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IBM Buys Cloudant Cloud Database

I’ve ranted a couple times about the gaping hole that is database in the cloud.  I say that not because I don’t like Azure’s cloud service in SQL Server or Amazon’s db service.  I say it because on premise solutions that run on a database don’t have an easy way to migrate to the cloud without putting up a machine image to be the database.  That’s a waste of resource and a waste of money. It also makes it harder and more expensive to achieve high availability in the cloud.

IBM Buys Cloudant Cloud DatabaseAnything that helps any software vendor get closer to using their portal or web content tools in the cloud is a good.  So while my take is very niche oriented, I like that IBM bought Cloudant.

Anyway, CRN has an article on the acquisition.

The deal, revealed Monday for an undisclosed sum, will allow IBM and developers to more easily create mobile and web apps, the company said. With the acquisition, IBM expands its commitment to develop the NoSQL framework and CouchDB. Previously, IBM had focused on MongoDB as a standard for next-generation web and mobile applications.


Cloudant’s DBaaS runs on IBM’s recently acquired SoftLayer cloud platform, but also runs on competitors’ platforms, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Rackspace and Microsoft’s Windows Azure. Cloudant had made a name for itself developing a new generation of NoSQL databases that don’t require fixed table schemas, which challenged the dominance of traditional relational databases (including the popular MySQL). They include Cassandra, MongoDB and the Apache Software Foundation’s CouchDB.

Note that it already runs on Softlayer.  The easy to manage infrastructure in Softlayer combined with a soon to be db standard in Cloudant make it easier for products like IBM WebSphere Portal and IBM WCM to hit the cloud in a cost efficient manner.

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Posted in WebSphere Portal

Multifaceted Search using IBM Web Content Manager

Maria Rauba from Asponte presented how she implemented a multifaceted search using IBM Web Content Manager in Portal.  Faceted search is an often requested feature and is not something that comes out of the box in WCM.  Components used:

  • Custom JSPMultifaceted Search Using IBM Web Content Manager
  • Custom Search Seedlist
  • WCM Search component
  • Custom Javascript

The HTML Form contains the custom JSP used to render the checkboxes for the faceted search.  The search component is placed on the HTML form to show the results of the search.  When the search is submitted, custom javascript executes the search against the seedlist.

JSP component was used instead of Taxonomy fields because the taxonomy field is sortable only one way – alphbetical.

Search Component & Search Collection.  They used one search component for each language.  In the search component you can specify the sort order.  Out of the box you can select sort by relevance, date and none.  The search collection was scheduled to run every night, but you can schedule the crawler as often as you want.

Custom Seedlist was necessary to support the many levels in the taxonomy. Out of the box seedlist only looks at the last level for the search and does not include the full taxonomy hierarchy.  Also many times category names are repeated under different taxonomies, so you have to use a unique identifier (UUID) to make sure the search finds the right categories.

Some issues that were faced:

  • Dojo performance for sorting wasn’t as good as it could be, so they reduced the number of items in the list.  In the end, the sort time was unacceptable, so they went back to the default sort provided by WCM instead of using the custom sort.
  • Caching was an issue when the advanced cache was turned on.  They ended up turning cache off for this feature.
  • When there were a lot of check boxes, the ran into url length issues.

As a summary, Maria’s solution was

  • Dynamic
  • Fully multifaceted
  • Used only WCM
  • Provided a custom sort
  • Allowed content authors to manage the content and feed the search appropriately

Overall Maria’s solution was a good way to use out of the box features with some simple customizations.

IBM Connect: Tufts Health Plan -Creating a World Class Experience

Bill Pappalardo and Tim Reilly spoke about the work they’ve done with a portal at Tufts Health Plan.

