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    Testimonials

    "Brian is that truly rare breed of professional who is adept at blending many critical technical and leadership skills while maintaining a high degree of civility and humility under pressure. I have never worked with anyone who could so artfully present complex issues at any audience level while never losing focus on achieving the goal of the engagement. I would recommend Brian for any role that he is willing to undertake, and I can promise success in any such endeavor.” November 12, 2007

    Ron New , Vice President of Sales and Marketing , Venturi Technology Partners
    worked with Brian at Venturi Technology Partners

    Tuesday
    Feb142017

    Five Things I Can’t Wait to See at this Year’s Episerver Ascend Conference

    Episerver’s annual Ascend Customer Conference (http://www.episerver.com/ascend) is always an event that I look forward to. Set in the glitz and glamour of the heart of Las Vegas, the Ascend conference is a rare opportunity to meet, interact with and pick the brains of some of the most innovative and talented members of the Episerver community. It’s the best opportunity in North America to find out the future direction of the Episerver platform, to meet with experienced partners and to find out how other customers have innovated using their web site to drive more conversions and sales while improving customer experiences and brand perceptions.

    This year’s show promises to be larger than ever before, with more than 30% more attendees expected to join what was already a sizable community. Held again at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, this year’s Ascend Customer Conference has a lot to look forward to. In that spirit, let’s go through the Five Things I Can’t Wait to See at this Year’s Episerver Ascend Conference:

    1. Keynote Speakers – Last year’s speakers were phenomenal and would be a tough act for anyone to follow, but Episerver has done an excellent job with this year’s line-up. It starts with Mel Robbins, an award-winning TV host and motivational speaker who will be speaking assisted by the Passing Zone, an American comedy-juggling duo. Joining the conference this year also will be Scott Hanselman, a Principal Program Manager at Microsoft is one of the company’s most popular bloggers and web developer personalities. And of course, Episerver’s own James Norwood, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of strategy will be speaking and sharing his vision for the future direction of the Episerver toolset. 
    2. Code Bash – This year, Microsoft is sponsoring a Code Bash contest pitting teams of up to 4 developers against one another to come up with fun and exciting new uses for Episerver, coded right there at the show floor. Members of the Ameex team will be participating in the event, but it’s not just for coders. Designers and even businesspeople (gasp!) are highly encouraged to join, as well. Find out more and get tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/episerver-ascend-code-bash-tickets-31152491942 
    3. Community Partners – Ascend is special because it’s one of the few places where the entire Episerver community comes together in one location. And it’s an amazing sight to see. This year, the Partner Village this year is closer to the food, which makes it a lot easier to pick up a delicious bite to eat while you also have time to meet with the entire spectrum of Episerver partners, all in one room. It’s fun seeing service partners, implementation companies, design agencies and staffing companies coming together to provide Episerver customers with world-class options.
    4. Automated Personalization – To suggest that there is some interest in the ability to deliver completely automated, but fully personalized, experiences may be a bit of an understatement. Thanks to the acquisition of peerius, Episerver can now allow customers to have real-time predictive analytics that leverage machine learning and big data. This allows our customers to get closer to the ultimate online marketing dream: fully-automated, completely individually personalized experiences without resorting to a painful-to-manage list of segmentation rules.
    5. YOU!!!! – While we all look forward to having fun, learning and spending time in the sessions, the truth is that seeing YOU is what we are looking forward to the most. It’s the only time we get to meet Episerver customers, partners, trainers, developers and team members together. Learning from one another’s experiences, building new relationships and equipping one another to be more successful, productive and capable than ever before is what it’s all about.

    Ameex is extremely proud to sponsor this year’s Ascend Customer Conference and to continue to showcase our experience and talent with the toolset. This year’s show will be even more interesting, as we will be debuting a new product that streamlines and automates the conversion of Ektron web sites into Episerver web sites. Thanks to its dynamic migration features, conversion times are made almost instantaneous, saving tremendous amounts of time and energy without sacrificing quality. Stop by and see us at Table 17 for a demonstration of this interesting new tool. We’d also love the opportunity to speak with you about project development, staff augmentation services or even ongoing maintenance and managed services support.

