation Game

It's certainly no news these days that the economy could be a lot better, but a recent survey from Gartner points to both the scale of the cutbacks affecting enterprise technology providers and how they are being hit by those cutbacks. According to Gartner 42 percent of the surveyed CIOs had cut back their budgets in Q109, and 90 percent of CIOs had made budget changes opting for cutbacks. While the average overall decline was about 4.2 percent among the surveyed CIOs, those cutting back were averaging about 7.2 percent.

Of more concern to information services providers, though, is how these cutbacks are impacting the vendors servicing these CIOs and their organizations. The two most popular methods for dealing with budget cutbacks this year mentioned in the Gartner survey have been to reduce headcount and to renegotiate contracts with vendors. So although information services providers may not be getting the axe, they're certainly getting that pared-down feeling in many instances. Of course, their clients still expect them to deliver outstanding service for those lower prices. Goodbye margins, hello aspirin. It's going to be a bumpy stretch.

There's no magic wand that can help an information services company avoid these cutbacks, but there are strategies that you can deploy which just might help to make the difference between pain and gain during challenging times. One key strategy is to use cutbacks as an opportunity to open a dialogue with your customers about aggregating information services. With different departments and work roles using different information services, oftentimes with overlapping functions and content sources, helping your customers to reduce the number of interfaces into those services can wind up being a cost-saving move for them that may create new revenue opportunities for you. In other words, instead of customers being forced to choose between one information service over another, help them to deliver the information from as many of them as possible under one more easily supported service.

Now, wouldn't it be nice if that aggregator who helped your client to solve their budget problems while improving information access was your company? Well, it certainly can be you - especially if you're a MuseGlobal OEM partner. MuseGlobal's MuseConnect content integration services enable any information technology and services provider to provide well-integrated access to any number of searchable information sources rapidly and reliably. Instead of looking at all of the other platforms in use at your clients as potential competitors for budget, they can become the sources of content that can be fed into an integrated solution that your own platform champions.

You can use MuseConnect to bring content from other platforms into your own platform using our exclusive Smart Connector technologies or create a custom interface that combines information from both your platforms and others exactly the way that your clients want to see it. And with MuseConnect's built-in management of network security, user administration and content source updating the complexities of bringing multiple platforms under one access point will turn out not to be so complex at all. Client support costs go down, their productivity goes up. So when push comes to shove on which platforms will get the lion's share of whatever budget is left, you can put yourself at the head of the line for getting a fat cut of that budget.

Our MuseConnect technologies are a key enabler for such dramatic turns because of their ability to provide reliable content integration at the drop of a hat. With more than 6,000 pre-built and easily configured Smart Connectors at your disposal, MuseConnect makes it easy to move rapidly from "We can help you" discussions to "We're ready to show you" discussions that can help to turn around budget discussions from a paring down to a win-win save - or more. And as always, since our Smart Connectors are maintained around the clock as a part of your MuseConnect service, your support costs for these victories are factored in easily to your bottom line.

So as you're wrestling with clients who are trying to eke their way through tougher times, remember that there can be great opportunities in these times to turn the tables on your competitors and to be the first to step forward as the aggregation solution that helped to save your clients money and to wind up improving information access all at the same time. Hopefully that will be enough to get your clients through the next year or so - and to put you in the driver's seat for when times get better.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Partnering with the Real-Time Web, 140 Characters (or more) At a Time

One of the great challenges in confronting the value of the open Web is that many of the most popular and timely sources of information are not being produced by traditional publishers. Who would have thought, for example, that a simple text messaging service like Twitter would explode into a major conduit for alerting people to breaking news and insights produced by millions of people? Yes, there's the "I just put peanut butter on my sandwich" kind of "breaking news" in that mix, but then, if you make peanut butter, perhaps that's news if you're trying to understand the quickly shifting world of consumer habits. Of course there's also a healthy mix of other sources in the stream of Twitter messages, including breaking headlines and comments from major news organizations, politicians, celebrities and just about anyone else who can pump out information 140 characters at a time on a moment's notice on their PCs and mobile devices. If Twitter represents the cutting edge of "real-time" information on the Web, then it's an edge with a powerful force behind it.

Yet for all of the recent excitement about Twitter, it's hardly the only source of important real-time information from online sources. The truth of the matter is that any information source can be a real-time source of information - if it's information that's important to you as soon as it's updated and you can access it in time for that information to be immediately relevant. It's important to factor in access to sources like Twitter into your strategy for real-time information awareness, but these other sources of information - what you might call "the dark real-time Web" - can provide you with insights and advantages that others will be missing in their search for real-time relevance. If it's important to your decision-making process and it's out there, you need it now.

This concept of engineering real-time relevance is nothing new to MuseGlobal, of course. Our MuseConnect technologies have been used for harvesting on-demand information from our thousands of Smart Connectors for more than a decade. MuseConnect is particularly well suited for extracting real-time relevance from any number of content sources because it's been designed from the outset to pass through updates and alerts from the freshest and most relevant information it can find from any content source. Instead of building a massive database of potentially out-of-date information from many sources, our Smart Connectors can go out and get fresh information from each and every source that matters to you and deliver it to you on any information platform where it's needed in whatever normalized data formats suit your operations.

In other words, it's important to have software that monitors Twitter if you want to be aware of real-time opinions, news and events, but why stop there? Other social media services, videos, GPS-enabled applications, corporate Web sites, subscription databases, government and public databases, catalogs and, most importantly, your clients' own internal databases - all of these are potential sources of real-time relevance for the services that publishers and technology companies provide to clients. If you wait for a search engine crawl to find the nuggets of value in those sources that you need, they could be hours, days or more out of date, and that's if they're even crawled, of course. If you rely only on data harvesting tools, you could find yourself waiting for those tools to be repaired when a source's data formats change and break down your ability to provide real-time relevance, while missing out on thousands of sources that are beyond the reach of typical harvesters.

So getting the most valuable information in real-time is not just as simple as parking a Twitter feed into a piece of software. It's about getting every bit of the freshest and best-organized information that you can use in the right format at the right time on the right platforms, day in and day out - and being able to return the favor of providing fresh updates to the sources that supply your own platforms. That's a much, much bigger picture for real-time than many publishers and technology companies may have put their arms around, but it's the picture that MuseGlobal's OEM partners have been embracing for years. Because we sell our MuseConnect technologies as a service, it's a picture that keeps on getting refreshed. We keep our partner's content connectors up-to-date every day, so that their thousands of installations around the world can have real-time information all the time.

The buzz on "real-time" is bound to build as more and more applications are built to take advantage of emerging fast-updating sources like Twitter, which means that you have to be ready to focus on the final products of your real-time automated editorial efforts as much as possible - instead of the infrastructure that brings that content from any number of sources of real-time information updates to your platform. And that's where MuseConnect and its Smart Connector technology comes in. We connect to the freshest sources of information and make sure that keeping connectivity to real-time information is the least of your concerns.