About Tufts

They are the second largest health care plans in MA with over one million members. They are ranked by NCQA one of the top health plans for the past nine years. As part of this:

  • Provide services for three areas
    • Commercial membership
    • Medicare membership
    • Medicaid membership
  • Partner with Cigna to provide services for multi-state employers
  • Expanded coverage to Rhode Island in 2009
  • Company tag line: “No one does more to keep you happy”


Project Challenges

The member and other sites were on ALUI Portal which was about to be sunset.  They needed to migrate to another platform and soon.  Oracle provided a migration option to the newest option  on WebCenter Portal but that would have required significant code rewrites.  Because of that, Tufts looked elsewhere and eventually chose WebSphere Portal.

The old site didn’t meet the needs of a “world-class” portal.  Tufts wanted:

  • Migrate the portal to a new platform
  • Address the consumerism trend
  • Give a more personalized experience
  • Give real time response to employers with custom plan designs
  • Migrate the public website to the new platform
  • Also provide better collaboration option to Tuft’s own workforce


Original Site

Original Site














New Broker Portal

New Broker Portal












It’s obvious the new broker portal was a more usable portal but highlight several items:

  • Much more useful home page
  • Provided relevant news and updates
  • highlighted the renewal dashboard so brokers could see key information
  • Showed the personalized broker support team front and center
  • Gave easy access to quote and commission

So here are the results:









What Tools Were Used

  1. WebSphere Portal 8.0
  2. IBM Web Content Manager 8.0
  3. IBM Forms 8.0 – Tufts Bill Pappalardo really likes the tool and is excited for continuing use…especially from a self-service point of view
  4. IBM Web Experience Factory 8.0 (development tool)
  5. IBM Connections (but not deployed initially)
  6. Worklight for mobile device support
  7. Sametime – integrated it

Lessons Learned

What went well

  • Stakeholders were included. They had a voice
  • The key decision maker was in the room
  • Resources were dedicated to the project
  • People were focused on the problem and not just the process. ( I love this one)
  • Collaboration culture
  • Team had a sense of ownership
  • Team members felt their opinions mattered
  • People were encouraged to think outside the box
  • IBM and Prolifics invested in the project.   (Yes, Prolifics is nominally a competitor but kudos to them for investment in a client and a successful launch)

Potential Improvement

  • Project moved between waterfall and agile.  Some people could adapt but others found it difficult to accept it.   This did cause some delays.
  • Too much overlap of roles.  This gave significant confusion at the beginning of the project.
  • Scope and timeline could have been better managed

What’s Next

  • Migrate other sites and constituents like Member, Sponsor, Employees, Healthcare professionals
  • Enhance and improve the existing experience
  • New initiatives based on a platform that provides more options.
  • Broaden the use of social capabilities and social infusion


Infusing Social into Digital Experiences

Adding social capabilities to your digital experience site can bring some nice benefits. One benefit that is often overlooked is the multiplier effect of social sharing.  If you can can get people to promote your brand or product, you can reach larger audiences and save advertising costs as well.  A single “Like” on your product page can translate into millions of people seeing that someone they know endorses you.

Infusing Social Into Digital ExperiencesIBM spoke about combining WebSphere Portal and IBM Connections into a Social Digital Experience.  Traditionally, IBM Connections has been seen as an internal social tool that works on the intranet.  But, in fact, Connections can be useful on your external site as well.

  • Support communities are often a way to engage with customers and then direct them to your other sites.
  • Blogs on your external site can attract visitors
  • Innovation or ideation capabilities let people give you input and can cause those people who engage to reach out on other social platforms.  On twitter:  “Hey Perficient is looking for ideas about enhancing X, go to their site and weigh in…”

WebSphere Portal now exposes and seamlessly integrates all IBM Connections features making it easy to infuse social capabilities in your Digital Experience site.  Portal also has the ability to publish content directly to social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and internal Connections.  You see a video of these capabilities

Optimizing Experiences Using IBM TeaLeaf

IBM Tealeaf is a tool that can help you optimize customer experiences with your website.  Here are a couple of examples of where Tealeaf can be used:

  • A customer has an issue with the website and calls your service center for help.  Rather than have the customer relive the poor experience, Tealeaf allows the CSR to see what happened and take corrective action.
  • Customers are not responding to your marketing offers.  They get part-way through the desired interaction, but don’t finish.  Use Tealeaf to see what users are doing on the site and maybe discover an error popping up.

