Perficient Digital Transformation Blog

Archives

Posts Tagged ‘websphere portal’

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.
Read the rest of this post »

How to Implement Lighter Weight Portals, Part 2: Portlets

In part 1 of this series, How to Implement Lighter Weight Portals, I wrote about the infrastructure and installation aspects of Portals. To make the tasks of managing and installing portals, I recommended cloud solutions and for IBM, their PureApplication system both in the cloud and on-premise.

In Part 2, I turn my attention to applications and how to make task of developing portal applications more lightweight.

The goal of a portal is to combine applications and content at the glass for a user.  By this definition alone, we should always think of how to make lightweight portlets.  If you have a larger application to build, break it down into core components that can be built into separate portlets, rather than one large portlet.

Even if you can get to smaller, bite-sized applications or portlets, you are still faced with the underlying framework imposing additional layers on your efforts.  We’ll focus on Java-based portals to make the discussion simple and I’ll use IBM WebSphere Portal as an example.  Say we want to simply display a feed from Reuters as shown in our first picture here.

Reuters News Service

Reuters News Service


Reuters provides the javascript, so all we need to do is put it into a portlet for display on our page.

To create a portlet for use in IBM WebSphere Portal, a developer is going to use IBM Rational Application Developer (already a heavy-weight tool), create a new project using a wizard, fill in some details about the portlet, like name, Java version, etc.  and then hit go.  RAD will do a nice job of building the portlet shell with all the right components set up.  These components include xml files, TLD files, libraries or references, file folders and start JSP files.  Already, we have a lot of code to manage.

Once I put in my custom code, I then have to build the project, create a .war file, and then deploy it to WebSphere Portal. After its deployed, I can create a portal page, and my new portlet and I’m all set.  In most IT shops, build and deploy to production can take weeks or months just because IT has to control the changes to production very tightly.

If I’m a business guy who just wants a very simple portlet, this makes portal look heavyweight to me, but its likely the process than the technology.

So how to fix this?

Read the rest of this post »

Consumer Engagement at Florida Blue with IBM Digital Experience

Glenn Kline of Perficient and Phani Kanakala from Florida Blue presented a case study of how Florida Blue, Florida’s largest healthcare payer, uses IBM Digital Experience to engage consumers.  Florida Blue’s mission is “To improve the health and well-being of Floridians and their communities”.  This really is a good reason to engage customers.

Florida Blue has been using IBM Digital Experience platforms since 2008.  Every year Florida Blue added new features and new sites to their customer experiences.  The IBM platform allowed the business people to manage content on the portal.  logo-header

Back in 2010, Florida Blue started to implement metrics and marketing concepts into their site to provide a more personalized shopping experience with guided selling.  They extended this to provide cost metrics regarding hospitals and doctors, so members could evaluate the potential cost of a provider against five others in their plan.

In the mobile space, Florida Blue was an early adopter of mobile sites and applications for their members.  After implement mobile capabilities with Digital Experience, they saw an immediate boost in customer transactions and shopping.  Today all sites at Florida Blue are accessible via mobile devices.  They have recently added videos, agent tools and more healthcare content for mobile users.

Today, they show 20-25% increase in traffic every year, but have to deal with ever changing consumer and regulatory changes.  Because of healthcare reform, they now have new customers for whom to provide an experience.  These are younger consumers who are demanding different engagement models, different payment services and new products.

IBM solutions that Florida Blue uses include the following:

  • Websphere Portal
  • IBM Web Content Manager
  • IBM Tealeaf
  • IBM iLog
  • DataPower
  • WebSphere Application Server

Glenn talked about why Web Content Management is so important to Florida Blue.  WCM helps them react quickly to consumer needs by letting business users manage the site content. One WCM system feeds multiple Florida Blue portals to provide consistency of content across their various properties.

On top of WCM, Florida Blue has implemented a lot of Personalization capabilities using IBM Digital Experience.  They used visibility rules to deliver reform capabilities tailored to each individual consumer.  Allowing the business to change the rules lets them react quickly to marketplace demands.  They load contract materials in WCM and then use personalization rules to select correct documents based on the individual user.

 

 

 

 

 

Integrating IBM Digital Experience and Microsoft SharePoint

Jason Cornell spoke at the IBM Digital Experience Conference about how well IBM Digital Experience software integrates with SharePoint. When IBM talks about integration with SharePoint, its usually how to display SharePoint content or apps within WebSphere Portal.

There are a bunch of ways that IBM has enabled out-of-the-box integration with SharePoint:

  • IBM has Web Application Bridge to pull in SharePoint sites, libraries, lists, wikis, blogs, announcements and so on.  The Bridge displays content from SharePoint as-is or you can intercept the HTML produced by SharePoint and do some manipulation on it.
  • Another technique is to use RSS Feed portlets to display SharePoint RSS Feeds.
  • IBM has Exchange portlets that allow you to bring in mail and calendaring into Portal.
  • When you have SharePoint Web, REST services or SQL services, IBM can use its new Digital Data Connector to grab feeds from those services and allow you to manage the display of the data in Digital Experience.
  • When you use SharePoint for document management, you can use CMIS capabilities to provide access to those documents from your WebSphere Portal. IBM provides a sample portlet on the Digital Experience wiki that access a SharePoint library, displays content and allows writing content to SharePoint.
  • Sometimes you want to migrate content from SharePoint. For this you can use the IBM’s Web Content Integrator to feed that SharePoint content directly into IBM Web Content Manager.  In this case, the content will live inside IBM WCM.
  • IBM’s Search technology will provide search services against SharePoint sites.  Search results can be combined with content from other sites to have a unified search experience.

