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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.

 

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.

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Myths and Facts About WebSphere Portal UI on our Spark Blog

I missed the following post on Perficient’s Spark Blog, but it is a good read for anybody connected to WebSphere Portal.  Older versions of portal had a reputation of not working with the latest advances in user interface tools and techniques, such as responsive design, jQuery, etc.  Starting with v7 and really taking off in v8, IBM has enabled WebSphere Portal to work with all the latest UI advancements.

In this post - Myths and Facts- WebSphere Portal and UI - Harish Bhavanichikar identifies four myths and provides the facts about developing the WebSphere Portal UI.  Harish is a front end developer at Perficient, so he has hands on experience with creating responsive themes and integrating Javascript frameworks with Portal.

Finally, Harish provides four best practices that a front end developer needs to follow when working on the portal UI.  These best practices are definitely worth the time to learn.

If you are interested in more innovative and user interface discussions, take a look at our Perficient Spark blog.

 

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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IBM Digital Experience v8.5 – What’s Been Removed or Deprecated

Last week IBM announced v8.5 for their Digital Experience system.  This has been known in the past as WebSphere Portal, but with all the additions to the platform over the years, its become much more than just a portal.  My colleague Brendon Jones listed a few of the new features included in v8.5.  Its often interesting to see what has been removed from the platform, so lets take a look at what IBM has removed or deprecated in this version:

Unsupported Features and Theme Changes:deprecated

  • Web Clipper Portlet is no longer supported.  IBM suggests using the Virtual Web Application Manager portlet instead.
  • Non-modular themes are not supported.  Non modular themes include: Portal, PortalWeb2, and Tab Menu – Page Builder, or any theme prior to v7. Interestingly, IBM says these themes will be migrated to v8.5, but they won’t work.
  • Composite Applications are not supported.  If you have a composite application and try the migration to 8.5, the migration will fail.
  • ODC Editor must be uninstalled as it is no longer supported. This editor is the old Rich Text Editor in WCM and has been replaced by the Ephox editor.
  • CAI/TAI Portlets are no longer available.  These portlets were used with Virtual Portals and references to them in your theme must be removed before migrating to v8.5.
  • Dynamic Person Tag Portlet has been removed and references to it in your theme must be removed before migrating to v8.5.

Deprecated Features:

  • Shared Pages
  • Enabler Component
  • Full and Base Installation options – by default a full install is performed by installation manager
  • Likeminds and Feedback database domains
  • Standalone user registry – only a federated registry is supported
  • Parallel Portlet Rendering – I wonder how this will affect performance.
  • Active Credentials in the credential vault – only Passive Credentials remain
  • LPTA Version 1 Token – you must use LPTA Version 2.  If you connect with another application via LPTA, make sure the other application is using LTPA v2 as well.
  • Tagging and Rating dialog and inline widgets have been replaced by new widgets
  • URL Mappings can still be used in 8.5 if you upgrade from 8.0, but you can’t create new mappings. Use the new Vanity URL feature instead.
  • Remote Rendering Portlet for WCM content.  Use the WCM JSR286 portlet.
  • Web2Bookmarks Portlet is not installed by default, but can be downloaded from the IBM Solutions Catalog.
  • WebSphere Page Builder 7.x Theme
  • WebSphere Integrator Portlet for SAP is gone. IBM recommends using the Web Application Bridge feature instead.

Additional information on these changes can be found in the IBM Knowledge Center.