Last week Forrester published their first Wave on Digital Experience Platforms. I was at the IBM Digital Experience Conference and it sounded like IBM was expecting good news from Forrester in this wave. In fact, Stephen Powers from Forrester was the Keynote speaker at the conference and one of the principal authors of the Wave.
Much to every one’s surprise, the Wave came out with nobody listed as a Leader. Adobe, hybris (SAP), IBM and Sitecore came out as the Strong Performers followed by many others in the Contender category. Nobody was listed as a Risky Bet.
So what gives? Really no Leaders? Dom Nicastro wrote a story last week about this development: Forrester Wave: No Leaders in Digital Experience Delivery.
Forrester considers a Digital Experience Platform a full end-to-end delivery platform and most vendors fell short in the completeness of their offerings. Each vendor seemed to shine in one or more areas, but nobody stood out as having all the components needed to be a Digital Experience Leader.
For me, part of the issue stems from how Forrester defined the market. hybris from SAP is strong in Commerce, while Adobe and Sitecore are more known for their Web Content and Marketing capabilities. So the companies included in the wave are really all over the map, in my opinion.
Is it fair to compare commerce systems with WCM systems? Yes and no. If you need commerce in your digital experience, then you want to know who has commerce capabilities. If commerce isn’t important, then no and the analysis gets skewed.
There is a lot of interesting information in the Forrester report, so I encourage you to read it yourself.
I don’t know how I missed it but Harish Bhavinachikar has a nice post on what you can do with modern UI tools in WebSphere Portal. It’s on our Spark Blog but addresses something that keeps coming up again and again. Frankly, the front-end tools have changed considerably in the last couple years. Modern UI tools / frameworks like AngularJS, Bootstrap, JQuery, and a host of others make it easier to manage the UI and to further enforce separation of the front-end from the back-end. While a horizontal portal like IBM’s WebSphere Portal does some of that, it wont’ take you all that way. But as Harish explains, all is not lost. You can still leverage those frameworks and best practices within the portal. I’ll let you read the entire post but here’s his list of Myths. Note how he is also telling you some best practices here.
Myth – Websphere portal is not compatible with latest front end frameworks like bootstrap, foundation, jQuery Mobile, etc.
Myth – Websphere portal is not compatible with jQuery and associated plugins.
Myth – To make a change in the css file, this should be done in the portal theme, deployed to QA, tested and then served to production.
Best Practices a Front End Developer needs to follow while working with portal theme.
I’ve blogged about this before with Candace’s Part 1 and Part 2. She just published Part 3 in the series. Here she focuses on what to do once you’ve extracted and transformed the content. In other words, getting that web content into the target system. In this case it’s Sitecore, a popular .NET based WCM. I think it’s great Candace took the time to walk through a step by step approach to this. Go to her post for the full set of steps and details.
Once data is extracted and transformed, the clean data is sitting in database tables ready to be uploaded into Sitecore. Sitecore has an Item Web API available for uploading data, but it is limited to basic retrieval, creation, and update operations. How was I going to tie related records together? How could I perform basic if/else operations that were necessary? It was obvious almost immediately that the Item Web API would not be adequate.
Because I had so much system specific processing to do, I decided to write my own upload process, using the Sitecore API. If this were an ongoing process, it would have been necessary to build a more automated, flexible way to upload this data, but because it was a once and done operation, and time was short, the solution outlined below was sufficient. I wrote a rather ugly web page that allowed me to click through the upload process quite quickly:
You can also see some of what Candace describes at a much higher level on Youtube
Brendan Callum, a director and whiz extraordinaire in our Salesforce practice, has a video out about what they did with Google Search and Salesforce. The video doesn’t go into a lot of detail but I find it extremely interesting that an appliance (older trend) searches the cloud (ongoing trend) in a secure fashion. Of course, why do you need detail when someone developed a connector for it and all you have to do it buy, install, and go.
Hilton announced on their web site that they plan to change the game when it comes to the guest experience at their hotels. While the press release doesn’t state the investment, the Wall Street Journal quotes it at $550 million. But what’s really cool is that the smart phone will become:
At first glance you may wonder why it costs $550M but if you think about it, Hilton had to do quite a bit to make this work. First they had to enable a map. That probably comes from a back end system or two or three or four……… Of course, you have to then do the integration and put a nice wrapper on it because I guarantee that it doesn’t look good to start. When you add in new amenities and want to build an infrastructure that’s more ecommerce like, then you make even more work for yourself. Using NFC or some other standard also ensures a change in every single hotel room lock. That will probably drive the majority of the cost.
But think about what they get out of this investment. First, they get the cache of being first with a key enabling technology. Second, if they architected this right, they setup their application to do everything. If you can get a special amenity ordered up then how hard should it be to order room service? How about adding in concierge requests for tickets to that special event or restaurant? Of course there’s the chance to treat all the elite guests in a special way. They walk through the door and notify them you opened up a set of rooms they can choose for an upgrade. Tell them they just earned faster internet or that they should stop by the mini-store for a treat. The skies the limit as far as what you can do now that the Hilton App became a must use application.
