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How to Implement Lighter Weight Portals, Part 3: Knockout Portlet

In this series, I’m showing how Portals don’t have to be heavyweight.  In Part 1, I wrote about how to make the infrastructure lighter by using cloud or IBM’s Pure System.  In Part 2, I introduced the concept of using IBM’s Web Content Manager system to build very simple portlets.

Now in this final installment, I am going to extend the concepts introduced in Part 2 to show how we can build more complex portlets, but still keep everything lightweight.  To review quickly, in Part 2, I avoided the build and deploy cycle of building Java portlets by using the built-in content management system – WCM.  In that example, I used WCM to display a Reuter’s news feed from a simple Javascript widget supplied by Reuters.

My Appointments Portlet

Final Appointments Portlet

In this blog, I want to implement a more complex portlet using Knockout, which is a popular Javascript framework.  My example is to display in a portlet a list of my Doctor Appointments pulled from a REST service.  Our goal is still to keep this lightweight, so I shouldn’t see a lot of code.  The first screen shot shows you what the final version looks like in Portal 8.

A typical web page or application consists of several sections:

  • CSS
  • Links to external files
  • HTML body
  • Javascript

In WCM, we can create an authoring template that contains four HTML fields, one for each of the sections described above. The authoring template also has a workflow associated with it so we can control the publishing of our code.
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Option to Migrate Web Content Sites

It’s a never-ending request for anyone who does web content management project……. how do you get the content from your old site to your new site.  At first, we did it all by hand. Then we tried a couple vendors who wrote connectors to pull content from source CMS’.  Neither worked all that well for anything over 7,000 artifacts.  Lately we’ve had some luck with Kapow.  Candace Hoeksema has a nice series going on over in our Microsoft Blog about how you make it work for Sitecore.  Of course, given Kapow’s unique approach, we use it for migrations to Adobe, IBM, and other CMS’.  I only quote a small part of her explanation so be sure to hit both if it’s of interest.

Option to Migrate Web Content SitesKapow to Sitecore Migration: Part 1

Kapow to Sitecore Migration: Part 2

When should I consider using Kapow?

As a rule of thumb, you should consider using Kapow when you have more than 10,000 pages to migrate. However, this decision is ultimately up to the client. Costs of the software and the setup of the migration process have to be weighed against the time involved in a manual migration and the extended migration period and content freeze involved in a manual process. I should also note that Kapow isn’t necessarily just for one-time migrations. It can also be used on an ongoing basis whenever there are multiple disparate data sources. A good example of this is a monthly report with data that must be gathered from several different sources.

How is Kapow installed?

An msi is downloaded from Kapow’s site and installed.   Although Kapow comes with a development database (an Apache Derby based database), we were using SQL Server, so that had to be configured. At this point, the Management Console service is started. This checks your license and allows access to Kapow’s suite of tools. Overall, a very easy install.

How do I use Kapow?

The answer to this question is that it depends what your needs are. Kapow has an extensive suite of tools. My needs on this project were limited, so I used only the Design Studio tool, and occasionally the Management Console. Design Studio is used to develop, debug, and run robots, which extract and transform content. It has a powerful interface, a little reminiscent of Visual Studio.

Save $$$, increase efficiency: Use Config Wizard in WPS v8.5

If you are anything like me – you have probably ignored the Configuration Wizard capability in WebSphere Portal since it was first introduced in v6.x. It was a feature with much promise … yet it was pretty much unusable in most real-world installation scenarios. Over the years IBM made great strides to simplify base WebSphere Portal installation. However, I always felt that running the configuration tasks (database transfer, enabling security, etc.) was still for an experienced portal administrator. Not anymore. With the new WebSphere Portal v8.5 – configurations got (dare I say it?) … Intuitive. Having used the configuration wizard in a recent customer engagement (installing a development environment) – I am not going back to the old ways of modifying wkplc.properties files.

