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dotCMS Appointed Ralph Miller as a New CEO

dotCMS, a provider of open source Java content management software, announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Ralph Miller as Chief Executive Officer. Miller was also elected to the Board of Directors at dotCMS. The vendor has already been a partner of the Richmond-based digital agency called Authentic, where Mr. Miller was most recently President.

Following the announcement, I reached out to Ralph Miller to pick his brain on his new role as well as inquire with him with the future direction of the vendor and the open source CMS industry.

Can you tell us a bit of your background in the space prior to taking the helm as CEO of dotCMS?

Miller: In 2013 I was hired to execute a turnaround at a Professional Services firm that was an implementation partner for SDL Tridion, the leading CMS tool at that time.

There were many great people at the firm, but two of them, the CTO and the Head of Sales, showed me that the way to win sales in the mar-tech space was not by focusing on the features and functions of the product we were supporting, but in understanding and solving the clients’ business problems. Unfortunately, both of them departed the firm. One, JM Guthrie, went to work for the software vendor, the other, David Roe, left to start his own firm, AuthX Consulting.

After the successful completion of the turnaround, David and I started talking and I quickly realized that JM was about to join him at AuthX, and so I quickly jumped at the opportunity. We then brought on our fourth partner, Jerry Hill, with whom David had worked with at IronWorks, a consulting shop down in Richmond. Since David was living in Richmond as well, we decided to base the company out of there.

It was a great ride, and continues to this day for them. We quickly grew from a startup to today approaching 100 employees, an offshore development team, offices in DC and NYC, and in September of last year, we completed an acquisition of a Digital Agency, Create Digital, that brought more great people, and two new partners, Kendall Morris and Brett Lewis. Oh, and along the way we became a part of the revitalization of downtown Richmond, a city that has become a collection of digital and technology firms, so much so that many people are now calling it “Digital River.”  

We focused the business on supporting disruptive tools, and worked very hard supporting Hippo (now Bloomreach’s) growth in the US. About 6 months ago we received a call from dotCMS, and what really impressed me about the product was that our technical team from Jerry on down was very impressed by the tool. Normally they’re like “Mikey,” they hate everything. But this tool was hard to poke any holes in, and the more they used it, the more they liked it.

In summary, I have almost 6 years experience in the space, and have significant exposure to SDL Tridion, Bloomreach Experience (Hippo), Magnolia, Adobe and dotCMS.

As a newly appointed CEO, what do you feel are the fundamental elements to leading a successful company?

Miller: There are a lot, and it’s interesting you ask that question, because I just had to think through that prior to my first address to the company today. For me, a new, or any new CEO coming into a company, they need to really understand the business on a granular level. Not every detail, but you need a deep understanding of the real drivers of the business. How do we create revenue? What levers are there for us to affect our margins? What are our product differentiators? What do we do well and what are our challenges? How is our financial picture? How do we measure ourselves and what are our results today?

But a CEO also needs to understand that they need to be able to explain the strategic direction of the business. Where are we headed? Why are we headed that way? Why does it matter? What does that mean to the employees?

They also need to understand that people watch what you do more than they listen to what you say. I believe that leadership is only by example, and you had better be consistent in your behavior. I say that a leader shouldn’t necessarily have to take out the proverbial trash, but he needs to be willing to do so. I don’t ask my colleagues to do anything I wouldn’t do, nor do I ask them to do anything I don’t think they actually can do.

When it comes to the future direction of the platform, what is the main focus at dotCMS?

Miller: Marketers today have to show their CEO’s that they can positively affect revenue growth. We have to be able to demonstrate that an investment in our product, coupled with the solutions our partners offer, delivers an actual ROI.

The main focus for us is on the continuation of extending and expanding the dotCMS platform to deliver those quantifiable returns for our enterprise customers. We are committed to delivering an even more flexible solution that meets these objectives -- moving forward.

In the open source CMS space, what trends do you see on the horizon or where do you think we will see the most innovation in the coming months?

Miller:We have to connect the dots for our enterprise customers. Content marketing is no longer making a content management system easy for non-technical people to manage and publishing content is no longer enough. The modern open source CMS solutions must start connecting the dots between content, analytics, and user data. Being able to engage customers across devices throughout the user journey is paramount while providing measurable results and increasing ROI.

dotCMS Overview

Since this is the first time dotCMS has made an appearance on CMS-Connected, I’d like to give our readers a glimpse into some background information on the vendor and its offerings as well as encompass what they have been up to lately.

