Its that time again -- shopping mayhem, possibly some snow, and wise geeks bearing delusions of Delphi. Today we have the oracles of Mediasurface UK weighing-in. In the fore are Compliance, Vertical Markets, Hosted Solutions, CRM/CM Integration, and Unhappy Web Surfers.1. Compliance Crisis New Legislations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, UK Companies Bill, Basle II and IFRS will certainly be giving CIOs a headache in 2005 and are already proving to be a driving force in software vendor’s strategies for the coming year. Legislative requirements are pushing the volume of data organisations need to manage and we are already beginning to hear some ‘end of the world’ storage crisis hype. While the increased amount of information will have major implications for the storage market, we are already seeing significant impact on all areas of IT, including Content Management. "Complying with the latest government requirements is a problem IT departments should solve with catch-all – not legislation specific – solutions," says Clive Longbottom from analyst firm Quocira. Lawrence Flynn, CEO of Mediasurface says: "We see Content Management solutions becoming a key driver as a foundation layer solution to build, retrieve and store this now vital information, due to its very nature and the ease in which it can manage unstructured data." 2. Creating verticalised markets With the advent of an age of increasing industry regulations we will see an increased need for tailored solutions to meet each industry’s different demands. Vendors will increasingly need to support businesses by providing an industry tailored wrapping around their core products. IT purchasing is no longer about technology – is about benefits – adding real value in the business to the people who need it. Vendors can’t now just whack out the same product to everyone, across all verticals, they have to be providing a genuine solution for the specific needs of an organisation. It is about ‘solution’ not ‘product’. People don’t buy products – they buy the benefit the product brings. For example, when you buy a light bulb, you’re actually buying the ability to have light, not a lump of glass and metal. This is also true of Content Management (CM); Mediasurface’s customers are not buying software, but the benefits it brings them such as compliance, competitive advantage and so on. Nick Bolton, Product Marketing Director, says: "Mediasurface pioneered verticalisation in Content Management and now other providers are beginning to follow us down the vertical route. When I came to the industry it had always been horizontally focussed – the generic name for the market itself suggests this. But what was immediately apparent was that our clients were spread across a wide range of industries all using our product for differing business purposes. - World Wrestling Entertainment to entertain, the Environment Agency to inform homeowners and Prudential to empower its staff. I undertook a programme of verticalisation and building ‘whole products’ and now two years on, the business benefit is clear - our customers are happier, we are selling more and our tailored vertical solutions are always the big differentiator in new business wins. We will continue to lead this charge to verticalisation." 3. Mainstream appeal through hosted solutions In the year to come we see high-end vendors beginning to explore new routes to market; as the high-end enterprise market begins to become saturated, vendors will undoubtedly have to deploy a mid-market strategy. Increasing commoditisation of technology has always, in the past, opened up doors for smaller businesses. With software it is not about how you make it, it is about how you charge for it and about inventing new ways of selling the product. Microsoft changed its licensing structure a few years ago – it had to do it, as the market had reached a point of saturation. There is currently a trend for outsourcing, reducing the costs and overheads of running and managing your infrastructure. Content Management is a technology that can offer the mid-market tremendous advantages and benefits but it has always been perceived as an expensive technology route. Mediasurface is planning a pilot project into more mass-market hosted technology solutions in the New Year. "The hosted route is one we have been looking at for some time now" said Nick Smee, Sales Director. "We have seen some new business deals slip because of the high price and their lack of IT infrastructure. None of our competitors and no-one else at the high end has yet gone down this route to market, just smaller, local companies with inferior solutions. We are an innovative, progressive thinking company and have been first to market with many solutions – this is just another example" 4. Integration - CRM and CM – Priority Outcomes paper Long heralded technologies such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) have finally come into their own and companies are beginning to see the advantages of integrating these technologies with others for increased efficiency and business benefits. Content Management as a technology has untapped depth. Integrating it with solutions such as ERP and CRM creates a powerful and flexible resource with unlimited benefits. "Government regulations are now demanding integrated systems" says Norman Annett, Account Manager for Central and Local Government. "In the National Priority Outcomes paper published by the ODPM we have seen the requirement of integrating CM with CRM projects brought to light. We are predicting a year of further integration and consolidation projects ahead." 5. Increasing dissatisfaction with web based User Interfaces Throughout 2004 we have begun to see an increasing dissatisfaction with web-based User Interfaces. There has been a general shift in the audience for technology. The IT purchaser is now looking for a solution which satisfies the demands of scalability, integration and functionality as standard. Whilst also meeting the needs of the business user. As a result the web-based interface is simply not rich enough to fulfil the requirements of today’s business environment. Stewart Manley, Mediasurface CTO says: "In 2005 we predict a move away from solely web based applications and will start to see more alternatives being developed. Microsoft have done this with its Smart client and created a bridge between web-based and thick client applications. More recently we have seen Macromedia’s development of Flex, an application based on its flash movies but with user interactivity. For software vendors, it is about developing a portfolio of choices for your customer – Letting them have the flexibility of both ‘static’ and ‘anywhere accessible’ applications which are rich with interactivity, intuitiveness and ease of use." An AIM listed company headquartered in Newbury, UK, Mediasurface provides software that empowers the business user to build and manage sophisticated content driven websites.