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Vignette tries personalization

Internet publishing software vendor Vignette is hiring a seasoned chief executive and moving into the personalization software market.

With an eye toward an IPO, Internet publishing software vendor Vignette is hiring a seasoned chief executive and moving into the personalization software market, going squarely up against BroadVision.

Vignette's new chief executive is Greg Peters, formerly the CEO of Logic Works, a database tools company, which recently was sold to Platinum Technology.

"My focus is on operations and execution, building and growing a company," Peters said. Ross Garber, Vignette's cofounder, becomes chairman and will concentrate on corporate strategy and products.

Vignette's personalization entry will show up next month in version 4.0 of its flagship StoryServer 4.0, which marks Vignette's effort to move beyond content management software into what Garber calls "Internet relationship management" software.

"Our customers have been telling us that they started out thinking the problem was a content and publishing problem," Garber said, mentioning banks and financial institutions specifically. "But they realize ultimately, as they are transitioning customer relations out of branches, that publishing was necessary but not sufficient.

"They wanted personalization profiling, business intelligence software, and decision support tools," he added. "They are looking for enterprise class software that doesn't just manage Web pages. No systems in the market today do that."

The push into personalization comes as bigger players begin to move in the same direction. Netscape Communications has added personalization to its PublishingXpert software and intends to put personalization into the rest of its e-commerce line by year's end.

Likewise, Microsoft is adding personalization to the e-commerce tools it markets as Site Server, Commerce Edition version 3.0. Separately, Microsoft's consumer division in April bought Firefly Networks, which had collaborative filtering software.

BroadVision likewise has an e-commerce tint on its personalization software, but it also has software targeted specifically to the banking and publishing sectors.

But Garber said Vignette will take a different tack, positioning its offering as "relationship management," not e-commerce software. Among his partners: server-based collaborative filtering firm Net Perceptions.

"While there is buying going on in this space, it's not about buying. It's an interaction problem. We don't find ourselves compelled to build a transactions back end," he said.

In May, Vignette closed a $14.3 million round of mezzanine financing with funding from new investors Hambrecht & Quist, Goldman Sachs, and Amerindo. Vignette then also bought the intellectual property and products of Random Noise, a Web authoring tools firm.

Vignette's software is based partly on technology developed in-house by CNET: The Computer Network, which sold it to Vignette in exchange for a stake in the company. CNET is the publisher of NEWS.COM.