eZ Systems (news, site), the self-proclaimed leader in commercial open source content management, has a new head honcho to guide the company through the fierce waters ahead.

A Mild Mannered Change of Command

Former IBM exec Christoph Rau has joined Norwegian-based content management firm eZ Systems as its new CEO. Christoph succeeds Aleksander Farstad, who co-founded the company 10 years ago. Everyone's friendly and happy, they report. Aleksander is sticking around as well -- he'll be doing what he says he does best: heading up business development operations.

The Seasoned Christoph Rau

Rau, who has over 25 years of industry and IT experience -- mostly with IBM -- and says he aims to build on the company's existing strengths. He shared the following in an official statement:

We will build from our strengths and make eZ the preferred choice for customers that need to manage different types of digital and multimedia content from different sources. eZ is the ideal choice for people who wish to publish in different channels, including web, mobile and print.

We simply manage any content from any source to any user and device. At the same time, we will keep our technology as open as possible in order to make integration through open standards like CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) very simple.

Lining Up the Pieces

In recent times eZ has made strides with the open source eZ Publish CMS. The company recently released the 4.2 version of eZ Publish, a stability update, with improved usability and search. A new community manager, Nicolas Pastorino, was put in place in late October. And back in June they announced CMIS-based integration with the Alfresco ECM platform.

eZ has also been improving usability. For example, back in the summer  the team added a simpler installer for the less technically adept.

Moving to Deeper Waters

We had a chance to speak with the incoming Christopher Rau and the (sort of) outgoing Aleksander. The company spent 2008 restructuring itself and shifting revenue focus from consulting to support contracts. Now, the duo say, the conversion has been successfully made, the model is working and after a long search a new captain has been brought on board.

Aleksander explained how some healthy navel gazing led to their realization that in order to chart the right course for the next 10 years, a more experienced leader was needed.

Learning Opportunities

Shifting Focus from Media to Enterprise Clients

eZ Publish has met with success in the web publishing space. This, they claimed back in 2008, was what they were 200% focused on. Fast forward to the 2009 eZ System partner summit in Paris and times have changed.

In a June interview with product manager Roland Bennedetti, we were told that "Media is important, because it's going to be the big driver for the evolution of Web CMS, but eZ doesn't target media over other sectors."

When queried about his interests, Rau expressed confidence in eZ's commercial open source model and said the goal was to become "the number one provider of business web content management. We don't need to be the most popular", he said, "but we think we can take on and beat the business-focused players that are strong in the market today. We are planning a big expansion of strategy."

With a new CEO, a new community manager, new U.S. operations, a revenue base restructuring, a profitable year and a new rhythm of releases eZ's ambitions and actions seem to be in good form. But will they grow their piece of the enterprise WCM pie? That's a nice goal, but as things sit today, there are quite a few strong vendors who fancy that particular pastry. So, stay tuned here and we shall see.