Enterprise Management Consulting replaced five event websites for technology exhibitions specialist Imago Communications for under 55% of their previous annual licensing cost. Use of the Open Source eZ Publish content management system turned a fixed annual license cost into a flexible budget for ongoing development. Inflexible proprietary systems were replaced with bespoke development to support the company’s strategic innovation.
Imago Communications is a company focused on shaking-up the UK market for technology focused tradeshows and events. The team behind Imago has extensive experience and has created and sold-on some of the UK largest and most successful IT tradeshow brands. Founded in 2001, Imago itself is building on this experience in a fresh, exciting company, dedicated to creating new, more innovative event experiences and generating greater value for exhibitors and attendees alike.
The company’s own IT infrastructure is vital to its vision:
“We want to innovate with new services and features around our events. We also want Imago events to cover the hottest, most popular, new topics,” explains content director and general manager Adam Malik. “For us there is only one way to ensure this: through technology. We see it as an ongoing process to constantly gather more information on customers’ needs and interests. We then need an infrastructure that is agile enough for us to respond to these signals, and to refine our services fast and effectively.”
When the company first started out, Imago was running its event websites using a proprietary content management system developed specifically for event organisers. The product had a significant annual licensing cost, but Imago felt that the websites were so vital to the promotion and marketing of their events that they wanted the best possible solution.
However, after a while it became clear that using a proprietary, industry-specific solution was far from ideal for such an innovative company:
“For us the website is far from just an online brochure, it is an integral part of the events and the service we deliver,” explains Malik. “But with our old website we increasingly found that great, creative ideas for our events were being stifled by what the website could deliver. We were locked into the industry standard processes which were making innovation all but impossible.”
The team at Imago knew that they needed a more flexible website infrastructure to truly deliver the company’s vision. And when the company took on Neil Robertson-Ravo as the new online marketing manager, they found someone who had the solution.
“If your website is an integral part of your core business practices and you tie yourself to the functionality of a popular industry-specific solution, you are effectively knocking-out your ability to compete on much of your core business practice. There is some argument for having IT suppliers with knowledge of your business, but it is not really a solution for a company looking to innovate in the market,” comments Ravo, explaining his reasoning. “Open Source technology provides a cost effective way for companies to take back control of not only their IT infrastructure, but more importantly their business processes. With the right partners, it is possible to customise the system in a way which would be prohibitively expensive for most companies working with a proprietary vendor.”
Ravo’s first task was to select the new Open Source solution. He knew that whilst there is a vast array of Open Source content management solutions available, these could be whittled down very quickly. Imago needed a truly enterprise-grade infrastructure, potentially supporting ten or more sites, serving rich-media content and interactive applications. Moreover, these sites would be mission critical to the company, requiring full product support.
After looking at a number of different solutions, Ravo finally decided on eZ Publish because of the product’s proven track record in large commercial implementations, its flexible architecture and the availability of product support direct from the developers, eZ Systems. The other important factor for Ravo was the number of certified eZ partners available to provide a choice of suppliers.
“Having decided on eZ Publish, we didn’t feel locked in. We had the choice of several different partners in the UK. Even if our initial choice of partner didn’t work we could always switch. This is the beauty of Open Source,” explains Ravo. “As it happens, our decision to work with EMC turned out to be extremely well guided.”
Enterprise Management Consulting (EMC) is one of the UK’s longest running independent Open Source Software specialists. Imago was impressed by the company’s track record and experience on large projects, as well as EMC’s clear understanding of their business needs, not just the technical requirement.
“We wanted to make our websites an interactive extension of the events. More specifically we wanted to add the functionality for both exhibitors and attendees to use the website to plan ahead and create an itinerary to make optimum use of their time at our events,” explains Adam Malik. “It was vital for our chosen eZ Publish partner to grasp what we were trying to do on a business level. EMC not only understood what we were trying to achieve, they were able to make valid suggestions on improvements to the plan. It was clear they were the right partner.”
As a first step, EMC was given the brief to rebuild five separate show sites with a fresh new look and feel, but which simply replicated the functionality offered by Imago’s previous content management system. Within six weeks, EMC had not only achieved this target, they had delivered a working solution for the first stage of the itinerary planning tool.
What is more, the budget for the entire project, giving Imago full ownership of their new websites, came in at 40% of the annual licensing cost of running the five sites on the previous proprietary system.
“By using Open Source technology as the basis for development, EMC have helped us to turn a fixed annual licensing cost into a new budget stream available for ongoing web development,” explains Robertson-Ravo. “We now spend a fraction of our previous licensing bill on support for the new solution and get a markedly better level of service than before. The rest of the money is available as either savings or as budget for the ongoing development of innovative new functionality for our customers.”
EMC has now implemented several further projects to develop new functionality. The website infrastructure has been integrated with systems at Imago’s booking partners, as well as with a number of the company’s existing marketing systems. This means that not only can show attendees plan a full itinerary online and export appointments to their desktop calendar, but Imago can analyse this valuable customer information to spot popular speakers or topics, refine the programme for upcoming events and even help decide on the focus for creating new events.
“Web development is now an ongoing process that continually contributes more to the business.” concludes Malik. “We no longer have to shoehorn our processes into an inflexible product. We can use the website to drive innovation because the technology works the way we need it to.”