Tealeaf screen shot

With Tealeaf you can passively capture all actions, all interactions, and all customer experience obstacles.  Since Tealeaf is passive, you don’t have to alter your code to start working with it.

Here are some results that Forrester found with Tealeaf:

  • 3.5% increase in conversion rates
  • 1% improvement in customer retention rates
  • 80% reduction in investigative time
  • 249% ROI
  • 7.3 months payback

Tealeaf also includes built-in analytics, including a Struggle Score.  Here you can tweak the analytics to alert you when Tealeaf perceives a customer is struggling.  Using the analytics, you can drill down into the data and find out who succeeded vs failed in attempting an interaction.

You can also set up “known obstacles” so you can track specific problem areas.  Say you have a known issue with a recent update, but its not bad enough to fix it right away.  These known problems can then be separated from “unknown obstacles” so you can identify new, unknown issues.

Oh, and all this works with mobile web clients too. You can track zooms, swipes, pinches and more. If you have mobile apps, you can use a Tealeaf SDK to integrate Tealeaf capabilities into the app itself.

Data entered by the user is stored in a secure way by Tealeaf and sensitive information can be obfuscated for specific roles of people who need to access the user data.

Finally, you can use the analytics provided by Tealeaf to assess the impact to your business.  This can help prioritize issues, or help sell the need to address problems.

Tealeaf really provides a lot of insight into your website that traditional web analytics tools can’t match.

Enhancing IBM Digital Experience with IBM Enterprise Marketing

We’ve blogged a lot about integrating marketing with portal and we’d content sites. IBM has been working hard to provide better integration between their products, including Enterprise Marketing Management and IBM Digital Experience.

IBM demoed three scenarios. The first was a marketer setting up a cross sell site and integrate it with a campaign. On the site they have a landing page and an accounts page. The campaign’s goal is to get marketing offers onto the accounts page. They jumped into the campaign management system and opened the interactive channel. They used a flow charting tool to create segments based on user interactions on the site. Using the flowchart, they define brAnches and the rule to segment users based on their branches

Next they go the strategy page where you deFine the who, what, and where for targets. The who would be a segment. What is the targeted offer and where is the zone on a page where the offer is inserted. Through the strategy screen you can also fine tune scoring of the interactions.

Now, back on the web site, you edit the page and drag an IBM Interact Spot portlet on the page where the offer will go. Next, you set the configuration of the portlet to identify the interaction point that maps to the item in the marKeting system. You also set the number of offers to display. When the settings are saved, the targeted content shows up. They also included impersonation to preview the page as a particular user. This looks really easy.

Scenario two is a customer facing site to integrate applications that will resolve a customer issue. In this case, the user is having an issue with her credit card and sees a late payment fee. She chats with a CSR to get the fee waived. When she returns to the account page, the targeted ofer shows up because the account balance came back up to the target amount.

The final scenario is the internal employee view of all this. Before you can set up campaigns, targeted marketing, etc, you have to understand what customers are doing. Here you might do a sentiment analysis or use Active Sight Analytics on your site to understand behavior. The latter tool can help you see drop off rates and other activity on the page.

This is where you start to identify segments and create targeted content for them. You can use the personalization capabilities to create rules and target spots on the page. If you need more Targeting Rules Screenshotsophisticated campaigns, segmentation or cross channel marketing, the you want to move up to IBM Interact, which is part of the IBM enterprise marketing management suite. By using Interact, you can make sure the same offer is made to other channels besides the web site.

IBM Marketing Center is a cloud based system that creates segments, targeted content and cross channel campaigns. To use marketing Center you need to download the IBM Marketing Center Spot portlet.

