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“WE GET IT” CHECKLIST FOR VENDORS – Plone

19 Nov

I just realized that Plone was missing from the A reality check for vendors by Kas Thomas (CMS Watch).

So here it is, the

Plone CHECKLIST

1. Our software comes with an installer program.

Yes, the Plone Universal installer.

2. Installing or uninstalling our software does not require a reboot of your machine.

Yes. Moreover the software is platform independent.

3. You can choose your locale and language at install time, and never have to see English again after that.

No. Installation is in english only (although the CMS user interface is available in about 50 languages).

4. Eval versions of the latest edition(s) of our software are always available for download from the company website.

Yes. As a full open source product the entire latest version is always available (also unreleased and in-development versions are).

5. Our WCM software comes with a fully templated “sample web site” and sample workflows, which work out-of-the-box.

Yes. Plone comes with one sample web site and four different sample workflows out-of-the-box

6. We ship a tutorial.

Yes. Tutorials are always available on Plone.org

7. You can raise a support issue via a button, link, or menu command in our administrative interface.

No. Not there, yet. Open Source Community support can be obtained for free, Professional support depends on the Plone Provider selected.

8. All help files and documentation for the product are laid down as part of the install.

We don’t ship end-user documentation as part of the install. But all the documentation is available online and there are several end-user, integrator and developer books.

9. We run our entire company website using the latest version of our own WCM products.

Yes, sure!

10. Our salespeople understand how our products work.

Yes, they usually do. And many of them are developers of the core software itself and in general they are fans of the product.

11. Our software does what we say it does.

Yes it does. It also sometimes does something no one has advertised, unfortunately. Being Open Source, you can also independently verify it does exactly what it claims.

12. We don’t charge extra for our SDK.

Yes. We don’t charge.

13. Our licensing model is simple enough for a 5-year-old to understand.

Yes. Not sure everybody really understand how free software works. But they should and my 5 year old son at least knows that I do a real job.

14. We have one price sheet for all customers.

Everything is free but the customization, support or hosting services. Plone has about 300 integrators / providers worldwide.

15. Our top executives are on Skype, Twitter, or some similar channel, and: Feel free to contact them directly at any time.

Yes they are. The whole community is there.

To the Plone Community: Did I forgot something? Please comment.

Long live to my favourite Web CMS.

Plone vs. Sharepoint round 2: a by-platform feature comparison

20 Aug

An organization we at Reflab work with recently re-evaluated Plone against Sharepoint 2007; their main requirements are related to document management, where Sharepoint is for sure quite strong.

What’s interesting, is that they made the comparison also considering the different platforms and browsers their organization uses.

Here are the results of their analysis and tests, they where so kind to share them with us, I checked them and translated them. I hope you’ll find them useful.

Feature – Requirement

Windows XP

Linux

SharePoint Sever 2007

Plone 3.1.7

SharePoint

Plone 3.1.7

IE 7.0 / Suite Office 2007

IE 7.0 / Suite Office 2003

Firefox 3.0/ Office 2003

Firefox 3.0

IE 7.0

Firefox 3.0

Firefox 3.0

Use of templates Y Y Y (1) Y (1.1) Y (1.1) Y (1) Y(1.1)
Automatic Minutes of Meetings
Y Y Y Y(1.2) Y(1.2) Y N(1.2)
Collaborative Management of the documentation Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Off-line management of the documentation Y(2) Y Y Y(1.3) Y(1.3) Y Y(1.3)
Workflow checks on doc Y Y N(3) Y Y N(3) Y
Automatic Versioning
Y Y Y Y Y(1.4) Y Y
Visualization/Management on File System Y Y N Y(1.5) Y(1.5) N Y(1.5)
Indexed search and smart folders
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Notification of new versions of a document Y Y Y N(1.6) N(1.6) Y N(1.6)
Different file formats management Y(4) Y(4) Y(7) Y Y Y(7) Y
WebPart/HTML Pages Management
Y Y N Y Y N Y
Mobile tools
Y (5) Y (5) ? ? ? ? ?
Todo Lists Y Y Y(3) N N Y(3) N
Shared calendar
Y(6) Y(6) Y(6) Y(1.7) Y(1.7) N Y(1.7)