I’m excited about the possibilities here.
@lizasisler pointed me to an interesting article on CIO.com about the need for digital transformation and how you get there. The answer is of course that you need to break down silos and enterprise collaboration tools will help……. along with cultural change and executive support. See my deeper color commentary over at Perficient’s Microsoft Blog.
IBM’s 2014 Digital Experience Conference started Wednesday off with a great session by Mac Guidera, Social Workforce Strategist from IBM, titled “Why Social Needs to be Part of Your Portal.” The session was very insightful blending a mix of statistics, trends, best practices and insightful thoughts.
Patterns represent modernized processes with dynamic, repeatable and measurable “people interactions” created by building social into work and life. These patterns are repeatable way to interact an engage, share innovative ideas, finding out who knows what and find information. Key patterns include:
Each of these patterns has value propositions and ROI, for example Customer Service maps to customer satisfaction, increased revenue and efficiency. Marketing can map to awareness, marketing effectiveness and trust. Read the rest of this post »
You may not have heard of the Liberty Profile, unless you are interested in running WebSphere Application Server in a cloud environment like BlueMix. Saurabh Agarwal and Jaspreet Singh presented this session at the IBM Digital Experience Conference.
What is this Liberty Profile? Liberty is a lightweight WebSphere Application Server that is already embedded in IBM Bluemix which runs on Softlayer. By lightweight, I mean that the install of the server is fast, startup is fast, and it is optimized for cloud. Liberty is really targeted at developers and improving the experience for developers. Rather than install the big WebSphere Application Server on every developer machine, which requires more memory, more CPU and more disk space, a developer can spin up a Liberty Profile locally or on Bluemix very, very quickly. IBM estimated that developers waste 5 hours per week managing the large WAS installation on their local machines.
Why talk about Liberty at the Digital Experience Conference? When developing portlets for the Digital Experience, a developer will typically install a full WebSphere Application Server and Portal Server on their local machines. That is more disk, more memory, and more configurations to manage. If all a developer needs to do is test portlets prior to deploying to a test server, this is a lot of wasted resources and time.
Liberty helps in this area because it comes with a Portlet Container. A Portlet Container is simply an environment that enables running JSR portlets. The Liberty Profile enables you to run JSR portlets that you will eventually put into WebSphere Portal, so it has the base libraries needed to run these portlets. As you develop a portlet you can deploy it to Liberty for unit testing and skip all the configuration and installation efforts.
In addition to the Portlet Container, Liberty also has a WSRP Producer that you can use. A WSRP Producer allows a remote portal server to access and display your portlet running on Liberty. Imagine that you are developing a portlet, testing it on Liberty and want to see what it looks like in the full portal interface. If you have a portal running on a test server, for example, you can use that server’s portlet consumer (WSRP Consumer) to show your portlet in context. You don’t have to deploy the portlet to the test server, so it saves you some time there.
IBM also has Portlet Container Tools for the Liberty Profile. These tools provide:
All these addons to Liberty for portlet development are free to developers. You will pay a fee to use Bluemix, but you will save time and money by using Liberty in your development environment. The cost of using Libery on Bluemix is extremely affordable.
Web Experience Factory ships with a Liberty instance so you can test portlets you create in WEF on your local machine without having a full WebSphere Portal installed.
When would you choose Liberty and the Portlet Container tools versus using Rational Application Developer and a full installation of WebSphere Portal? Here are some considerations:
If you do use Liberty for your development, you easily migrate those projects into RAD when needed.
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.
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:
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.
Tony Higham and Paul Kelsey spoke about deploying IBM Digital Experience on both an on-premise and public cloud. There are 5 properties of the cloud generally recognized in the market. IBM is fully supporting each of theses properties:
IBM is going after the cloud using the following concepts because the cloud presents real business value:
Digital Experience on the cloud creates the entire infrastructure so you don’t have to separately install and configure each type of software you need in the application.
Here is how IBM Digital Experience works on the cloud. It really is the IBM PureApplication story. IBM has built PureApp to provision application patterns quickly and efficiently. You may have heard about the WebSphere Portal Pattern on PureApp. In the recent past PureApp was an on-premise box. Now IBM has implemented PureApp Services on their SoftLayer cloud. As a result, you can use the Digital Experience Pattern right on the SoftLayer cloud and have an instant cloud-based system.
In a non Pure App infrastructure, it typically takes several engineers and two weeks to install a WebSphere Portal cluster with a database and security in a production environment. What is the impact of PureApp on the portal? This same environment can be installed in 45 minutes either on premise or in the cloud. Paul demonstrated creating a clustered environment on PureApp. Everything needed for a production environment is setup, configured and tuned.
With the new PureApplication Service on SoftLayer, you can run your entire WebSphere Portal cluster and take advantage of all the PureApplication capabilities on-prem. PureApp on Softlayer is a pay as you go service in increments of three months. You can also incrementally add cpus and memory to nodes you have installed on SoftLayer.
Another interesting feature is the ability to move your Portal environment from on-prem to SoftLayer or from SoftLayer to on-prem depending on your needs.