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The Next Chapter
Vignette's V/Series opens a new book on building the e-business.
For the rest of the October 2000 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Building a better e-business is what the new V/Series from Vignette is all about. The e-business platform and its accompanying suitcase of application services are replacing Vignette's earlier flagship product, storyServer. The new product enhances storyServer's capabilities with a platform architecture that promises to unify closed-loop interactions across multiple customer touch points and provide the means for e-businesses to beef up customer interactions, analytics and ultimately, profits.

"The line between business and e-business is blurred," says Bill Daniel, senior vice president of products for Vignette. "You can't have a business today without thinking about how you interact with customers and partners via the Internet. So if the line between business and e-business is starting to blur, companies must be able to integrate across offline and online channels."

Channel Interaction
The seamless interaction is key to the V/5 E-business Platform. The platform features six component servers tailored to help the user get the most from its e-business applications. This platform forms the base upon which Vignette's series of V/5 Applications can go to work. The applications include the Vignette Application Power Pack, an out-of-the-box set of reusable, cross-platform, packaged application modules that speed the deployment and management of e-biz applications.

"We've focused on making sure those servers and all V/5 products work within the architecture," Daniel says. "We offer a combined architecture that allows the application developer- -whether that application developer is Vignette or the customer- -to ensure that those services are all exposed via the Vignette foundation it sits on top of."

The basis of Vignette's V/5 E-business Platform are its six, application-specific servers:

The Content Management Server provides integrated content management, workflow and scalable content delivery and offers support for managing content stored in databases, XML repositories and static files. Capabilities of the server include a universal content entry feature to allow everyone in the organization to submit content; distributed workflow, which guarantees that a series of tasks gets completed before content reaches the Web site; and scheduled launch and expiration, which provides for automated site management by allowing content and applications to be launched to and expired from the Web site at scheduled times.

The Lifecycle Personalization Server lets e-businesses develop personalized services for customers, business partners and others. Using tools such as a presentation agent (which detects browser capabilities and the operating system and language of the incoming browser), a matching agent (which records the content searched by each visitor), and a recommendation agent (which uses statistical predictive modeling techniques to make content recommendations to new visitors), the lifecycle server allows organizations to learn about and effectively target customers, employees and business partners.

The Syndication Server helps manage content and relationships across B2B networks. It simplifies the process of distributing and packaging digital assets, which can then be sent to a network of affiliated e-businesses. Because the Syndication Server is built using open standards of XML and the Information & Content Exchange, the affiliate business does not have to buy any software. The distributor can create highly targeted offers, create built-to-order digital asset packages and can even offer affiliated self-service Web sites for package delivery and tracking.

The Advanced Deployment Server allows users to manage enterprise-wide development, testing and production environments for e-business applications. Teams of developers, administrators, editors and content contributors in geographically diverse locations can connect their Vignette environments to create an n-tiered staging system. The server allows online businesses to create the secure, scalable infrastructure that is needed to deploy content and applications across the enterprise.

Keeping the e-business in touch with its clients is the aim of the Communication Server: Keep in touch with customers, partners and employees via electronic touch points like e-mail, pagers, PDAs and mobile phones. Server capabilities include applications such as "e-Alert," which notifies a targeted group or person of new events and personalized information. It also offers two-way interaction.

The final server offered in the V/Series is the Relationship Marketing Server, which offers a closed-loop e-marketing solution that allows business users to gain insight into customers. Users can measure and analyze customer interactions across multiple touch points, deliver targeted content across communication channels and measure the success of e-marketing campaigns.

Scheduling in CRM
MegaTribe, a New York City-based provider of resource scheduling solutions, built its CRM products using Vignette solutions- -first storyServer and now the V/Series.

Vignette's products have helped make MegaTribe the leading provider of enterprise-class, integrated, resource scheduling solutions, says Gabriel Whyel, MegaTribe co-founder and CTO.

The V/Series was first introduced into MegaTribe in August of 2000. MegaTribe's product, the MegaTribe Scheduling Engine, went into beta testing in February of 1999 and version 2.4 of the scheduling engine was launched with MegaTribe's first major customer in August of 2000. Whyel says the company is now bringing on more corporate customers, and they have been impressed "with our ability to provide customized resource scheduling solutions with off-the-shelf delivery times." The organization relies mostly on the V/Series Content Management and Communi-cation servers.

Whyel says the main attraction of the V/Series was its time to market. "It's an enterprise-level platform that very easily could be used to develop proprietary applications, and it had inherent multichannel capability. For us, multichannel is critical. The consumption of corporate resources is inherently mobile. When you need to use a mobile resource, that doesn't necessarily happen from a communication screen at the office, it happens wherever you are." All channels are unified on the V/Series and deployed over the Internet, he says, making for fast and easy access from wherever a customer is working.

Another attractive V/Series feature was its plug-in mechanism, which wasn't offered on storyServer. As new technologies are developed, they easily can be added to V/Series. "When new technologies come online, we need to be able to implement those immediately," Whyel says. "We don't have to rewire the application to incorporate (new technologies), we just review the plug-in from Vignette and we're good to go. It's a wide improvement in the ability to serve a wide range of platforms."

Other products on the market don't offer the scalability or multichannel abilities of the V/Series, Whyel explains. Plus, other organizations "don't provide anywhere near the level of customer support Vignette provides," he says. "Vignette is very close to the customer, and because of that we've benefited greatly from their help and advice along the way."

The result, Whyel says, is better customer relationship management, on all levels.

"What our product does is allow corporations to improve CRM by extending corporate resources internally," he says. "So we're also a very good CRM application, and we're powered by Vignette, which is a CRM product."

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