Save Money, Increase Efficiency: Use Config Wizard in WPS v8.5How does the configuration wizard work? Quoting from the IBM documentation:

In the Configuration Wizard, you answer questions about the environment that you are configuring. Based on your answers, the wizard then prompts you for custom values that are needed to configure your environment. Finally, the wizard generates custom steps and scripts to set up your environment.

Customers and IT departments no longer need administrators with deep portal experience to deploy sandbox, development or even small scale production environments. The configuration wizard has been developed as a web application hosted on the WebSphere Application Sever and can run on any browser.

I believe that the configuration wizard, used together with the new IBM Roadmaps (another new feature that I really like), will provide immediate costs savings and improve the efficiency of your portal administration team.

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WebSphere Portal v8.5 First Look: Install

IBM announced the release of IBM Digital Experience Suite 8.5 on earlier this month. Today, I had the chance to download the software images from and I am writing this as I install WebSphere Portal v8.5 Extend edition on Windows 7 OS. I went ahead with the Extend edition because I wanted to get a hold of all the features that WP has to offer. 

WebSphere Portal v8.5 First Look: InstallDownloading the Installables
IBM made it easy for me to search for WebSphere Portal v8.5 installables and find all relevant e-Assemblies. The only thing that I find slightly irritating is that the relevant WebSphere Portal v8.5 e-Assembly was right at the bottom of the page. No worries – a quick browser text search for got me to the right e-Assembly.
Expanding the eAssembly – you can immediately see that IBM has change the packaging a little bit. The e-Assembly only has WebSphere Portal images.In the past, you would have to wade down through a whole list of other supporting software components (TDS, DB2, etc.). This has confused users (both new and old) in the past. No longer the case this time.  The right step towards a simpler “Digital Experience” perhaps? Excellent!

 

Note:
  1. You will have to download the image for WebSphere SDK JAVA edition v7.0.6.1. I don’t think I have downloadedthis in the past but this time around I had to download it (even though it says “optional” during the installation).
  2. No support for 32-bit Windows architecture (I found this out the hard way)
  3. The remote search server is truly optional (and is not required especially for a local install)
As from past installations of WP, I unzipped the downloaded zip files – taking care to ensure that I unzip all the files into a single folder. Total size of the downloaded zip files and the unzipped images together is about 19GB. Simple enough so far.

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Adobe Summit: Top new features in Adobe Experience Manager WCM

Cedric Huesler @keepthebyte is a Product Manager at Adobe and works on the web content management aspect of AEM.  Cedric demoed 10 new features coming in AEM 6.0, which was announced yesterday.  A new major version (6.0 vs 5.6) for AEM indicates a major architectural change in the product.  Adobe expects the new architecture to work seemlessy with prior versions, but will allow for more scalability, etc.

I’ve included a video of Cedric talking about new features in AEM 6.0.  Cedric demo’d the new features using a tablet to show how they’ve fully enabled the touch interface for the authoring environment.

The first new feature deals with language translation.  This release does a better job of managing translations.  A site contains a language master for the content and then Live Copy is used to created the translated content for each country.  A new References feature allows you too see where a content item is used and where it has been translated.  The translation workflow goes out to a translation vendor through an API that Adobe has built into AEM. Read the rest of this post »

Marketecting the enterprise?

At the Association of Enterprise Architecture Summit in Austin, Texas last week, John Zachman was the speaker of honor. For those unfamiliar with his work he is the leading proponent of Enterprise Architecture, and I don’t mean that in the marketing sense where all companies are the leading in “blah blah blah”. As a career IBM’er, he is considered by many to be the founder of the modern craft with The Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture, although he refers to it as an The Enterprise Ontology.

The emergence of a social enterprise marketecureZachman reminded us of how controversial Nick Carr’s seminal article “IT Doesn’t Matter” was 10 years ago, when most of us thought IT would by itself revolutionize business and the world in general – this was in the aftermath of the “dot.gone” era. He then went on to say that Enterprise Architecture, or EA, is not a technology issue, but rather an enterprise one, and that the role of the EA does not really belong in IT. This was confirmed later by some of the other guest speakers.

