Mediasurface's Secret Sauce:
(Note:Technology from Harrod's Creek.)
Content management seems destined to become
more than a marketer's buzzword. In 1996, Ben Hayman, founder of
Mediasurface, wanted to be the provider of a software tool that
offered a one-stop solution for organizational content
Web masters have long needed tools to manage the crazy quilt
of digital objects that make up the average
Web site. Now managing
directors require a content console to get
a cohesive view of the information
pulsing through their organization's digital stream.
The managing director of
Allied Irish Banks is one example
of a captain of industry who must admit that
he has not navigated through information either
wisely or well. The cost for questionable content
management, in fact, is more than £500 million.
authorization, access, security, and
control bang on the doors of boardrooms
worldwide. In those wood-paneled enclaves,
content management promises to be a
navigational aid to the captains of
Central London is home to one of the specialist
companies able to provide
software that combines content management
with business process software. An organization
equipped with Mediasurface's tools can
manage its business processes more effectively
without replacing its existing technical
Ben Hayman, one of the founders of Mediasurface,
said, "Content management has nothing to do with
infrastructure. Content management is a business
process or what some people call knowledge
management. We wanted to combine content management
with business process software. Our focus was
in using information in a variety of ways, not
just building a Web site."
Mr. Hayman's approach has
made convinced 3i, Goldman Sachs
Private Equity, GE Capital, Reuters Greenhouse
Fund, Dresdner Kleinwort Benson,
Elderstreet Investment, and Amadeus Capital Partners
among others to invest in Mediasurface.
Mediasurface's managers know that the world of content management is a
confused and difficult
one. Consolidation and business pressures make content management an intensely competitive
business. Mediasurface is determined to
conduct its business with probity
and pragmatism; for example, the company
offers fixed-prices for its content management solution
And Mediasurface takes some extra steps to help
ensure that its reputation and technology
stay at a high level. In June 2001,
Mediasurface audited a potential reseller
to ensure that
the organization met Mediasurface's technical
and financial benchmarks. (See The Technology
for more details.)
Mediasurface is competing in a business space
where there are at least
three different approaches content management.
These approaches are Web site creation and management, and
One branch of content management is configuration management.
This discipline focuses on
software code. The idea is that the code for a
Web site (or any program for that matter)
is kept in one location. When changes
are required, an authorized user checks out
a module of software, makes necessary changes, and then
checks in the new version by going through
a mandatory set of steps before the new software is put on a
Configuration management is a comprehensive
technical discipline with a trade association,
directories of software experts, and a
wide range of technical nooks and crannies.
Leaders in configuration management such as
Rational Software combine rigorous work
flow tools with specialized
functions to prevent a zealous programmer from
overwriting the source code for a critical
http://www.ational.com or explore the
the Institute for Configuration Management's site
for details about configuration management at
A good place to begin one's exploration of
configuration management is the Configuration
Management directory located at
The costs for configuration management software
ranges from a few thousand pounds to the
upper six figures.
A second category of content management software
is tools that help a Web master keep a Web site
updated. One of the most ubiquitous of these tools is Microsoft's
Front Page. For many individuals and some organizations,
such programs as Front Page, the lower cost products
from Ektron, Net Objects Fusion (Web Site Pros) www.websitepros.com
and similar firms provide basic, useful
services. Documents can be created and updated. Changes
can be made for dynamic pages and various types of interactive
functions can be added to a Web site with modest or
in some cases no programming. The costs for these
Web-centric content management tools range from
shareware with fees in the £25 range to more than
£3,000 for an entry level Ektron package. As powerful as
these tools are, most lack what are called "work flow".
These are business rules that make
sure that each document moves through a specific
process prior to its being published. In the last 18 months,
content has become
a part of many manager's job. organizations offer
special versions of content for mobile devices
and special customer groups. With the
increasing interest in audio and video, Web
masters must marry text, metadata, and video files
in one cohesive block without errors. A mistake can
be costly. With each passing days,
management of rights and access become a more important part of
the Web services approach to electronic information.
A third category of content management focuses on how
work gets done. In small organizations, the proprietor does
all the jobs. In large enterprises, dozens or hundreds of people can
be involved in a single document's life cycle.