Jason demonstrated all these techniques in IBM Digital Experience software.  Some of the pre-built applications are available on IBM’s Solution Catalog and some are available on the Digital Experience wiki site. All of these pre-built integrations are free to use, though you will have to configure most them appropriately to connect to the SharePoint system.

IBM Digital Experience Conf: Developing Portlets Using JQuery

jQuery is one of the most pervasive scripting libraries in use today. The session “Developing Portlets Using Javascript and JQuery for Engaging Digital Experiences” by Stephan Hesmer, Web 2.0 Architect, IBM and  Jaspreet Singh, Rational Tools Architect, IBM provided good insight as to how to leverage jQuery in IBM WebSphere Portal.

First, a couple of key statistics to indicate why this is important and cannot be ignored:

  • 57.5% of websites use jQuery.
  • jQuery has a 93% marketshare.

WebSphere Portal still includes Dojo but it isn’t required for view mode.  It is required in edit mode however, especially for in place editing.    One key change in portal 8.5 however is when edit mode, the edit panel is now isolated from pages so it will not conflict with the page. Read the rest of this post »

IBM Digital Experience Conf: IBM Web Content Manager Patterns

Eric Morentin and Nick Baldwin spoke about WCM Patterns that should be used in content management development in IBM Digital Experience.  Patterns of course are a “canned” way or even best practice for implementing solutions.  There are four themes of patterns they talked about:

  1. Better content / component model
    • There are different types of content and Content Manager build a content page by pulling various types of content.  Types can include things like slide shows, lists, blocks, highlights, teasers, etc.
    • A good first pattern is the List Content Component. Use a WCM Component to build the list.  The end user only has to select what list to display and perhaps customize the query to define the list.  Within content manager, lists are composed of Navigators and Presentations.  The navigator component is the query tool to select items for the list and the presentation component is how you display the results.
    • In general, then a good content/component model will let you create special purpose components  and then combine them into business level tools that the content authors can easily incorporate onto a page. Special purpose components such as lists, blocks, carousel are higher-level components than what come out of the box with WCM, but are built-up using those out of the box components.
    • A slideshow content component would consist of the same List Content Component pattern, but adds a Javascript plugin component to control the display of the slide show.
  2. More reuse
    • Build a library of standard components that can be reused.  In IBM’s Content Template Catalog, they have many reusable components built on component elements like field design, fragments, inline editing controls, etc.
    • You could have reusable component headers, designs and footers that get referenced by the higher-level components like the Slideshow mentioned above.
    • As an example, in the header, you could have common tools like the inline edit code.  This same header can then be used on all your components so you can manage or change the inline edit code in one place.
    • There are also good patterns and tools available like SASS – Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets to help you with creating reusable CSS.
  3. Better site model
    • Sites connect pages and content.  Pages provide the navigation model in portal.
    • The Page Content Structure pattern shows how you structure a site.  The content site contains just content.  There is a content item created for each “component”.  Teasers live in their site.  All these sites can roll into a common site based on the page.
    • This results in a lot of site areas.
  4. Split content, design, navigation, configuration and code or separation of concerns.
    • The component model pattern helps with this concept.
    • You should split design libraries from content libraries.
    • They suggest a Design library, a Content Library and a Process Library.  The process library and design libraries can be referenced from the various sites.

Other best practices/patterns:

  • Workflows can also benefit from good patterns.  One pattern is to use custom workflow actions to perform dynamic tasks such as picking the appropriate approvers based on an author’s business unit.
  • For Access Control, don’t explicitly define all access rights; instead use inheritance whenever possible. In 8.5, reviewer and draft creator (replacing Approver) can be inherited. Explicit access control also impacts performance.
  • Don’t have content items with 40+ fields.  Look for the ability to use custom fields to merge

Common Pitfalls

  • In place edits in non-projects – consider using a plugin to hide in line editing if no project is selected.
  • Multi Language – enable this upfront rather than wait.  Even with just two languages, use the MLS plug-in

Eric and Nick used the IBM Content Template Catalog as examples of patterns that you can implement.  They made the point over and over again that CTC is set of examples, so there are probably more components in there than you may actually every need.  You should take the ideas in CTC and make your own components based on the patterns. You should not really expect to install and use CTC right out of the box.