To paraphrase Zachman, ‘Over the last 75 years or so, people, or more accurately the roles fulfilled by people, have been systematized and automated. These systems essentially represent the enterprise as a whole. An EA possess the engineering skills to design artifacts used to engineer an enterprise’.

Zachman also called on the work of Alvin Toffler, of Future Shock fame – which by the way is still amazingly relevant, perhaps only more so, not in it’s specificity, but more in it’s approach as to how much change has been going on in the world and how we struggle to adapt to it.

Talking of customer expectations, he explained that all customers expect a custom experience from an enterprise. They want a custom enterprise. He threw out the a challenge to all willing to accept it, how will your enterprise become a custom enterprise?

At this point, I got thinking about my area of expertise, namely Portals, Social, and Web Content Management technologies. In other words digital experience technologies. The digital world certainly can provide very large organizations the means with which to provide custom products or services to customers. Remember custom Nike shoes? Or Dell computers of a decade or so ago? Where these early examples of custom enterprises? Digital experience technologies empower enterprises to provide a custom experience tailored to exactly the needs or desires of a single customer, and at relatively low cost.

Zachman provided a definition of architecture by means of several colorful examples, “Seven thousand years of history suggest the only known strategy for addressing complexity and change is architecture.” Think of the hand axe, throwing stick, or shaduf, all examples of architecture, in some form, at work, in that each design or blueprint that may be used by craftsmen to build from or improve upon. He gave the example of the Coliseum in Rome. This is a static building, and not architecture. Architecture was the process of planning ahead of time. It is the set of descriptive representations relevant for describing complex objects.

As it it with modern digital experience platforms. The implemented platform is not the architecture. The architecture is the process of planning the implementation ahead of time. It includes understanding the business need and outcome, envisioning how the modified business will operate, determining how to reach the desired state, and as well as understanding how any new components or processes will fit in with existing ones. In other words, implementing a digital experience platform involves a lot more work than only selecting and configuring the technology. It involves a significant amount of planning ahead of time, or upfront enterprise-wide architecture.

Mike Walker, the president of the Texas Chapter of the AEA, made a few other interesting points regarding the EA profession in general, that I believe are also relevant to large scale technology initiatives such as transforming an enterprise through digital experience platforms. Many people involved in, or doing, Enterprise Architecture, today come from an engineering or technical background, they often have high IQ’s and are great at explaining the “speeds and feeds” of a set of technologies. They are also often found reporting to the CIO. Psychologist have found that people don’t make decisions based on what the neocortex is telling them (data), but rather the limbic system (emotions). Something that I experienced first-hand over the weekend, whilst looking for somewhere to live, I had all the data that said that staying in Austin makes sense: lower overall taxes, lower rents, live music, etc, compared to moving to California, higher overall taxes, higher rents, ocean. Usually the move is the other way around, however as a surfer and sailor, my limbic system won out over my neocortex. And that brings me back to Mike Walker’s point, engineering, or solution architecture, is often performed by introverts. Enterprise Architecture requires socialization across an enterprise to make it successful.

I argue that enterprise architecture is not really a role, but rather a practice, perhaps within a wider center of excellence. An EA practice would be made up of a broad range of complementary abilities and skillets which can only enhance it’s value. This is perhaps where internal marketing can help. Marketing people tend to be extroverts, and more attune to getting a message out and understood. This may lead to a simplification of the more detailed enterprise architecture, and the emergence of a social enterprise “marketecture”, but if that aligns the stakeholders and makes for a successfully adopted system, that’s all the better.

My 4 days in the Desert with Adobe — Part 2

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the time I spent in the desert with Adobe at the sales conference was incredibly valuable. As the best of breed digital platform, three key themes resonated with me and want to take the opportunity to delve a little deeper into the benefits of the adobe partnership and how it impacts the work we do for clients.

