A Lesson In Simple

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Every now and again, you run into CEOs who are 100 percent focused on the business rather than on themselves. Alas, finding those types of executives in an age where mainstream business coverage continues to de-evolve into extended People magazine articles is becoming increasingly difficult.

That's why Jennifer Neumann, the founder of Canto, is such a refreshing change. The German-born Neumann, who resides in Dubai, has all the typical traits of most German executives in the sense that she has an unflinching focus on the quality of her company's product, based on the assumption that all good things flow from superior workmanship.

That doesn't mean Neumann is oblivious to marketing issues. The company late last year appointed Cliff Kaplan, a former Quark executive, as senior vice president of business development. Kaplan's primary task is to establish a more vigorous channel for Canto's digital asset management solution, which has a fairly high profile in the Macintosh-dominated publishing community but very little exposure in mainstream Windows environments.

But even working off a Macintosh platform, Canto has a fairly impressive base of loyal users, including the office of the U.S. chief of staff, BASF, Merck, Harley-Davidson and many others. The challenge facing Canto, however, is expanding its business beyond the rarefied world of the Macintosh to embrace the broader small-to-medium business market.

To fuel that effort, Canto has re-engineered its Cumulus digital asset management system to create a system that runs Java code on a server supporting any type of client. Granted, that offering is more complex than the previous generations of the product, which most users are familiar with, but the timing for delivering a comparatively low-cost digital asset management system that runs on multiple platforms couldn't be better.

This is because in the wake of a host of compliance regulations, just about everybody out there is looking for some way to document their business processes with two considerations in mind. The first issue is that most of these organizations have no idea what their digital assets are, so they need a repository that can help them discover those assets. And second, they need a basic workflow capability that allows them to document their process without having to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive document management systems.

Therein lies the charm of Canto and Neumann. Cumulus is pretty approachable solution to a problem that will increasingly suck more time out of business executives that have little, precious extra time in the first place. In short, all the tasks associated with documenting business processes are a gigantic time suck that seriously threatens the core productivity-per-employee ratio at any given company.

To be sure, Cumulus is not the most sophisticated system on the market, but it solves enough of the problem at an overall cost that people can digest. And for reminding us that simple is in truth usually better in one of the hottest sectors of the IT market today, Neumann becomes worth watching.

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