    Contact Ameex

    Contact Brian Browning (brian.browning@ameexusa.com or at 804-920-1956) to learn more about how Ameex can assist you in learning more about Episerver development. 

    1.               Keynote Speakers – Last year’s speakers were phenomenal and would be a tough act for anyone to follow, but Episerver has done an excellent job with this year’s line-up. It starts with Mel Robbins, an award-winning TV host and motivational speaker who will be speaking assisted by the Passing Zone, an American comedy-juggling duo. Joining the conference this year also will be Scott Hanselman, a Principal Program Manager at Microsoft is one of the company’s most popular bloggers and web developer personalities. And of course, Episerver’s own James Norwood, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of strategy will be speaking and sharing his vision for the future direction of the Episerver toolset.

     

    2.               Code Bash – This year, Microsoft is sponsoring a Code Bash contest pitting teams of up to 4 developers against one another to come up with fun and exciting new uses for Episerver, coded right there at the show floor. Members of the Ameex team will be participating in the event, but it’s not just for coders. Designers and even businesspeople (gasp!) are highly encouraged to join, as well. Find out more and get tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/episerver-ascend-code-bash-tickets-31152491942

     

    3.               Community Partners – Ascend is special because it’s one of the few places where the entire Episerver community comes together in one location. And it’s an amazing sight to see. This year, the Partner Village this year is closer to the food, which makes it a lot easier to pick up a delicious bite to eat while you also have time to meet with the entire spectrum of Episerver partners, all in one room. It’s fun seeing service partners, implementation companies, design agencies and staffing companies coming together to provide Episerver customers with world-class options.

    4.               Automated Personalization – To suggest that there is some interest in the ability to deliver completely automated, but fully personalized, experiences may be a bit of an understatement. Thanks to the acquisition of peerius, Episerver can now allow customers to have real-time predictive analytics that leverage machine learning and big data. This allows our customers to get closer to the ultimate online marketing dream: fully-automated, completely individually personalized experiences without resorting to a painful-to-manage list of segmentation rules.  

    5.               YOU!!!! – While we all look forward to having fun, learning and spending time in the sessions, the truth is that seeing YOU is what we are looking forward to the most. It’s the only time we get to meet Episerver customers, partners, trainers, developers and team members together. Learning from one another’s experiences, building new relationships and equipping one another to be more successful, productive and capable than ever before is what it’s all about. 

    Tuesday
    Aug232016

    Ameex & Episerver: An Expanding Relationship

    One of the best ways for Ameex to provide value to our customers is to constantly research the content management system (CMS) marketplace, looking to identify up-and-coming tools, platforms and systems that will allow us to further transform our customer’s businesses.  As part of this ongoing effort, we also take time each year to evaluate our current CMS partners to ensure that we are representing the most powerful and compelling tools available. As we recently completed our wave analysis for the second half of 2016, we found that Episerver continues to distinguish itself as a world-class customer experience platform, building upon its impressive CMS roots to include powerful e-commerce, personalization and search functionality that drives tangible business results.

    Thanks to this analysis, Ameex has invested even further in our relationship with Episerver, by expanding our team size and global delivery capabilities. As an Episerver Solution Partner, Ameex has been involved in the Episerver marketplace for several years, most recently having sponsored and attended the Ascend conference in Las Vegas, Nevada last November. Ameex’s ability to provide Episerver resources, support and skills around the world for a very competitive rate structure and extreme flexibility in delivering solutions from project to staff augmentation models helps to distinguish Ameex from other Episerver partners.

    One of the most tangible measures of a company’s expertise in a specific technology is to evaluate the number of certified developers onboard the team. For Episerver, we have now expanded to almost 10 fully-certified Episerver developers, more than doubling our count from the beginning of the year. Episerver has a well-deserved reputation for requiring programmers to have hands-on experience prior to taking the certification testing, as the tests are focused on practical applications of Episerver. In other words, Episerver certification testing isn’t the kind of thing that can be obtained by simply reading the manuals.

    The Ameex approach to expanding our Episerver certifications is based on leveraging our programming team so that they gain critical skills and experience by developing under senior, certified Episerver developers and architects. Once they achieve enough experience, and once an internal certified Episerver agrees, we submit our programmers for the certification testing process with Episerver. The fact that we have more than doubled the number of certified developers on our team is notable for two reasons. First, it indicates that we see this as a growth area within our business and more importantly, means that customers are also seeing the value in the Episerver platform. Secondly, it demonstrates that we are increasingly becoming more experienced with the platform and have the ability to scale our Episerver team more than ever before.