My 4 Days in the Desert with Adobe - Part 2One of the first things I learned is that Adobe has grown tremendously over the past few years and has really cemented its place as the leader in digital content creation and marketing. What was made equally clear is that Adobe’s stable of world-class partners has been instrumental to Adobe’s success. In fact, joint engagements between Adobe and its partners were brought up numerous times as examples of customer successes. This was true across verticals (e.g., Retail, Media, and Financial) and Adobe solutions (Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Marketing Cloud). Based on what I saw at the Worldwide Sales Conference, I expect Adobe will continue to engage with its digital agency and systems integration partners throughout 2014 and well into the future.

The second theme centered on the tremendous growth of digital marketing and the importance of creating a compelling and personalized customer experience. Marketers know that every interaction between a business and a customer is a marketing opportunity and a chance to drive revenue. The challenge is that customers control how, when and where they will interact with companies. In fact, customers use a multitude of channels (web, mobile, social, video) and devices (tablet, phone, computer) to engage with businesses. This creates a significant challenge for marketers to determine how and when to engage clients within each of these channels and provide a compelling reason for the customer to take the next step forward in the sales cycle. Adobe’s response to this was clear: Brands interested in driving significant revenue through digital channels must deliver the right message, to the right channel, at the right time. Creating this type of customer engagement requires a well-defined strategy and an enterprise-grade platform with deep solutions capabilities.

The final theme– which ran throughout the duration of the conference – was that Adobe’s strategy, vision, and product platforms – Creative Cloud and Marketing Cloud – have made it possible for businesses to deliver the digital experiences that clients expect. First, I want to segue to a little history lesson that provides context to Adobe’s approach to digital marketing.

Adobe has a deep heritage in digital content creation solutions (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Flash, Dreamweaver, etc). Legions of digital marketers have been using Adobe’s creative products to generate extremely rich and engaging digital content for many years. The challenge for those marketers was twofold: how to manage all of that content and how to get that content to their customers. Thus, the strategy and vision of Marketing Cloud was born.

The vision for Marketing Cloud was to provide marketers with one location to manage, publish, and analyze the content they were creating. The first strategic step towards the creation of Marketing Cloud was focused on organic product development and/or acquisition of market-leading content management, analytics, mobile, social, customer segmentation, media optimization, and marketing campaign orchestration solutions. The second step of the process involved seamless interoperability between the Marketing Cloud systems and the creation of a Touch Interface to manage everything. This provided marketers with a singular and actionable view of the customer and a singular interface for the management of all marketing processes and activities. The final step for Adobe was to integrate the full suite of solutions from Creative Cloud to Marketing Cloud. This created a unified content creation, management, and publishing system that covered the full marketing lifecycle. Adobe’s strategy and subsequent cloud-based platforms provide end-to-end solutions for creative and digital marketers. By having the right tools in place, marketers can deliver on their vision: to provide the right message, to the right person at the right time.

This conference offered an outstanding opportunity to learn more about Adobe’s business, their solutions offerings, and also engage with key members of teams. I came away from the conference with a fuller understanding of Adobe’s sales and product strategies along with their key value propositions and differentiators from others in their space. I’m excited to see how Adobe’s latest acquisition of Neolane – now Adobe Campaign – will help to orchestrate successful online and offline marketing campaigns designed to drive increased revenue for our clients. Based on the Adobe Campaign sessions I attended and the conversations I’ve had with clients since then, I anticipate tremendous success for this solution.

My 4 Days in the Desert with Adobe – Part 1

In mid-December, I attended the Adobe Worldwide Sales Conference in Las Vegas. It’s a time when Adobe invites its entire sales organization – along with Adobe’s key partners – to discuss the past year’s performance, celebrate the major sales successes, and layout the company’s sales and product strategies for the next year.

