Hello Business Catalyst Partners!

- Friday, June 03, 2011

Hi everybody!

My name is Alexandru Costin. I’m excited to be taking the Senior Director role within Business Catalyst and am really looking forward to make it a world-class product for the benefit of you, our Partners, and your customers.

Until recently, my main responsibility inside Adobe was to run Adobe Romania, a 200 person campus where we’re focused on many web related initiatives and products. We have worked on projects in the browser, with W3C standards groups (CSS Regions), tablet viewers, server technologies for digital publishing, Flash related video players, Omniture integration into Adobe products amongst other things. We also have a large team focused on Business Catalyst.

But I am not the regular corporate guy you might expect :). Just like Bardia, I’m an entrepreneur with my start-up being acquired by Adobe 5 years ago. InterAKT was a successful company focused on building tools for web developers that enable the creation of CMSs and E-commerce enabled sites directly from Dreamweaver.

With my experience at InterAKT, I have a strong background in the web space and am very familiar with the problems that web designers face in trying to help small businesses build an online presence. So when the Business Catalyst opportunity presented itself, I didn’t hesitate to jump in (Hello Alexandru Goodbye Bardia.) I’ve spent the last couple of months talking with the team, diving deeply into the product, reading the public and pre-release forums, the Linkedin discussion group, and reviewing your wish-list.

As I am updating the strategy, I wanted to share my assessment and vision of the future. We’re still working out the details to understand what’s needed to achieve this vision - but suffice it to say that Adobe is making a large investment in Business Catalyst, and we’ll maintain open communication with you, our Partners, to learn about your needs, adapt our vision and execute on them.

Today, Business Catalyst serves a large number of small businesses that want a successful online presence. In order to reach these small businesses, Adobe works with a large network of Partners that are implementing and customizing Business Catalyst for these customers. We differentiate our offering through the integration of all the key pieces that are required to run a successful online business: from CMS to e-Commerce and analytics. Furthermore, we help you, our Partners, maximize profits by providing a highly functional and customizable hosted system without requiring complicated programming knowledge.

We realize that today there are many areas for improvement. We know that sometimes we lag the competition in features, e.g. newsletter management. We know that our modules, while providing many customization capabilities, are not completely customizable. We know that our Web Apps feature, while a great way to provide dynamic database capabilities, can be complicated to setup in real-life environments. We know that InContext Editing, while providing capabilities for editing content in the front-end, can’t be used to edit dynamic content. We know that our Admin requires many usability improvements. And we know that our support, even though improved in the last several months, still has a ways to go to allow you to really be productive when creating websites.

Let me detail our strategy and some themes to tackle these issues. As you will see, these improvements stem from actual business needs, they’re not just features – as features by themselves don’t guarantee success.

First, we want to help you sell more BC sites – we’ve observed that there are a lot of successful Partners that create a lot of sites – and we want to help all Partners be successful this way. That’s why we will expand our focus on evolving the product and go to market to help you sell more sites.

  • Some focus will be applied to attract SBOs to partners and help you convert them to want BC
    • We want to generate more leads for paid Partners by advertising to small business owners and the directing them to you, using the Adobe brand and awareness if possible
    • We need to build Business Catalyst's brand to be synonymous or better than some of our open source or commercial competitors, in order to generate you more focused leads. 
    • We plan to create sales materials to educate leads into what BC is, and why it is better than a normal CMS
    • We will invest to become world-ready in terms of UI translation, number/date formatting, payment gateway support and shipment providers
  • Some focus will be applied to help you productively pitch websites to SBO leads 
    • We will build a large catalog of site templates to help you close smaller deals, and “naked” CSS templates (2 columns, 3 columns, etc) to help you start larger projects while respecting CSS/HTML best practices that fit BC
    • We plan to continue to build WOW features to impress your potential customers and convince them that BC is the best solution for their needs and gives them complete understanding and control over their business
    • Finally, we will invest in the support team and infrastructure to offer better and faster support to get you over product/technical limitations

Second, we want to help you be more productive when building sites – with BC, it’s always about how easy it is to create websites, and the amount of functionality and customizations you can apply

  • We’ll improve the usability, including a preview engine to hide those obscure IDs passed as parameters to allow you to understand what you’re editing.
  • We plan to rebuild the module engine to support an unlimited number of module layouts/templates, very flexible liquid markup with full HTML customizability and recursive modules support (while preserving backwards compatibility)
  • We will build an Advanced Site Editor – allowing you to edit all HTML and CSS and JS files directly from a browser, including code highlighting and indenting
  • We plan to rebuild the Web Apps engine to support really advanced editing of database structure, layouts, faster search and more
  • We’ll also continue improving the Dreamweaver integration and FTP speed
  • We'll also remove many of the current BC limitations (like single step checkout) that require that heavy JavaScript manipulation of HTML content to get to your desired result. 

Third, we want to help the small business owner be more successful – they are the ones that fuel our ecosystem, and we can succeed only by helping them attract more leads and convert them into registered users and paying customers on their online solutions.

  • BC v3 – we’ll continue to work on it, especially on the UI front, bringing many of improvements in terms of usability and frequent workflows productivity
  • We will enable live editing for all content (text and dynamic content) in the front-end to allow SBOs to be more productive (while preserving the site layout integrity)
  • We will support Facebook integration to generate more leads for the business (think like Post Announcements to Wall, Facebook Like, Facebook Login and Facebook stores)
  • We’ll enable support iPad and iPhone (and other smartphones/tablets) - for you to create websites that work well on non-PC devices, and for the site owner to be able to manage their content on a tablet if needed.
  • We’ll enhance the e-mail marketing system to increase deliverability and introduce personalized follow-up capabilities to help the SBO close leads
  • We’ll build enhanced reporting capabilities to help the SBO improve conversions – support for funnel optimization and intelligent revenue attribution

It's a long, ambitious list - and we're in the process of prioritizing it now. You'll have the opportunity to help us with the prioritization in the June Partner survey, using the wishlist and by commenting in the pre-release forums (I've created several topics in the Release and Strategy section).

All in all, my desire is to work with the team to understand what has made BC a success until today, and continue to invest in building these differentiators that will make you and your customers successful. This will help us position in the market and be able to thrive in a very competitive environment.

I can promise that I am building a world-class organization that will focus on helping you and your customers be more successful in the years to come. So when your customers come and ask for a content management system, you can explain to them why they need to invest in a real web presence focused on generating leads and conversions.

Because that’s what BC is all about. Successful online businesses, not websites.

Looking forward to working closely with you and sharing updates on the roll-out of these exciting changes over the coming months.


Business Catalyst Segment Owner

PS' You might wonder if the current plans for BC v3 will change. The answer is yes, they will change in order to give you something better, sooner - while preserving everything in BC v3 that was required by you. The current plans involved a complete rewrite of the admin section and was supposed to take several years to build - a time that would have made us lose even more ground to our competitors -  so we are thinking right now of better ways to achieve same results without having to rebuild the project from scratch.
PS" – that’s me and most of the Romanian BC team, still missing from this picture our colleagues from Australia and US, but it’s hard to get everybody in the same place with such a large team :) 

PS”" – more about how I sold InterAKT to Adobe 5 years ago to give you a chance to know me better