 

IBM Digital Experience Conf 2014: Stephen Power’s View

Forrester’s Stephen Power spoke about transforming digital strategy. Stephen is Vice President at Forrester and covers the Digital Experience market.  He started by talking about the age of the customer and how we got to this point (customer centricity per Gary Dolsen).  Preceding the age of the customer was Age of Manufacturing, Age of Distribution and the Age of iInformation.  Starting in 2010, he suggests that the Age of Customer started.

IBM Digital Experience Conf 2014: Stephen Power's ViewComplexity is increasing in the Age of the Customer because of the multi-channel requirements increasing and shifting rapidly.

Business Technology is the term he uses instead of Information Technology because the focus is on business results rather than just information.  He predicts that budgets for business technology will surpass information technology in 2016.

With this shift to BT, digital experiences must adapt.  Here are three points he talked about with regards to digital experience transformation:

  1. Focus on the customer lifecycle, not just customer acquisition.  Switching costs for customers are lower in the digital world so they are more willing to move if they are not taken care of during their lifecycle with you. Ree
  2. Reexamine the technologies and investments for the new digital experiences.  You may end up with overlapping technologies and have to rationalize which ones to keep and which to retire.
  3. Don’t just manage your data – leverage it. Use demographics, historical and situational data to contextualize your experience. Predictive analytics is a key future capability.

Transforming your digital strategy is not about perfection, its about progression.  As you build out new strategies, keep in mind the need to be flexible because the Age of Customer is just beginning.  There will be a lot of changes as the market responds, adapts and changes to customers.

 

IBM Digital Experience 2014: Opening Session with Doug Geiger

Doug Geiger is IBM’s VP for Development for Digital Experience.  He talks about the new features available in IBM Digital Experience 8.5:

  • New Authoring toolbar to make content creation easier
  • BrightCove integration to publish steaming video to the BrightCove distribution network
  • Multi-channel delivery with IBM Worklight – everything is multi-channel out of the box
  • Portlet development now is easier by allowing non-java developers to create rich portlets using:
    • Digital Data Connector – allowing data feeds to be displayed in HTML and  Javascript using Web Content Managemnet
    • Script Portlets are available through Web Content Management too
    • There is a Digital Experience Developer site for downloads, samples, etc at developer.ibm.com/digexp
  • Flexible options for deployment on cloud – IBM PureApplication System is available for on premise clouds and IBM PureApplication Service is available on IBM Softlayer for public clouds. You can also move your application from Softlayer to on-premise or the other way around.

Doug also talked about how IBM is moving to a continuous delivery model for Digital Experience.  They are planning to distribute updates and new features in individual components.  Doug said that v8.5 might be the last full upgrade you have to do.  I doubt that will be the case, but the idea drew applause from the attendees.

IBM is offering a Customer Upgrade Accelerator using a private cloud on Softlayer to help customers move to v8.5 as quickly as possible.

 

IBM Digital Experience Conference 2014: Opening with Gary Dolsen

IBM’s Digital Experience Conference got underway today in Anaheim.  For those that have followed IBM WebSphere Portal in the past, Digital Experience is a really set of individual point products that include WebSphere Portal, Web Content Manager, Forms, etc.

If you have really, really followed IBM’s portal you will probably know Larry Bowden as the long-time leader and builder of the IBM WebSphere Portal brand.  Larry has recently retired from IBM and Gary Dolsen has taken over the reigns for Digital Experience.  Gary has also been a long-time leader at IBM, so the transition from Larry to Gary should be seamless.

Gary started off by talking about “Reach” and “Engage” as two themes for where we are now with digital experiences.  You have to reach out to your consumers, employees and partners.  Once you reach those people, you have to engage with them through multiple channels and rich experiences.

He continued by talking imperatives over the next three years: Customer Centricity and Flexibility.  For Customer Centricity we need to understand customers and make them the center of your decision making.  People make emotional decisions, so our digital experiences have to evoke emotions.  Mobile is now a key component of centricity because 90% of consumers are using mulitple mobile devices.

For Flexibility, Gary mentioned that the half life of the Fortune 500 list is now 12 years.  So in 12 years, 50% of the Fortune 500 will no longer be on that list.  You can only imagine the flexibility required to stay on target in the fast paced environment.

 

Are you going to IBM’s Digital Experience Conference?

Next week (July 21, 2014), IBM’s yearly Digital Experience Conference will be in full swing.  In the past this conference has been called “Exceptional Web Experience” and “Portal” conference and the new name reflects not only the market changes taking place, but also IBM’s approach to the market.  The market is no longer a “Portal” market or even just a “Web” market.

experienceI think that “Digital” explains that we are focused on more than just the web.  We have to be just as concerned with other channels, such as mobile, kiosk, TV, game console, etc).  And “Experience” broadens the scope to include customer experience, employee experience, patient experience, member experience, and so on.  So Digital Experience is a good name for this conference.

The focus of the conference naturally is on IBM’s Digital Experience products like Customer Experience Suite, Employee Experience Suite, WebSphere Portal, WebSphere Content Manager and some Connections.  We expect to hear about all the new features and capabilities in the latest versions of these products.  Equally important, we will hear from IBM customers about their experience implementing and using these systems in real world scenarios.

Read the rest of this post »