What is the difference between Marketing Center and IBM Interact portlets? First, the configuration is different between the two because Interact is on-premise, while Marketing Center is cloud based. Content identified by marketing Center is stored on Marketing Center. Interact doesn’t provide a WCM system, so you create content right in Portal/WCM.

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 have entitlement to WebRadar which is content reporting and analytics
  • Cross Version syndication is supported to ease content migration.  You can syndicate from WCM CF26 or higher to WCM 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 rendering in 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.




IBM WebSphere Portal adds enhanced marketing features

Almost one year ago at IBM Connect 2013, IBM showed some advanced marketing integration with IBM WebSphere Portal.  The demos showed marketers easily customizing portal pages with targeted content based on market segmentation.  Some of the features demo’d last year have slowly crept into the product.

Today, though, IBM announced a much better integration between WebSphere Portal and IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) products.  Through EMM products, marketers can create and manage campaigns, segments, etc.  Now these new EMM Portlets will allow marketers to select a location on a portal page where marketing content will appear and then pick the rules to apply to this content.

IBM Marketing Center Image

Image Source: IBM

The new EMM portlets are available in IBM’s Solutions Catalog here:  Documentation can be found here:

I’m sure that IBM will be showing this new integration off at IBM Connect 2014 in Orlando this month.  If you get a chance to go and see a demo, let me know what you think.  I’ll be there and hope to see it live.

A Digital IBM’er

@ChrisCrummey is IBM social evangelist and he gives a great presentation. He shows us what an IBM’er in in the digital world

A digital IBM’er is smart, social, and secure. He or she has no office, employes next generation employees, and has a more informal voice

Note: IBM CIO says

  • IBM to become the preeminent social enterprise
  • Social will become the new production and IBM’ers will be measure on how much you share
  • Steven Mills refers to social as the collective intelligence
  • The customer experience is tied directly to employee engagement
  • The Wisdom of the crowds can figure it out.  The average of a query for how many jelly beans in a jar came up with a number off by just 4 jelly beans.

By Role

  • Employees: make my job easier. share documents without email.
  • HR: figure out who is important by digital repuation, by sales recognition, who can get a new employee up to speed?
  • Line of business: how to find out what makes aperson successful and how to share
  • Executive: using video blogs, blogs, micro-blogs, as a massive communication channel

Aha moments:

  • I’m as smart as the experts but five minutes later
  • While I was sleeping my network was working for me
  • Tripped on this knowledge nugget. Helped the customer right away and made me look like a god.
  • Note that the value comes from the consumption of the content.  That’s why IBM’s CEO does video blogs and sponsors the knowledge academy.

What are the key key use cases for social?

  1. Expertise locator
  2. Sales Connect
  3. Customer Collaboration

Here’s a video of Chris so you understand who he is.  He’s better in person, make more jokes.

Read the rest of this post »

IBM Content Template Catalog 4.1

IBM has been hard at work updating their Content Template Catalog (CTC) for WebSphere Portal and Web Content Manager.  CTC is a collection of content templates, pages templates, content, site builder and editing tools that greatly improves the usability of IBM’s Web Content Manager.

In the video shown here, IBM demonstrates the new features available in CTC 4.1  Some of the new features described in the video include:

  • Site content has been added so as you create a site, you can fill it with sample content.
  • Site Builder has been enhanced to create a site in the background, so you can go on to do other things while the site is built and populated
  • Events calendar template that includes a real calendar view of events
  • Landing page navigation template that automatically builds a landing page and includes a summary of each sub-landing page in the site
  • Landing feature page template that uses a much more modern looking page to display featured content and landing page content
  • A Contact Us template that you can use to set up a Contact Us form
  • Section Template is a new concept that allows you to build a section of a site instead of having to create a whole new site or create pages individually

These new additions are making the Content Template Catalog a must have for all WebSphere Portal 8 installations.