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Mark Polly

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Forrester Digital Experience Wave

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.  Forrester 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.

IBM Portlets Running on Liberty Profile on IBM Bluemix

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.

IBM Bluemix image

IBM Bluemix

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:

  • the ability to use a wizard to create portlet projects in the Eclipse IDE.  Here you don’t need to use RAD to create portlets that you will test on Liberty
  • a WSYWIG Editor for configuring the portlet (editing portlet.xml) and a JSR 286 event manager
  • configuration of the liberty profile server
  • publish, test and debug your portlet within Eclipse

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:

  • Liberty
    • Easy and no charge for the tools or license
    • Light weight
    • Portal customers using WSRP
    • Want to test portlets in Bluemix
  • Rational Application Developer
    • Target full WebSphere Portal installations that may have specific security or database configurations
    • Need Portal specific features such as Credential Vault, Business Process and Personalization
    • Need advanced features like JSF, Dojo & jQuery
    • Multi-channel portlet development

If you do use Liberty for your development, you easily migrate those projects into RAD when needed.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

IBM Digital Experience in the Cloud: New Options and Capabilities

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:

  • On-demand & Self Service – its there when you need it
  • Broad Network Access – a global network with fast access from any device
  • Resource Pooling – customers share computing resources at some level.  IBM is not really embracing shared hardware.  They are really into private instances on bare metal.
  • Rapid Elasticity – you get what you needXDXCloud1
  • Measured Service – pay for what you get

IBM is going after the cloud using the following concepts because the cloud presents real business value:

  • Months to Minutes
  • Heroics to the Easy Button
  • Automate Everything

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.

 

 

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: Marketing Integration

Rob Enright, a Digital Experience Strategist with IBM spoke about integrating Marketing Management with IBM Digital Experiences.  Customer expectations are soaring, yet it takes time to build your digital experience to keep up or even get ahead of those expectations.

Here are several themes IBM is focusing on:

  • “Insight to Action” with a few clicks – this will require more and more automation of the
  • Manage omni-channel campaigns that are coordinated across the channel.  This requires orchestration across departments and systems.
  • Self learning digital recommendations will require complex software that can take in basic input and learn new rules as they become apparent.

Rob talked about how technology can help these areas.  Interactive optimization is like having a good conversation.  The result is the customer having a feeling that you are talking directly with them.  Marketers need to listen and understand, then decide what to say next.  After that the marketer can then respond in the conversation.  

Within IBM Digital Experience we can combine content personalization with marketing messages.  Content is managed and personalized by WCM, while marketing messages may come from other places.

IBM Interact connects to IBM Digital experience using IBM Interact Spot portlets.  These portlets display content identified by the Interact campaign system.  Interact ties in to Digital Experience through offer codes set up on IBM Interact and then entered into Digital Experience.

IBM also has a Marketing Center Spot portlet that will integrate IBM Marketing Center in with Digital Experience.  Messages injected my Marketing center are not Web Content managed by IBM WCM.  Rather, the messages are managed in Marketing Center and injected at runtime.

Marketing integration has been a hot topic and IBM is doing a good job of making sure it’s marketing products are integrating with Digital Experience.

 

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.