Happy With ECM Vendor, Acquisition Shakes Customer's Confidence

The Vignette package has become a key component in Stelter's business, so the company was concerned when Open Text announced that was acquiring Vignette.

June 11, 2009

4 Min Read
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Down through the years, Stelter Company has developed a very strong bond with its enterprise content management (ECM) supplier. Founded in 2000, Stelter assists charitable organizations nationwide generate and manage their revenue. Its ECM is a key component in its Web hosting service, which has helped the company grow from a start up to a multi-million dollar business with thousands of customers during the last decade. Recently Stelter's ECM supplier was gobbled up by a larger vendor, so the company is understandably concerned about its systems and the future.

Stelter relies on about 20 Microsoft Windows servers running in a virtual environment to support its business. The company, which has about 80 employees and $15 million in revenue, creates marketing materials and hosts Web sites that help non-profit corporations raise money via deferred giving plans, such as establishing support of a charity in a will or setting up a trust. Stelter manages the plans and associated materials for non-profit organizations, such as United Way of America.

The business is very information intensive, partly because there are many different gift giving vehicles that charities can rely on. Also, these plans are all are subject to various state tax law changes and IRS rulings. Since it is difficult for an individual charity to stay on top of all of these items, the company manages these items for them. To support the company's information needs, Stelter relies on a Equallogic iSCSI SAN that holds 16 TB of information.

The corporation knew it needed an ECM from its inception at the turn of the millennium. "The dotcom boom was underway, so non-profits wanted us to take their printed content and put it up on their Web sites," says Bev Hutney, director of innovation and research at Stelter.

The company looked at a handful of products from vendors such as Broadvision and Vignette. Vignette's product fit best with the Stelter's needs because it did a good job of managing Web content. With little underlying infrastructure, the Vignette system was quickly installed, the process taking about three months from start to finish. Stelter started out with two employees managing the system Web content for a few dozen firms.

Through the years, the system grew and went through a couple of iterations. Near the end of 2003, Vignette rewrote its program. Stelter was growing quickly and ready to upgrade, so that change was completed in a few months. In 2007, another major version was released -- but this time the transition proved to be more complicated. The company was hosting Web sites for 900 charities, which each had several hundred pages of information and had to rewrite all of them. The non-profit services company outsourced that work, and the process took a year to finish.

As these changes took place, the company's relationship with its vendor grew. "In the last 10 years, Vignette has supplied us with some of the industry's brightest and most impressive people," Hutney says. "Over the years, we have had a few issues -- like those with any vendor -- but at its core, we have found that it is a unique company, one we feel a lot of loyalty toward and have had a great deal of success with."

One reason is the Vignette package has become a key component in Stelter's business. The company now has five employees who use it to manage 1,200 Web sites that account for 40 percent of the corporation's revenue.

So, Stelter was quite concerned when in May, Open Text announced that was acquiring Vignette. "There had been rumors that Vignette was ripe for a takeover, so it was not a shock," Hutney says.

However, the charity services supplier is somewhat apprehensive. "There are intangibles that come with a company, such as its culture, employees and integrity," Hutney says. "On all of those measures, Vignette was a unique corporation, so we have concerns about the merger's impact."

Hutney is adopting a "wait and see" attitude and, in the meantime, Stelter is planning to move ahead with additional ECM features. Vignette has developed social community applications that could help Stelter's clients tighten their bonds with customers.

Even with a cloud of the uncertainty from the merger hanging over Vignette, Stelter appears bullish about its ECM. "We are not sure what will happen to the people we have been working with, but we are committed to the Vignette product and expect that it will continue to play a key role in our operation in the future," Hutney says.

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