    Finally, it’s hard to argue with actual results - and in this case, Ameex is extremely proud to have launched our third Episerver project this year for one of the world’s leading providers of specialty metals. This client’s web site build included the setup of a third party Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool integrated with Episerver which is now creating and delivering customer leads in a measurable way. In addition to a complete user interface overhaul, responsive design implementation and customized reporting of customer traffic behavior both on and off the main web site, this client’s new Episerver-powered web site is already producing observable business results.

    Earlier this year, Ameex also released a new Episerver-powered responsive web site for Neptune Technology Group (https://www.neptunetg.com), a leading provider of AMR/AMI solutions for over 30 million water meters at over 2,500 utilities around the country. Helping them move onto the Episerver platform, Ameex worked to redesign the entirety of their public-facing web site experience, including redesigning the search experience. Ameex also worked with a partner to help one of their customers move from Clickability onto Episerver for both a public web site and employee-facing Intranet project.

    At the time of this writing, several new Episerver projects are underway and we see continued interest from our customers in learning how to best utilize Episerver’s powerful capabilities. It’s not surprising to see this level of success when you combine an experienced CMS provider who has flexible, global delivery capabilities with the power of Episerver.

    Contact Ameex

    Contact Brian Browning (brian.browning@ameexusa.com or at 804-920-1956) to learn more about how Ameex can assist you in learning more about Episerver development.

    (Crossposted on Ameexusa.com)

    Thursday
    Apr072016

    A Different Kind of Staff Augmentation Model

    Have you ever said any of the following?

    • “My web developer just left and I need an expert with Wordpress to keep my site running and to train whoever I hire to replace them”
    • “I just need an Episerver expert for 6 weeks to roll out a new piece of functionality”
    • “I can’t hire a full-time Drupal expert, but I need them to be a part of this upgrade I have planned”
    • “I need a Ektron developer to help my team complete this work next month”                  

    If you have, then you have identified a need to augment your staff – at least on a temporary basis. This is one of the core offerings of our company, Ameex, and it works extremely well in the situations described above. Ameex is also able to provide these staff augmentation resources to your team on a remote, domestic or on-site basis, ensuring that we can meet your specific needs.

    However, we have also found that in these kinds of engagements, there are additional ways in which the Ameex team can provide additional value. For example, we recently had an opportunity to work with a client who approached us with a traditional staff augmentation need – in this case, it was for a developer to be added to an existing team. As we explored the request in detail, we learned that the client didn’t have a formalized methodology for the project and was also lacking in quality assurance testing resources, but had all of the other key roles covered.

    To address these unique needs, Ameex offered a new kind of staff augmentation model: we call it the Blended FTE (Full-Time Employee) model. Using this approach, Ameex provided the core development resource that was needed, but augmented this developer with a CMS Architect (who would map out the development plan for the entire team) and provided access to the Ameex Quality Assurance Testing team, all for a blended rate that was marginally higher than the core rate for just a developer. The Ameex Quality Assurance Testing team also brought to bear our unique mobile device testing lab, which is a dedicated center that features more than 50 of the most popular smartphones and tablets in use today. This device testing lab provides the ability to test responsive web sites and even native mobile applications, as well.

    With one move, Ameex was able to not just fill this customer’s initial stated request for development resources, but also drove supplemental value that will result in a successful delivery for the customer. The simple truth is this: if this client hadn’t elected to use this model, they would have had to hire a developer for a temporary period of time, then hire a CMS Architect to map out the development plan and then, finally, would have had to hire a separate testing team to come in and complete the testing. Following the Ameex approach, they were able to hire a single developer and then have that same developer provide access to development planning and testing approaches.

    While the example above showcases the ability of the Ameex team to augment a developer with Architect and QA testing roles, the reality is that Ameex can also offer other forms of supplemental role support beyond these. For example, Ameex can add infrastructure specialists, security experts, performance and load testing resources, graphic designers, information architects and trainers as roles to augment core development or CMS Architect jobs. Any kind of role that has a special, unique or short-term role in a larger web development project can be delivered using this unique approach. This flexibility allows the model to serve the needs of a variety of customers, including those who are looking for small, targeted support to those looking to outsource complete teams of skilled development resources.

