CoreMedia's CEO, Sören Stamer, on Leadership and the Future of Web Content Management
Every year, Gartner publishes its report, The Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management, and every year the industry waits to see where and how those little blue dots will move about, as a reflection of Gartner’s in-depth analysis of leading vendors.
Looked upon by many as a guide for companies to evaluate which Web Content Management solution would be right for their business, we here at CMS-Connected are always happy to see numerous vendors included in the report that we know very well. We often create a few conversations following the release focused on the recognition within the report, and showcase details of the platforms themselves but admittedly, when I reflect on the various businesses, I look through the lens of leadership and wonder what is on the mind of those at the helm of these companies, the CEOs themselves? Thankfully, upon reaching out, I was fortunate enough to gain access to the great mind of CoreMedia’s CEO, Sören Stamer, to discuss leadership, CoreMedia's recognitions by Gartner, and what trends and innovatons he sees on the horizon.
As CEO, what do you feel are the fundamental elements to leading a successful company?
First, we might have to define what "success" means to us. What kind of success are we striving for? In CoreMedia’s case, we aim for sustainable value creation for all our stakeholders. That includes customers, partners, shareholders, employees, the families of our employees plus society around us. Given this definition of success, a fundamental element of leading a successful company is DOING THE RIGHT THING. We believe this to be the most sustainable strategy. While we all know examples of short-term value creation against the interest of different stakeholders, we are not convinced that those companies are here to last. The once celebrated Shareholder Value obsession as the one and only criteria for success turned out to be a poor long-term strategy for many companies (but a great way for hired managers to receive big bonuses before their companies tanked.) Companies were able to get away with not doing the right thing for some time but karma bites you in the end. Just ask Uber or United Airlines, Pepsi or Fox News to name a few. In a massively networked society the tolerance for not doing the right thing decreases fast. The force and speed of punishment grows exponentially. Brands will get shamed for breaking the trust of their stakeholders.
One of the biggest influences and responsibilities I have as a CEO is the value systems of CoreMedia. What are the things we care about? What are the things we like to ignore? My influence is partly through explicit communication of vision, values and strategy but also and potentially more so through my own actions. Everything I do can and will be interpreted as setting an example and therefore defining an unwritten rule - if I intend it or not. There is a saying in Hamburg: The fish stinks from the head down. That ultimately means that you can’t escape responsibility as a CEO. If the company values the wrong things, you might have to do some soul-searching as the CEO. It might be because your own behavior might be at the core of that problem.
Hire and Grow Great Talent
Great talents want to work with great talents. They want to learn from and with them. They want to solve interesting problems and build beautiful things. They want to be able to be themselves and be recognized for who they are. This can be a kind of virtuous circle. Creating it is a core responsibility of any CEO.
Listen to Stakeholders
To be successful, CEOs need to be in touch with stakeholders. They need to listen to customers and partners, be in touch with employees and shareholders, and understand the ecosystem. They need to be grounded in reality and understand trends early in order to make the right decisions.
Every CEO has to make sure that a company has a valid strategy. CEO don’t have to create it by themselves and indeed they shouldn't. It is the first thing their talented management team should work on. The CEO however is responsible that there is a valid strategy and that it is updated whenever new facts come to light. The strategy needs to be clear and easy to understand. It needs to account for the big picture and enable all teams to make autonomous decisions. It needs to be focused and grounded in reality. The strategy should answer a crucial question for autonomous decisions by every employee: What is our #1 goal?
We live in a highly networked society with exponentially increasing density of our global network. The complexity and speed of change in such an environment is already astonishing and will only increase. I am deeply convinced that an increasing level of self-organization is needed to be agile enough as an organization to survive and thrive. Static command and control structures will get crushed by the rate of change all around us. To foster self-organization, a CEO has to learn and practice the art of letting go. You must enable teams to experiment and learn fast, individually and collectively. You need to maintain autonomy AND alignment. Teams will only be able to make smart autonomous decisions if they are well aligned with the other teams.
Maintain Strategic Alignment
The one thing that a CEO is better equipped to do than all other team members is creating alignment between all teams. Every employee needs to know what is our strategy and how his or her work contributes to it. Every CEO needs to make sure that everyone in the company can answer these two questions. This is a big communication task. It has to be repeated, updated, in writing and speech, directly and through the management team."
