MySource Matrix from Squiz is an open source Web Content Management System (WCM) used to create, edit, manage, and publish Web content. Squiz’s clients include Royal College of Nursing and Oxford University. Darryl Hannah is with Squiz (Europe and UK division) and a member of the Higher Education Management Group on LinkedIn.
KH: For those that don’t deal with content management issues regularly, can you begin by describing the logic behind content management systems? And what’s the difference between CMS (content management system) and ECM (enterprise content management)?
DH: Wow – that’s a big one to kick off with! Rather than get bogged down in the bits and bytes, it’s probably best to describe what a CMS will allow an organisation to do better.
A CMS basically enables non-technical people to create and manage web pages and web sites. This means that – unlike before – each time you want to write and publish a page you can just do it by hitting a few buttons . . . rather than having to bend the arm of Joe in the IT department who has a hundred other things to do before tea time!
The other really important thing that a CMS allows you to do is manage the publication and the presentation of your content more effectively, and in a more service-driven way. Web pages are no longer static islands of information in a CMS. If you build a CMS site well, you can introduce smarter ways of cross-selling and merchandising your key content so that you channel you users through to the things you really want them to be doing: subscribing, signing up, buying, etc.
The difference between Web Content Management (WCM) and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is straightforward. An ECMS tends to be a large, process driven system that takes care of an organisations entire document management and information sharing requirements – like an Intranet, a document repository and workflow and sometimes a web site in a big box.
A WCMS is lighter than this. It tends to be deployed for web sites and Intranets only, and is built more for the merchandising and presentation of content than handling the systematic lifecycle of content as with ECM.
In other words, an ECMS is document-focused and a WCMS is people-focused. Consequently, you see more marketing-driven functionality and innovation in a WCMS since the guts of the system is being designed to service public users more effectively.
KH: MySource Matrix is based on open source technology. What’s the advantage of open source for colleges and universities?
DH: The advantages of an Open Source CMS for colleges and universities are really no different to the advantages it brings for other organisations . . . With one big exception that has to do with the way that our education clients tend to build their web sites.
I’ll get back to that bit in a moment, but the big value in using an Open Source CMS is not just in getting your hands on the product for free. A lot of people get over-myopic on this point. But the fact that we don’t carry a price tag is just the starting point.
The big plus lies in the fact that Supported Open Source CMS’s like ours are helping all kinds of organisations to reassess the value of their spending. By shifting the focus away from license fees and on to the essential service-based spending that they have to make in order to ensure their projects are a success, Supported Open Source helps them to think through what it really takes to implement a good web content management system.
And it’s here where the value lies. By taking the licence fee out of the picture, we enable our customers to shift their budgets onto other, more important project development costs like custom development, design, training, and hosting and the like. In this sense, compared with a standard commercially licenced system, an Open Source CMS acts like a ‘Cash Back’ option to any new web site project. And, naturally, all of our customers love it!
The big ‘build’ advantage that I mentioned has to do with the fact that most colleges and universtities tend to produce their sites in a different way to normal enterprises. They need extra flexibility to give their various umbrella constituencies – different faculties, schools, boards of governors, etc – the freedom to create and maintain their own unique web services and identities.
In reality this usually means the creation of a broad church with lots of smaller demominations – all of which can represent a separate web site implementation under the banner of the larger system. Working with a tightly licenced system this can provide financial headaches, since each new deployment represents an extra licence fee. But with an Open Source CMS none of these restrictions apply. You own the product, therefore you can deploy it as many times as you like, however you like . . . without racking up extra ‘per-server’ or ‘per-user’ costs.
KH: Has the profile of the open source client changed since you started out in 1998?
DH: Yes, quite radically in fact.
When we started life ten years ago, open source was really only an option for the technically able and very committed.
Today, things are different. Open Source software has become a mainstay of every technical department in the world. The open source development skills available on the market are probably the easiest to tap into and the smartest (and most cost-effective), and companies like Squiz are providing Open Source solutions that are backed by the security of bullet-proof professional services (unlike yesterday, you can now use an Open Source product and pick up the phone if you need help or if something goes wrong).
So, on the whole, Open Source has matured to the point where it’s simply a technology choice, rather than a risky commercial gambit.
And, the really great thing we’re now seeing now is that Supported Open Source CMS’s like ours are creating a completely new mid-market for enterprise content management.
As mentioned, we’re creating a ‘CashBack’ effect which is enabling customers to do different things with their money rather than sinking it into licenses. In practice, once you take the license fee out of the equation, we’re allowing people who were previously looking to spend no more than $75,000 to get a site that vaguely resembles an out of the box Amazon.com . . . and at the other end of the scale, we’re helping the $250,000 guys to get something that’s amazingly customised to their organization’s requirements and is tuned to perfection.
KH: My own team uses a CMS for online course content to supplement the LMS. This enabled us to decentralize what ought to be decentralized, and centralize what ought to be centralized. We lowered development costs and dramatically increased our ability control the look and structure of our courses (a pedagogical and branding issue). Yet, very few traditional colleges and universities use CMS for online courses. What opportunities do you see in the online higher education market?
DH: I think colleges and universities around the world are grappling more and more with commercial pressures and are having to change the way they deliver their courses and services to their end consumers – students. So, the opportunity that I see is for stronger commercial differentiation. The ability to rapidly tailor your products and services is critical as the education market starts to morph.
Around the world, we’re dealing with educational institutions who are no longer dealing with a fixed yearly curriculum. They’re catering for new professional students as well as traditional undergraduate and post graduates. This means catering for lots of different requirements with day-long courses, week-long courses, semester intensive periods, and so forth…. and many of the scheduling rules are being reinvented on the spot.
The only way to keep pace with these new student/consumer demands is to have a more flexible publishing system that can deliver the goods on an almost real-time basis. The days of a six month curriculum planning period and a six month publishing effort are dead and gone. Colleges and universities really need to get with the now…
KH: You have a strong presence in the UK, Australian and New Zealand. Where to next?
DH: Earlier this year we also launched our Eastern European HQ in Poland, where we’ll be handing lots of our support and implementation services work.
The next move on the horizon is the US, where we hope to establish a presence early next year. Are there any introductions you can make Keith . . . ?