    Taken together, it is clear that the Ameex blended FTE model really is about guaranteeing success for our customers. By providing niche services in a supplemental way to the core resources building the site, we ensure that all aspects of the development process are considered, implemented and successfully deployed. And the best news of all? The costs of the Ameex blended FTE model typically are only 20%-30% more than just core resources. That’s a tremendous amount of added value for a small additional investment.

    Contact Ameex

    Contact Brian Browning (brian.browning@ameexusa.com or at 804-920-1956) to learn more about how Ameex can assist you with a team of skilled, experienced developers, QA testers and more. 

    Tuesday
    Mar152016

    What’s Next for Ektron Customers?

    Customers who have purchased the Ektron CMS Platform have seen some turbulent conditions in recent memory, but as the dust has settled from the combination of Ektron and Episerver, the path forward for many current Ektron customers is becoming clearer. Many Ektron customers have already committed to porting their web site properties onto the Episerver platform, and for good reason.

    Episerver has distinguished itself as an credible Enterprise-class CMS and digital marketing platform, having been recognized as a Leader in Gartner's 2015 Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management and recently debuting in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce in March of 2016. A brief glance at the Episerver client list reads like a Who’s Who of the world’s leading brands and companies, including Pizza Hut, AXA Insurance, GlaxoSmithKline, Electrolux, Pfizer and Reebok.

    Ektron customers have a lot to look forward to if they stay on the path to Episerver. The best elements of Ektron have now been combined with the scalability, modern technical architecture and e-commerce capabilities of the Episerver platform. The resulting product truly is greater than the sum of its parts:

    • Personalized content delivery, including full integration with marketing automation tools, is made possible through a combination of innovative tools within Episerver, providing marketers with unprecedented abilities to measure, experiment with and deliver compelling messaging to the right customers at the right time.
    • Integration is a seamless experience using the Episerver Digital Experience Hub, instantly allowing non-technical business people to own and manage complex, content-rich experiences without leaving Salesforce.
    • Support for expansive multilingual content delivery is inherent in Episerver, making it an ideal candidate for global organizations with multiple languages and dialects to support. 

    It’s clear what a powerhouse option that Episerver represents for current Ektron customers. To make the move, Ektron customers can partner with any of more than 100 Episerver partners, including Ameex Technologies. Ameex’s specific expertise in both Ektron and Episerver allows us to provide relatively quick and inexpensive migrations from one platform to another. Migration projects can be as simple as “lift-and-shift” projects where the same core user interface, functionality and information architecture is replicated in Episerver to more comprehensive redesign projects that include full responsive redesign efforts in addition to the back-end CMS change.

    There are other options for current Ektron customers, of course. Some customers have decided to look for alternative CMS platforms that share Ektron’s .NET technical back-end. Among these, Sitecore, Kentico and Sitefinity appear to be some of the more popular choices. Sitecore remains among the more expensive options, in both licensing and migration costs, of the .NET alternatives. Kentico and Sitefinity are good fits with customers will smaller budgets and needs, but who still prefer the convenience of staying on the .NET platform.

    Other customers are interested in exploring open source solutions instead. In these cases, Drupal and Magento (and to a smaller extent, WordPress) are the most popular choices there. While significant savings can be found in the open source world, it’s also important to remember that content authoring and administrative experiences can be very different from the more page-oriented, hierarchal models that users of the Ektron Workarea may be used to. Having said that, there is no question that open source platforms now rival commercial tools when it comes to security and performance.

    In summary, current Ektron customers have a lot of options in how they can proceed with their web properties. At Ameex, we offer a CMS Scorecard exercise that can help expedite the decision-making process when it comes to choosing your next CMS platform. And as always, the CMS Experts at Ameex are available to consult with you on your specific needs.

    Contact Ameex

    Contact Brian Browning (brian.browning@ameexusa.com or at 804-920-1956) to learn more about how Ameex can assist you with migrating from Ektron to your next CMS platform. 