Other Features

Windows XP

Linux

SharePoint Sever 2007

Plone 3.1.7

SharePoint

Plone 3.1.7

IE 7.0 / Suite Office 2007

IE 7.0 / Suite Office 2003

Firefox 3.0/ Office 2003

Firefox 3.0

IE 7.0

Firefox 3.0

Firefox 3.0

Massive documents upload
Y Y N Y(2.2) Y(2.2) N Y(2.4)
Send To Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Date Picker Control Y Y N(2.1) N(2.1) N(2.1) N(2.1) N(2.1)
File ordering
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Structure templates
N(2.3) N(2.3) N(2.3) Y Y N(2.3) Y
Labels
Y – Compatibile: all or most of the aspects are equivalent
N – Not compatibile: the functionality is not available or not fully working. Unless otherwise specified in Sharepoint these features require ActiveX controls, that are available in Internet Explorer only.
?- Not found or not easy to define
Notes:
(1) Only through the Upload Document and not New.
(2) Integrated
(3) Problems on the user management (javascript or ActiveX) that participate to the WF or to the activities.
(4) No real support and management of the Wiki format, if not as HTML page.
(5) Not tested
(6) Outlook only
(7) Wiki and HTML not working.
(1.1) Addon Product: Plone Templates 1.0 (Beta release 2)
(1.2) Only through template product
(1.3) Addon Product: Working Copy Support (Iterate) 1.1.5 for the checkIn-checkOut
(1.4) history view integrated in the page not working
(1.5) With Enfold Desktop for Windows, or through a WebDav client
(1.6) Needs to be setup with a Content Rule
(1.7) Addon Product: Plone4ArtistsCalendar 1.1 – some features (different colours for integrated calendars) not compatible with Plone 3.1.7
(2.1) The user can add events with New Event
(2.2) With Enfold Desktop
(2.3) Need programming
(2.4) With navigation applications like WebDav

Some of the findings could be debated and are hard to evaluate, but I really found useful the approach of of taking into account  the platform/browser compatibility.

Other resources on Plone vs. Sharepoint:

If you’re interested in the comparison and maybe doing a cms software selection don’t miss the:

Plone vs. Sharepoint by Carlos De La Guardia where you’ll  find a link to a paper about an internal comparison of Plone and Sharepoint for a corporate web site published by the University of Leicester.

Is Plone a Good CMS? by Janus Boye: Janus is definitively one of the best cms consultants I know, but please read also the excellent comment to his post.

Other instersting related comparisons reported by Ken Wasetis are the Idealware Report and the  Why Sharepoint Scares Me post.

Finally, my friend Nate Aune (Jazkarta) of the most active Ploners and Plone Evangelists on the planet suggested:

Cyn.in is a Plone-based intranet solution and here is a blog post describing how it compares to Sharepoint in terms of pricing: http://blog.cynapse.com/cynin-low-cost-alternative-to-sharepoint

Katie Cunningham also has some interesting things to say about Sharepoint at NASA, and why they went with Plone instead.
http://elephantangelchild.blogspot.com/2009/04/nasa-science-case-study-part-i-why.html

Disney replaces Sharepoint with Plone
http://theploneblog.org/blog/archive/2006/03/04/podcast-plone-at-disney

Karl discusses Plone and Sharepoint on his blog
http://plonemetrics.blogspot.com/2009/04/plone-and-sharepoint.html

and of course the Plone vs. MOSS – round 1 post.

10 characteristics of a salesman

25 Jun

I am back from a discussion with (master) Dedalo Piffer, probably the best salesman I’ve ever met.

The discussion was on the characteristics (aka attributes) that a person should have to be a good salesman.

It seems there are 10 of them and all 10 must be at a reasonably high level: having a bad score at only one of those will compromise the whole and will never allow that person to reach a higher level.

What I also found very interesting in the discussion is that most of these characteristics are also necessary in many other fields and some are in general very interesting attributes that a person should  have for a professional growth.

Let’s see them:

1. Determination

the power to pursue objectives, with self-motivation and perseverance

2. Medium to high technical preparation

as a very high technical level will make the focus shift from business and sales to technical issues, resulting in discussions about technical problems, critical aspects and in general negative elements instead that focusing on value for the customer, positive effects and return on investment.

3. Capacity to inspire Trust

as a person, as a company, as product and services that I represent. All of those three.

4. Ability to quickly identify the Power Base

that is the group of the most important, influent people for the sale. Doing the right thing at the right time with the wrong person will not work. And speed is essential.

5. Ability to quickly identify the Critical Issues

for the customer, his main problems and where the products and services we have can give the maximum added value.

6. Capacity to ride (even create) a Compelling Event

the urgent need that will make the customer close the deal and not procrastinate forever. This capacity is especially important in tough times like the crise we’re in.

7. Have the courage to ask Customer Committment

at some point of the sales process: have the customer promise a contract with a certain amount at a set date.

8. Ability to negotiate the Closure

of the deal never losing control, never getting nervous, never giving up.