What do you feel CoreMedia has done to contribute to their recognition in the Gartner Magic Quadrant and how do you intend on keeping up that momentum?
"We feel honored that Gartner recognized our strong performance in multiple fields. First of all, our strategy to provide the Best CMS for Commerce started to pay off. CoreMedia succeeded in providing the deepest and broadest integration into IBM WebSphere Commerce. Leading retail customers in the U.S. and Europe as well as global brands noticed us and enabled us to grow significantly. By offering various integration scenarios and a very fast time to value, we managed to beat our global competitors in many prestigious projects.
In the last 6 months, we have doubled down on this strategy. We added seamless integrations into SAP Hybris, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Magento and IBM Commerce on Cloud. This move has multiplied our addressable market and significantly increased our attractiveness for e-commerce system integrators.
Secondly, we demonstrated that leading global brands and retailers have excelled with CoreMedia. In fact, there aren’t many solutions that can manage omni-channel experiences at this scale –- with 50+ brands in 20+ languages for 140+ countries supporting multiple catalogues in different e-commerce systems. CoreMedia enables these customers to start small, deliver value rapidly and then scale up to the highest level of requirements due to the clean and sophisticated architecture of our platform.
Thirdly, CoreMedia’s customer satisfaction is exceptionally high. The same is true for our partners. And that is for a reason. In the last 10 years, not a single CoreMedia project has failed. We take great care to ensure the success of our customers and partners. Delivering the initial project successfully isn’t enough to ensure long term success, however. A core architectural strength of our platform is its openness and ease of integration. This enables our customers and partners to constantly innovate and quickly harness new opportunities.
Finally, Gartner recognized our strong commitment to invest and grow in the U.S. with offices in San Francisco and the D.C. area."
What are your thoughts on the WCM space? For example, what trends do you see on the horizon or where do you think we will see the most innovation in the coming months?
"I think the WCM space is more exciting than ever. According to Gartner, 89% of marketing leaders expected to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience by 2016. We see this number going up not down. At the core of these compelling personalized experiences lie relevant and engaging content. We live in a massively networked world with ever increasing density of digital networks. The thing that spreads most efficiently on these networks is content. With this in mind, our core believe is that 'content matters'.
Strategic Content Infrastructure
We see a trend for brands to invest strategically into their global content infrastructure. While e-commerce systems seem to be turning into a commodity, content platforms seem to increase in relevance. Companies realize that every new social platform, sales channel or customer interaction brings a significant content challenge. In order to create consistent omni-channel experiences on a global scale, companies must invest in a versatile central content infrastructure. We expect successful CMS to turn into content platforms with powerful integration capabilities.
Massive Scale and Speed
The amount of content, micro-experiences, campaigns, landing pages, customer interactions, and relevant social media platforms continue to grow exponentially. It took the telephone 74 years to reach 100 million users. Facebook reached that goal in 4 years, PokemonGo in 1 month. Marketers have to seriously prepare for a world where new social media platforms with 100 million users will pop up within a week or even a day. The only chance to master this scale and complexity is to find the right tools that provide a high level of flexibility and that can automate most of the tasks needed to provide the right content. We expect to see innovations that drive automation on a massive scale.
The ways in which content can play a critical role in business will further increase. We will see many more ways to interact with customers through a growing list of messaging platform, social networks, games, touch screens, voice platforms, digital assistants, ads etc. Most content will be personalized. Most images will be shoppable. Most videos as well. Content will find its way into V.R. and A.R. and content will be consumed by bots that make decisions for us. Content will be everywhere. We expect to see many innovations in this area leveraging a central content infrastructure.
A.I. will enable marketers to create superior customer experiences, faster and much more efficiently. It will be a critical component to handle the scale and complexity of the task at hand. We expect to see productivity increase by a factor of 1000 or more for a growing number of tasks that can be augmented or fully automated with A.I. We intend to provide our customers with a content infrastructure that automatically reacts to trends on social media, deeply understands images and text and can compile and post attractive content for those individual contexts within seconds."