    Wednesday
    Feb102016

    Using a CMS Scorecard to Pick Your Next CMS

    By Brian Browning, Senior Vice President, Ameex Technologies
    February 10th, 2016

    Choosing the right Web Content Management System (WCMS or more simply, CMS) is easily one of the most important choices any organization makes. Once selected and implemented, most organizations tend to stick with a given CMS tool for many years – in fact, in some cases, we have seen clients on the same CMS platform for 7 or more years. The choice of CMS is all the more important because it also defines what can and can’t be easily done within your web site(s). For example, CMS tools that offer out-of-the-box integration with third-party tools will often offer more flexibility and represent more business value than a CMS that requires custom integration to link to other systems and tools.

    Given the importance of the role of the CMS as the heart of an overall digital ecosystem, it is not surprising to see that many organizations struggle with the selection. The stakes are high and the choices are numerous. The challenge is that each organization is different – some have preferences for specific technologies (for example, .NET versus open source) whereas others have a need to pull legacy code or functionality from previous web sites into the new CMS platform. Some organizations have political or internal issues that affect the perception of specific CMS tools and others prefer to purchase a CMS based on specific features or functionality. Still others will prefer to choose based on analyst recommendations, or on previous experiences at other jobs.

    With so many ways of choosing a CMS and so much at stake in the decision, it is best to follow an objective process that allows for a thoughtful analysis of the right CMS platforms, personalized to the specific needs of the customer. That’s what the CMS Scorecard is all about.

    At Ameex, we have almost a decade’s worth of experience in working with, upgrading, customizing, integrating and deploying CMS tools in the .NET and open source worlds. Thanks to this experience, we have built a tool that allows organizations to objectively identify and then evaluate the key CMS platforms that best align with your specific needs.

    The CMS Scorecard process typically takes between 2-3 weeks. We begin the process by conducting an initial stakeholder interview with the key decision makers, which typically includes at least Marketing and IT representatives. The goal of this session is to better understand which features and functionality are the most important to the organization in the short, medium and long-term horizons. Using this approach, we can find out which features are meaningful to a customer versus which features may be nice to have, but not essential. We also use this step to narrow a large pool of 20 choices to a smaller selection set of 3-5 candidates.

    Next, we conduct additional research and analysis into the final candidates, assessing their corporate strength, the number of developers who support the CMS and its technology, the financial viability of the company, determining what the key analysts in the CMS sector think of the candidate platforms and finally, work to document the costs, licensing model and financial considerations of each CMS candidate. With this in hand, we next define the specific features and functionality available from each CMS candidate, ranking both the availability of a specific feature, but also the usability and practicality of each feature. Next, we schedule demonstrations of the selected CMS platforms to be conducted with Ameex and customer resources in attendance.

    To further personalize the evaluation, we apply weights to the ranking assessments which represent the customer’s preferences. For example, one customer we worked with wanted a very visual authoring experience and as such, we heavily weighted CMS candidates that offered visual authoring and dynamic, drag-and-drop features. This is done for all aspects of the platform being reviewed –the infrastructure requirements, licensing costs, features and functionality, assessments of the ease of implementing and more than 200 other criteria are documented, assessed and finally, weighted to reflect our customer’s specific needs.

    The final output is an objectively defensible guide to the right CMS platform choice that we call the CMS Scorecard. Reviewing the CMS Scorecard allows anyone to quickly see what was reviewed, how specific weighting criteria affects the final results and what the final answer is. It also allows us to define multiple choices for various procurement situations, which may aid organizations who have complex procurement rules. For example, we are able to identify a first choice if an organization wanted to host in-house, whereas other choices may be better for outsourced hosting approaches.

    The importance of selecting the right CMS simply can’t be overlooked. The CMS Scorecard exercise is a proven way of objectively looking at a complex decision and ensuring that the right tool is selected. With a small investment in time up-front, organizations can save immeasurable pain and lost business opportunities by making the right choice at the outset, leading to many years of productive, efficient and powerful online experiences.  

    Contact Ameex

    We’d love to discuss the CMS Scorecard with you. Please contact Brian Browning (brian.browning@ameexusa.com or at 804-920-1956) to learn more about how we can help guide you in making your important CMS decisions.