My 4 Days in the Desert with AdobeAs Forrester & Gartner’s leader in Web Content Management, Adobe certainly has much to discuss and no lack of thought leadership within the Digital Marketing arena. However, what I found truly compelling about the conference was the level of transparency Adobe provides to its partners. Partners have full access to all sales and product sessions and are very deeply engaged with the Adobe team. This level of accessibility allows for tremendous learning opportunities for partners like Perficient. Here’s a peek into the top three themes that I learned from my 4 days in the desert with Adobe.

  1. Adobe has cemented its place as a leader in digital content creation and marketing.
  2. As marketers we are tasked with creating compelling and personalized customer experiences each and every day.
  3. Adobe’s strategy, vision, and product platforms – Creative Cloud and Marketing Cloud – have made it possible for businesses to deliver the digital experiences that marketers expect.

Adobe has created the market-leading, best-of-breed digital marketing platform while simultaneously helping their clients deliver a deep set of capabilities and engage their customers with “the right message, to the right channel, at the right time”. In the coming weeks, I’ll be continuing to blog about my Adobe experience and provide more details and context around these themes.

What’s coming in WebSphere Portal and WCM

Rob Will, Chief Architect at IBM, presented the future vision for Portal and WCM today.   He started out talking about how the concept of customer experience has been evolving over the past few years.  A core shift has been to enable non-technical users to do more and more with less reliance on IT.

What's Coming in WebSphere Portal and WCMA slight change with profound implications has been the change from a Web experience to a Digital experience, which implies support many more devices and output streams.   Portal and WCM has always been about web sites, not mobile applications.  Portal is now in the mobile web site business to enable multi-channel web site business.  Portal is still the integrating platform for content, applications, etc.  Everything done in Portal and WCM is now done with mobile in mind.

IBM Worklight is the hybrid application platform that integrates with Portal and WCM.   Worklight enables access to all the mobile device features through portlets.  Its easy to create a Worklight adapter to grab content from WCM to display in a native application.  WCM’s personalization engine can also be leveraged from Worklight so you see the same promotions on the web as you see in the mobile app.

Mobile Directions

  • Improving integration to support device classes
  • Fine tuning seamlessness of the theme integration
  • Co-deploy Worklight on Portal

Content and Rich Media

  • More and more convergence between portal and content management
  • Projects and Templates (in Portal 8) are heavily relied on in future releases
  • Content Template Catalog 4.1.2 came out last week – uses latest CKEditor for inline editing
  • Vanity URLs- in beta now.  You can completely control the URL.  URLs are stored in WCM to support Syndication.  This feature will deprecate URL Mappings in Portal.
  • WCM Content Security is more seamless with Portal.
  • Attribute based security means you can control access to content based on Attributes.
  • Project templates make it easier to set up projects, including predefined workflow
  • Now everyone is entitled to EditLive! Enterprise version
  • Customers on 8.0.0.1 have entitlement to WebRadar which is content reporting and analytics
  • Cross Version syndication is supported to ease content migration.  You can syndicate from WCM 7.0.0.2 CF26 or higher to WCM 8.0.0.1 CF09 or higher
  • Syndication – improvements in error messaging, error handling, more retry capabilities.  Also in the Authoring UI, you can see a status of each object’s syndication.
  • Rich Media Edition seamlessly integrates with MediaBeacon.
  • Deliver and Stream HD Videos – this includes integration with BrightCove

Personalization and Targeting

  • In 8.0 IBM added in-context rules editing.  New minor enhancements are coming here.
  • Marketing Management is more of a focus for a richer experience, including Unica Marketing Center and IBM Interact.
  • New Portlet allows user to enter a few details about the spot and the portlets does all the work to bring in offers from Interact.  This reduces the rules that you have to write in portal.