Founded in 2003, dotCMS is a privately owned US company with offices in Miami, Florida; Boston, Massachusetts; and San Jose, Costa Rica. With a global network of certified development partners and an active open source community, according to dotCMS, the platform has generated more than a half-million downloads and thousands of implementations and integration projects worldwide. Some notable dotCMS customers include Standard & Poors, Benjamin Moore, Hospital Corporation of America, Aon, eBay, Panasonic Corporation, Ask.com, Constant Contact, Thomson Reuters, Save.com, Wiley Publishing, The National Archives of Quebec, University of Texas and Colorado State University.

dotCMS Enterprise is available as an on-premises solution for enterprises, whereas dotCMS Cloud is designed for midmarket organizations that are looking for enterprise-quality features at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and faster time-to-market (TTM). With dotCMS Enterprise, enterprises get complete control and flexibility for hosting their own platform solution, while they also get complete access to the source code for better customization and integration. With the cloud-based CMS, dotCMS provides ease of deployment and can be set up within days. One of the main benefits of dotCMS Cloud is reducing dependency on IT teams and also allowing them to focus more on innovation rather than spending most of their time on managing servers.

Headless CMS Experience with dotCMS

The platform comes with RESTful APIs that support headless-model, which allows delivering and consuming content from third-party systems.  Also, since dotCMS is Java-based and standards driven, it makes enterprise customizations and integrations simple for web development teams to implement. dotCMS believes in a strong separation between presentation logic (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) and the content itself thus provides an ability to build web pages within its system and keep all the content separate. dotCMS has templates, widgets, containers, files, pages and such, all of which can be used not only as a web building engine but in the headless case, be served to a custom or in-house web solution through frameworks like Angular or React.

The vendor claims that their solution greatly fits into the scenario where the business wants to maintain its website and web apps on their own, either in a different commercial CMS system(s), in some home-grown custom solution, or even a mix of both. For this use case, for instance, what they offer is an easy place to store and index all of a business’s content while providing capabilities to access this content in raw formats or even render it by pulling it into an external application. dotCMS users can have the platform integrate with content living in other pieces of software so that a static web solution or custom web solution can pull all of the content in a permissioned, secure and easy fashion, according to the vendor.

Built-In Personalization Features

Although dotCMS was explicitly designed to make it easy to extend the functionality with your own Java code, dotCMS supports key personalization features natively, which minimizes the work needed to implement personalization on your site so you can focus your own coding efforts on truly sophisticated and custom needs. Here are the built-in personalization features of dotCMS:

  • Visitor browsing behavior - is tracked automatically, without having to write any code to determine and track visitor preferences; the information is served without a user intervention.

  • Personalized content listings - (which automatically display content a user is most interested in) are built-in and simple to use; no special coding is required to implement personalized listings.

  • User profiles - are implemented via the built-in Persona content type which allows you to create, customize, and reference Personas directly from content and to tie specific content to specific Personas.

  • Rules - allow you to define conditions that trigger customization actions without coding, at any level from individual pages to your entire site. Many of the most common conditions and customization actions are built-in (selectable from a menu), and you can create your own custom conditions and actions via a plugin using your own Java classes.

The Recent Occurrences with dotCMS

"The timing could not be better for Ralph to become the next Chief Executive Officer of dotCMS.  We are at a very exciting inflection point as a software product company and we really wanted someone who could lead us in the next phase of our growth," said dotCMS Co-Founder, Tim Brigham. In May, the vendor launched their new UI/UX with the release of it major product update, dotCMS 4.0. With the announcement of the new version, the company also pledged that they would continue to unveil the new redesign in the 4.x series throughout 2017. To that end, in June, they released 4.1 where REST API content type management, Hazelcast integration, progressive JPEG support, and more have been added to the platform.

My POV

I believe that the platform dotCMS is one of the untapped software platforms in the open source web content management market. With the new laser-focus on user interface and experience, the vendor demonstrates its strong commitment to gaining the spot its platform deserves. From the business point of view, hiring a seasoned leader always helps companies ramp up their customer attention, however, given Miller has already been closely working with dotCMS and its platform over the years, due to his prior role in Authentic, one of the dotCMS partners, this appointment proposes even an extra value to the organization. We will share more insight on the next occurrences within the organization in the upcoming months as the events unfold.

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.