Vignette CEO Says ECM Has Become a Strategic Priority

Corporate executives are looking hard to find new ways to draw on customer and market data to increase revenue and strengthen customer loyalty and for ways to ensure compliance with growing regulatory requirements. In an interview with Computerworld, Thomas Hogan, president and CEO of Vignette Corp., an enterprise content management software maker in Austin, said such needs have led to a significant increase in demand for ECM software.

Thomas Hogan, president and CEO of Vignette Corp.
Thomas Hogan, president and CEO of Vignette Corp.
How would you describe the state of the ECM business, and why is demand for such tools increasing? There's been a fairly steady evolution over the last 18 months.

Enterprise content management has gone from a category of interest to a state today where I'd describe it as a strategic priority. It's being driven by two fundamental business catalysts: "What do I need to do to render greater value, either in terms of greater revenues, stronger loyalty, etc.?" The second driver that's not part of the profit/expense dynamic is the compliance-driven need to understand information flow within the enterprise. It's not just [the Sarbanes-Oxley Act]; it transcends the industry. An easy example to cite is HIPAA in the health care industry.

What are some steps that Vignette has taken to reposition itself to take advantage of some new applications for ECM tools? I took the job as CEO in the summer of 2002. At the time, we were predominantly a Web content management company, a good place to be ... during the dot-com boom. But we recognized that that phase would quickly pass and there would be a greater focus on how you would leverage information to drive your business. You've got to be able to manage all forms of content, including structured content in a classical relational database. And you need to be able to contemplate and manage unstructured content, like audio, video, HTML, text, etc. That fueled our acquisition of Tower Technology about 18 months ago. Having the knowledge and control of the information is important. If your employees, business partners or customers can't access the information at a time or place that's convenient to them, and if you don't have a filtering mechanism so they can either shop, purchase or perform their duties as an employee, then who cares? We can't just deliver information; we have to make it contextual.

How can ECM tools help IT address regulatory compliance? There's this concept of sustainable compliance. If you back up the hands of time a few years, Enron hits -- everyone gets into mass panic. So what happened is a cottage industry was formed to build front-end compliance solutions that external auditors or compliance officers thought were pretty sexy. Fifteen or so firms experienced hypergrowth. A bunch of big companies like Vignette had to certify compliance with [Sarbanes-Oxley] by the end of '04. My belief is that [companies] got certified, made it through the year and took a deep breath.

As they look to '06 and beyond, people are asking questions like, "How can I automate that workflow to ensure the accuracy of what's been reported?" This is starting now and will occur in a wave of spending in '06. It may peak in '07, but it's certainly not happening in '05.

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