9. Capacity to build, day by day, a human capital

a network of relations that will lead to other relations and sales. This is primarily what the salesman will leverage to call high and grow.

10. Passion

and enthusiasm. Passion and the ability to inspire passion in the people. My favourite one.

Achieving only average levels in all ten of those is for some people very hard. I am one of those: very strong in a few points above but too weak in some others; I’ll probably never be a salesman, but I enjoy understanding how it works and when looking for a salesman for my company I’ll be careful evaluating the candidates over these 10 characteristics.

Last but not least other recently discussed (very broad) topics I love:”Exit the confort zone” and “Think big, start small“. These two have never been more important for me than now.

Books:

Strategic Selling

Power Base Selling

Target Account Selling (TAS)

Plone vs. MOSS – round 1

22 Dec

CMS software selection with Plone and Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) as finalists seems to have become a pretty common case. This is true especialy for “intranet/extranet” projects in which the primary focus is on web publising and collaboration features.

I’ve been asked several times to work on comparing the two and I’d like to share some of this experience. Also note that this can’t be a “vendor neutral” comparison because of my involvement in Plone; but I’ll do my best to highlight differences and strenghts of the two solutions.

This round will focus on very generic features: so… first of all:

What do they have in common?

They share a wide set of core features & focus that makes them pretty strong in: web publishing, document management, collaboration.

Plone, historically, has his main focus on collaboration and web publishing, but evolved providing good document management capabilities. MOSS is instead well-known as an internal collaboration and document management solution but, as Janus Boye is pointing out with his Sharepoint for public sites report, it’s gaining appreciation in web publishing.

This particular combination makes them both very good solutions for all those projects that are not pure public site or  “the classic” intranet: I’m referring here the the wide range of projects from intranets that need to be strong information delivery sites to public sites that evolve to provide contents, collaboration and services to specific audiences (customers, suppliers, distributors, etc.).

They also share a common problem: is’t usually not easy to find expert developers to hire.

What are the main differences?

It would be hard to avoid the classical Open Source versus Commercial (closed source) discussion here.

Plone is open: extremely, truly, faithfully open:

  • The licence is the same Linux has: the GNU/GPL. No licence costs, complete access to the code of the whole stack. Complete control of the technology. Huge flexibility (provided there are enough skills around).
  • The community is wide, distributed, friendly, transparent. A really open ecosystem of passionate users, developers, consultants, supporting companies and local governments (see plone.net for updated numbers). No single company behind the software.
  • A multitute of addons, rich documentation, hundreds of experts online.
  • Potentially open to any other system Plone integrates well with a good number of systems, but still you will need a good expert to implement the solution.

MOSS is commercial: extremely, truly, faithfully commercial:

  • License based on server and client access (CAL): Sharepoint per user is much cheaper that Microsoft Office but when it comes to public internet site, adding enterprise search and more features the sum of CALs and other licences alone is superior to the cost of a full-featured, fully customized Plone projet, even for medium sized organisations.
  • Single commercial company behind the software: Microsoft. Microsoft is far from behing a bad vendor or an unsafe choice, especially if you already have several of their products.
  • A good number of partners, specialized in different domains, can help build a MOSS project.
  • Not very open to any other system (with exeptions), on the other hand  MOSS shares with many other MS products the great advantage of working-with-your-other-MS-products.

Another dimention of comparison is related to the main modules available:

Plone has lots of small and medium add-on products to suit a lot of different needs, but lack is the classic-style intranet features like project task management, contacts, calendars, or e-mail integration. I’m personally not a big fan of these generic features, but this is another story. MOSS have all of these components, and provided you purchase another half-dozen of Microsoft Products everything can work fine.

If you wish see also the the CMS Matrix, but please handle with care and look last update time.

When it comes to forms management, an important component in many projects, Plone has the nice PloneFormGen where MOSS has Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007. The two have a really different approach, ARE different things in fact, but be sure PloneFormGen  could prove an excellent tool for business forms and integration, especially if combined with workflow or even content rules.

Critical point of failure?

Plone has no serious multisite management support. MOSS has a desperate need of constant attention and control over time.

Common choice criteria

Despite the huge differences in terms of user experience, features, programming language and more the main criteria for the final choise are very often:

1) Open Source vs Microsoft World

The big advantage is that it’s Microsoft.  If an organisation has committed to the Microsoft stack and has developed .NET skills, then MOSS just becomes an unthinking decision.

The big problem is of course the very well known lock in effect that Microsoft world have.

2) Cost

For large projects MOSS can be really expensive at the end.

3) Flexibility

Depending on the kind of project, flexibility and the ability to control the evolution of the project can be THE criterion. On one side the flexibility of an open source community (and Zope community) and it’s ability to evolve over time, the other is the power of loads of products combined together. They are not really easy to compare.


