eZ Systems, the creator of eZ Publish, goes to Chicago
Graham Tillotson is the new Managing Director of eZ Systems North America. We interviewed Graham for the February edition of SHARE! magazine to learn about his background, his plans for the new office and his general strategy for eZ in North America.
By: eZ Systems
eZ: Please tell us a little bit about your general business background.
GT: Definitely an interesting path. My master's degree is in Rhetoric and Technical Communication, and I started off as a consultant writing online documentation in RoboHELP. I grew frustrated with the lack of content reuse, so I wired RoboHELP to an Access database and crafted my own garage-built Content Management System. From there I went on to implement many document and Content Management Systems, and I spent two years building web analytics and data warehousing solutions. After that I managed four departments for a hosted software company (Customer Service, Documentation and Training, Engineering, and Quality Assurance), and then I made my way back to consulting because I am endlessly fascinated by content management. Both my father and my uncle were in the printing business, and after WWII they ran big Heidelberg presses on the south side of Chicago. I guess printing and publishing are in my blood.
eZ: What prior experience have you had with eZ Publish? What kind of projects have you worked on?
GT: I started using eZ Publish for a marketing intranet at ABN AMRO, and that was back in 2002. Most of my implementations have been standard web publishing solutions, but I've also used it extensively for customer support. When I was managing multiple departments, I used eZ Publish for everything from internal asset management to purchase requests to the entire support site behind our hosted software. Most recently I've used it to build social networking and e-commerce sites. I've also used eZ Publish when teaching at Northern Illinois University, to illustrate core skills such as information architecture, content modeling, and content embedding and reuse.
eZ: What opportunities do you see for eZ Publish in North America? Are there particular regions or types of businesses where you think that eZ Publish is particularly well suited?
GT: Great question, and I'm talking with North American partners about this right now. The focus in Europe is on the media vertical, and we will certainly focus on media as well, but we have found eZ Publish to be an excellent solution across a number of verticals. For us, the most active verticals would probably be finance, legal, media/publishing, and manufacturing. The strongest regions at the moment seem to be the northwest, midwest, and northeast. My goal is to synthesize eZ Systems' strategic objectives with those of the North American partners and adapt our marketing to put energy in the right places. Simply put, we don't want to focus on just one vertical, nor do we want to focus on the wrong verticals.
eZ: eZ Publish has high visibility and strong presence in Europe. However, it is less well known in North America. How does the North American market differ from the European market, and how do you intend to raise the visibility of eZ Publish in North America?
GT: You've touched upon my favorite sales joke: eZ Publish is like David Hasselhoff -- big in Germany! Seriously though. The North American market tends to suppress Open Source Content Management software, including eZ Publish, because it is dominated by enterprise vendors who established themselves in the late 1990s. When I started consulting, the only Content Management Systems anyone talked about were Vignette, Interwoven, Documentum, Stellent, and FileNet. Getting implementation exposure to one of these solutions was like stumbling across a winning lottery ticket. And today, as then, the skewed focus on proprietary solutions is propagated by research firms such as Gartner and Forrester because they dismiss Open Source solutions as too lightweight for enterprise use. Well, Open Source software is gaining momentum very quickly in North America, and we intend to be a leader in this movement. We will celebrate and market our successes, like Car and Driver and ELLEgirl, and we will continue to grow our developer base with training, extensive documentation, and the eZ Ecosystem. People of North America, I highly recommend that you install eZ Flow right now and see what it can do. Try that with Interwoven.
eZ: In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges that eZ Publish faces in the North American market?
GT: I'd say two main challenges -- visibility and getting a geographic presence. The Content Management System space is enormous, with over 2,000 solutions out there on any given day. Potential customers need help understanding why eZ Publish is better than 95% of them, and this often requires a demo before the big "ah ha!" moment occurs. So, we need to keep focused on raising market awareness and establishing a geographic presence, and for that we're starting in Chicago. In 2008, I'll be traveling to sales meetings to support partners, building an inside sales staff, training sales engineers, establishing training programs within North America, and speaking at conferences. Anything to get us to a demo so that we can show why eZ Publish is a true enterprise product, not just another line item in the long list of solutions.
eZ: What are your plans regarding North American partners? How do you think you will be able to help partners expand their eZ Publish activities?
GT: My primary objective with the partners is to spend time listening to their needs first, to be sure I really understand them, and I'll plan from there. I think the partners need a few key things to be successful -- high levels of communication, a solid geographic presence, and increased sales support. This will get the partners going with project work, and then of course they will need the support structures in place for management of their solutions and their client relationships. Services for expert consulting, support, and training will be in high demand, and I'm working now to get the North American crew ready to scale as our partner base grows.
About eZ Publish
eZ Publish is an award-winning, enterprise-grade Open Source Content Management System and development framework with functionality for web publishing, media portals, intranets, e-commerce and extranets. eZ Publish helps all kinds of organizations – including multinational corporations, humanitarian organizations and educational institutions – succeed at sharing their information.
About eZ Systems
Founded in 1999, eZ Systems is the world's largest Open Source Content Management software company with offices in Norway, Denmark, Germany, Ukraine, Belgium, France and North America. With customers such as the United States Navy, Oslo University, Telemark University, Swissfirst, Massachusetts Insitute of Technology, Elle and Vogue, eZ Systems is the creator of eZ Publish, an award winning Open Source Content Management System with more 2 million downloads, more than 150,000 installations and registered users in more than 130 countries. The eZ philosophy of openness and information sharing is still the basic guideline for the company and the eZ Ecosystem.