WCM and Commerce

  • This is available now.
  • You can link content from WCM directly into a commerce site.  This also includes preview capability

Social

  • Social rendering in 8.0.0.1 takes content from connections and delivers them inside portal mixed with other content and applications. WCM presentation templates are used to make the social content look like other content on the page.
  • In the next version, IBM provides a bunch of enhancements.  Discussion threads hosted on IBM Connections, but linked to WCM content.   Here the visual experience of the discussion is controlled by WCM.
  • Now you can Like, create posts, comment, etc right in line.
  • Dynamic filters for social lists – these lists cooperate with other page components to filter content and drilling down in lists.
  • This is all available in mobile web too.

For a sample of how well Portal, WCM and Connections are integrated together, take a look at the Connect 2014 Site:

  • News and updates are blogs in Connections
  • Events are in WCM.
  • Session info is in WCM,
  • Speaker profile is in Connections.
  • Downloads are in Connections Files.
  • Session add is a DB2 application

Digital Data Connector (DDC) – this is a new concept and we’ll more information on this shortly.

  • Extends social rendering and WCM to any type of data source.
  • Can take most data source and bring into Portal through social rendering

I had to leave this session early, so I will follow up with another post on the rest of the new features coming in the future.

A beta version of Portal is now available if you want to try out some of these features.

 

 

 

Digital Asset Management in IBM Customer Experience Suite

In May of this year, I blogged about IBM’s then up-coming Digital Asset Management integration with MediaBeacon.  IBM  started shipping that product on June 18, 2013 via electronic distribution and July 12 via CD.  You can see the official announcement letter for details.

Here is a demo of MediaBeacon working directly with IBM Web Content Manager.

As I mentioned, the DAM solution is an integration with MediaBeacon R3volution Enterprise, so you must have access to a MediaBeaon server.  You can install the MediaBeacon server software on your Portal server or on a standalone server.  For development environments, combining Portal and MediaBeacon on the same server is fine. For production environments (authoring included), you will want a separate server for MediaBeacon.  MediaBeacon software and documentation are included in the IBM software you can download (see below).

According to IBM’s best practices documentation, when using MediaBeacon and IBM Web Content Manager, you have three options for accessing and storing your digital media:

  • Always store the asset in MediaBeacon.  With this storage option, you can directly manage and update the asset, regardless of whether the content item is in draft state or is published. However, you must also ensure that the authoring, delivery, and web servers in the environment can access the MediaBeacon server to render the asset.
  • Copy the asset into a web content library when the content item is created.  With this option, you can syndicate the asset along with the content item, which can be useful in distributed authoring environments. But if you must modify the asset before you publish the content item, you must repeat the process of adding the updated asset from MediaBeacon.
  • Preview the asset from MediaBeacon and then copy the asset into Web Content Manager when you publish the content item.  With this option, the asset remains in MediaBeacon while the content is in draft state. When the content is published in a workflow that contains the Promote Digital Assets workflow action, the asset is copied to a web content library and rendered normally.

The preferred storage option is to preview the asset from MediaBeacon and then copy the asset into Web Content Manager when you publish the content item. This approach has several benefits:

  • Because the asset is stored in MediaBeacon while the content item is in draft state, any changes to the asset are immediately visible in the draft content.
  • When the content is approved and published, a workflow stage copies the asset into a web content library. As part of the library, the asset can be versioned, syndicated to delivery servers, and rendered through Web Content Manager. Storing the asset in a web content library also ensures that changes to the asset in MediaBeacon are not automatically passed through to the published content.
  • When the published asset is stored in a library, unauthenticated users can view the asset without the need for configured access to the MediaBeacon server.

IBM has included Digital Asset Management into two new editions of the following products:

  • IBM Web Content Manager Rich Media Edition V8.0.0.1
  • IBM Customer Experience Suite Rich Media Edition V8.0.0.1

As with other products, IBM is selling these editions using the Processor Value Unit (PVU) method, so you will pay a license fee based on how many processors on which these editions are installed.

Documentation for these new editions can be found in the Fix Pack Supplements section of the portal wiki.  Finally, you can access quick start guides for both editions here:  Quick Start Guides for Rich Media Edition