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Managing Content Instead of Data: Q&A With SpringCM CEO Dan Carmel

There are always niche vendors developing new applications around functionality that doesn’t quite fit into a defined software category. When the analyst community takes note — and then decides to give the category a name — a bona fide trend is established.

That is happening to SpringCM — a Software as a Service provider of functionality that helps companies manage and automate their processes around content rather than data. Forrester has dubbed their offerings “content centric applications”; Gartner calls them “content enabled vertical applications.”

SpringCM CEO Dan Carmel explains it this way: “We help companies leverage [the] content knowledge base and place it in a process.”

CRM Buyer caught up with Carmel to discuss how his company is managing to break new ground in a frozen economy.

CRM Buyer: How is SpringCM weathering the economic downturn?

Dan Carmel:

Obviously, the downturn is affecting everyone. We are growing less quickly, but we still are growing — at double-digit rates — this year. Last year, we quadrupled our company through both acquisition and organic growth.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the cost-cutting measures you’ve taken?

Carmel:

We’ve kept an eye on a variety of administrative expenses, but we haven’t made any radical changes. We’ve done some right-sizing, but we were a pretty lean company anyway, so the changes haven’t been that dramatic.

CRM Buyer: How can your products help your customers’ bottom lines in the near term?

Carmel:

We help companies automate their document-centric processes. We’ve brought together a large portfolio of functionalities that manage faxes, emails [and] the imaging of documents to do this. Also, clients can accelerate their payment cycles using our platform. Not only do we manage receivables and outbound payments, but — because we are automating other processes that touch close to payment and customer support — we can indirectly impact cash flow. Finally, we offer contract management and proposal management software, which can improve the win rate and do so without increasing headcount.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the bright spots for your company right now?

Carmel:

We are very excited about the work we are doing in our government solutions division. We acquired a company called “Privia” about a year ago, and have been able to double the number of companies we serve in that space. Federal contractors are seeing tremendous opportunities right now because of the stimulus package; their ability to take a fair share of those dollars, though, depends on how well they bid for a particular project. That is where we come in.

CRM Buyer: How will your company look a year from now?

Carmel:

Well, we’ve just made a big announcement: We’ve opened our platform to content creators and now have 13 companies building purpose-specific applications on it. Our goal is to triple the number of applications that we have today in one year.

CRM Buyer: When you were talking about government contracting opportunities, I was wondering if you are seeing more demand from the government itself for this technology. It seems a good fit for it.

Carmel:

Yes, that is another growth area for us. The federal government has expressed a big interest in cloud computing. There is, in fact, an aggressive push to bring it into the government. We are seeing a tremendous demand right now for applications like case management, correspondence management, policy development — even FOIA-related applications.

CRM Buyer: Tell me more about your vertical strategies. It seems that automating processes is more of a horizontal play. After all, cash management is largely the same from one industry to the next.

Carmel:

To a certain extent, that is true. With the exception of the government contractor space, we focus more on contracts, processes and payables — which are horizontal and go across multiple industries. For example, one partner has built an application for compliance policy and administration. We are also seeing, though, a greater interest in what we do among industries that would like apps tailored to their needs. The energy and financial services [industries] are two examples. We have a partner company that offers a K [through]12th grade educational management system. Another has developed a digital mailroom application for nonprofits.

CRM Buyer: Your functionality reminds me of the applications that came out several years ago to address what the industry called “unstructured data.” What is different about this new category?

Carmel:

There is a difference between data and content. For the latter, there are very few applications available to manage it — much less squeeze some productivity out of it. This is where content management is headed: managing these new forms of content that we keep inventing. Ten years ago, email was a new form of content. Now it’s wikis, blogs and videos.

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