That’s all for round 1 and the big picture. For the second round I’d like compare them on some common scenarios: if you have an interesting scenario you’d like to see please email me or leave a comment.

Thank you Mr. Janus Boye

22 Nov

I’ve been there… and it’s all true: the JBoye conference is addictive.

Graham Oakes, a friend and a guide for me, told me not to miss the JBoye conference, that he (as many others) consider as the best worldwide CMS conference. So I planned my trip and after last preparations for the World Plone Day, which was unfortunately the same week, I took the plane to Aarhus, Denmark.

The amazing volunteers at the J.Boye conference.

The amazing volunteers at the J.Boye conference.

The city itself is very nice but the welcome evening was even better: Mr. Janus is an excellent host, personally welcoming his guests and remembering details of everyone (he tagged me with the keyword “Plone”, of course). The whole conference was perfectly organized: friendly, with lots of occations for networking, every detail taken care of, and probably the best food I’ve ever had at a conference.

The tracks, talks and keynotes I attended where excellent. A real benchmark for the whole CMS industry. In particular I appreciated an excellent open debate on Social Software by Tony Byrne, the networking (across and beyond the organisation) by Bjørn Guldager and the case studies of “killer” intranets by Toby Ward.

At the social dinner I also had the chance to sit next to Tony Byrne, who managed to surprise me on how deep understanding one person can have of the extremely complex CMS landscape. I also met Jim Hobart, a (uber) user interface design consultant (internationally recognized, yes, but I did not recognise him at first).

With them and many other people I could discuss about the future of CMS and trends in the market, about interesting user scenarios and … Plone. In fact I was the only Plone evangelist at the conference and I really did enjoy to discuss “where-Plone-is-heading” and some of my favourites and evergreen stories about Plone.

Seth Gottlieb (Content Here) was there, we already met, at the Plone Strategic Summit in California; he told me “believe me, this conference is addictive”. He is right.

Last but not least Mr. Janus invited me to submit a talk on Plone at the next year conference: I think it’s a great opportunity for Plone to show up and be more visibile. And believe me, after a full immertion in the CMS world the feeling is once again that Plone is a great CMS, especially in regards of usability (present and future), key factor for the success of any CMS project.

The conference has motivated me to tell the world how Plone can be interesting and to tell the Plone community that Plone still need to evolve and grow. A lot.

Outstanding Plone Perception

25 Feb

First of all this post is not about “facts”, is about “perception“. And perception in the job of marketing is what matters the most.

The story is about several similar comments I had recenlty during presentations of Plone to well prepared, big-project consultants and technical leaders.

After a one hour standard presentation (Plone, Plone Demo, some tough Questions and Answers) the main comment was:

“Plone seems to me a diamond point, beautiful. It probably stands out above the best OSS Java CMS, but seems isolated to me, because it’s not Java.”

I just want to pin down a few thoughts here:

  • In a short presentation is it possible to show the power of Plone, and have a very positive reaction (beautiful!).
  • To many respects Plone is perceived as above, as excellence, as outstanding.
  • The main competitor for big projects being: Java, as a whole. Python is (surprisingly?) the most discussed topic after this important consideration.
  • Isolation is the main concern and has three main dimensions: the language, the (Java) standards, vendors (or human resources).

A final though… Python is for me one of most lovely parts of the success of Plone, I have to be prepared to tell the Python story and investigate the “isolation” concern.

To do that a good starting point could be You Used Python to Write WHAT (by Martin Aspeli). In particular going deeper into the “Sometimes, interoperability concerns can dictate a particular platform, but nowadays, interoperability is commonly best achieved through XML interchange, shared SQL databases or Web services” argument.

Stranger In Paradise

First PSPS Outcome for me

15 Feb

The Plone Strategic Planning Summit has been a great experience! (see Martin’s blog post for a debrief report)

It has been amazing, amusing and challenging a lot. In fact we did in incredible amount of work which unfortunately I don’t know how to use, yet. All of the main questions that I had before the Summit are still unanswered… and that’s the way it should be!

In fact the Summit has been a first step, an approach, a kickoff for in a very difficult path: strategy of an Open Source Project developped by an Open Source Community.

Thus the very first outcome for me is the motivation I received to start this blog and possibly renew my involvment in the Plone Marketing.

In fact after the Summit I feel the questions on Plone Vision are even more important than what I thought, and the answers more difficult to share than I expected, while on a shorter term Plone will nontheless benefit from the tasks & champions actionable results.

A big thank to every person that made and made-possible this event.

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