The idea behind the enterprise content
management system is to bring order to the usually
untidy ways in which content. With order comes a tighter control
over access and reuse of content objects.
Enterprise content management systems
are poised to become a bright spot in
a lack lustre market. Anyone who has worked to assemble a
price quotation, a proposal, or
a presentation knows first hand that content
is tricky. Photographs, data, and key documents
require the equivalent of a military task force to
locate. When a document (or "content object" in
the current parlance) is located, further forensic work must be done
to determine if the document is indeed the
most current version. Each project sets off another
chain of expensive investigation.
content management joins work flow, security,
versioning, and functions. Enterprise
content management supports the Web as well as other
types of documents, dissemination and distribution.
Most of the content management companies are
locked within specific technical limits. Developers
offering comprehensive solutions may "glue" together
two or more different programs, give the hybrid a
fresh interface. Mediasurface is a unified program
that has few if any boundaries.
The firm's software has attracted the interest of
a number of global media companies, including
Carlton Interactive and Reuters by emphasizing
the software's ability to answer four questions:
- Who are the people who will manage the content?
- What are the types of content that the company cares about? Do they
create their own or source it? Then create the rules.
- How will the content appear to the "who"?
- Where will it appear via distribution channels?
Mediasurface has approached content
management as a business management task, not
Mediasurface provides a suite of integrated software
that can be implemented across an organization in
as little as six weeks. Among the firm's customers
are EMI music which uses Mediasurface
to manage its entertainment sites. Enterprise
resource planning companies use Mediasurface to
manage their own Intranets and to deliver
software products to their clients. The American
World Wide Wrestling Federation delivers Web
sites about steroid-enhanced luminaries such as The Rock.
Mediasurface is a generic software tool that
weaves together keeping software, images,
text, and objects within a business process environment.
More importantly, Mediasurface's software can
mesh with other firm's software.
Mr. Hayman said that Mediasurface is actively working with search-and-retrieval
developers such as Autonomy, diversified technology firms
such as IBM and its Web Sphere division, Web services
vendors such as BEA Systems, and a number of other
companies. "Mediasurface is a horizontal software,"
said Mr. Hayman. "Most content management
companies come from a more narrow view of the
job that content management software must perform.
Mediasurface's architecture sets it apart from
such firm's as Vignette, Interwoven, and Documentum.
Mediasurface, for example, is "infrastructure
ready." According to Mr. Hayman, "The Mediasurface
system uses dynamic systems so that a client
does not have to export flat file databases,
build Web pages or other content objects, and
then deploy the content on dedicated application
servers." Mediasurface uses the infrastructure
their clients have, thus reducing complexity,
cost, and deployment time. This contrasts sharply with
the manual configuration of database tables required
by some of Mediasurface's competitors.
What are the challenges that Mediasurface must
overcome? Like the hundreds of firms that use the
content management tag line, Mediasurface must
generate revenue to sustain its development and
marketing efforts. Mediasurface has attracted
considerable interest and the firm
is growing and performing well financially in a challenging
Mediasurface, however, may represent a juicy plum
to an enterprise software provider struggling to
integrated work flow, security, and
One of Mediasurface's partners describes organizational
content as existing in "chaos." If the recent business and
financial headlines are bellwethers, Mediasurface
may find itself thrust into
a pivotal opportunity to tame information uncertainty.
55 Bermondsey Street
London SE1 3XG
Web sites mentioned in this column:
Content Management Today: www.cmtoday.com/yp/tracking.html
IBM:www-3.ibm.com/software/ (search for Web Sphere)
Microsoft Front Page:www.microsoft.com/frontpage/
Net Objects Fusions:www.websitepros.com
Stephen E. Arnold
Arnold Information Technologies
Postal Box 320
Harrod's Creek, Kentucky 40027
Voice: 502 228 1966
E mail: email@example.com
Web site: http://www.arnoldit.com
Mr. Arnold is an independent consultant working from Harrod's Creek,
Kentucky. He resides in the
USA with two boxer dogs and 13 servers. His most recent book
is "The New Trajectory of the Internet," published by Infonortics, Ltd.,
Tetbury, Glou. Mr. Arnold specializes in competitive intelligence
and technology analysis.
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