Can Akumina Make SharePoint a Web CMS Contender

2014-23-June-communication.jpg

In the age of digital experience, not all companies are rushing into relationships with superpower providers like Adobe, Sitecore and Oracle.

Most, however, already have SharePoint, and many of those are trying to figure out how to extend its use to public-facing websites.

Enter Akumina, a three-year-old company whose founders have extensive experience in building and deploying such websites. It's led by CEO Ed Rogers and COO Steve Sherkanowski, who worked for years managing technical, operations and marketing activities at Ektron.

The Nashua, N.H.-based company recently introduced InterChange, a suite of role-based authoring and site management tools designed to give marketing teams control over SharePoint sites.

What It Can & Can't Do

Akumina's sweet spot is building SharePoint sites that feature personalized and adaptive web experiences, Rogers said. Ideally, that means business-to-business sites with "softer" requirements when it comes to web experience management.

For $10,000 a year, Akumina licenses tools that focus on brand messaging and customer satisfaction rather than transactions and lead optimization. They noted most companies would also need a consultant, at added cost, to customize the tool to each unique environment.

In an interview with CMSWire, Rogers was quick to point out that this approach isn't for everyone. Akumina can't provide the multivariate testing, conversion rate optimization or heavily personalized content targeting that the major digital marketing clouds provide. "If you're building a very campaign-intensive site, you would probably be looking at a company like Sitecore," he said.

Small Company, Big Vision

The company got its start in 2011, and recently raised $500,000 in early stage funding with a target of raising another $2 million. It remains quite small, targeting about $5 million in sales this year from clients that include Dolby, DirectTV and Walmart.

Rogers and Sherkanowski developed the company's vision when they realized that Microsoft was changing its game with SharePoint 2013. The newest version separates content from the other features in SharePoint.

"Why that's important is because now you can separate the content and deliver it," said Rogers. "Once you have the content flowing into the index, you can enrich that content with the experience of the users."

Rogers said their tools provides a "thin layer on top of Microsoft technology" that is illustrated in the diagram below. Essentially, it takes advantage of the search, analytics and content management capacity of SharePoint to deliver content tuned to any available data on specific end users.

2014-15-September-Akumina.jpg

A Viable Approach

"I think it's interesting," said Melissa Webster, vice president for content and digital media technologies at IDC. "I think it's a viable approach that will appeal to companies that want to solve every problem with SharePoint."

She concurred with Rogers assessment that it can't deliver the kind of personalization associated with the high-budget vendors. "Microsoft is just not in the game when it comes to digital experience platforms," she said.

She noted that "it's going to take a while for most companies to move off what (platform) they currently have. Not all companies are going to move into the age of data-driven digital marketing."

And there are other lower-cost alternatives. Webster noted there are a number of cloud-based content management vendors that can provide similar services. "If you have pretty minimalist needs, you can do it that way and still do a little bit of personalization or contextualization."

Akumina's biggest advantage is probably inertia in the market. Many organizations have SharePoint and many want to keep using it, even as Microsoft gradually shifts the product to the cloud. This has led Akumina to advise potential clients to "Take another look at the Web CMS you already own."