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Posts Tagged ‘websphere portal’

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.

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.

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.

Content Targeting in WebSphere Portal 8

Content targeting is a hot topic in marketing circles these days.  Actually content targeting has always been a hot topic, but many content management systems didn’t support it or made it too difficult to implement.  IBM WebSphere Portal has long included the concept of content targeting through its personalization engine.  But, in the past, IBM made it difficult on the business user to actually create and implement targeting

As of version 8, IBM is attempting to make it much easier to target content on your website through the aptly named Content Targeting feature included in WebSphere Portal Version  The new capabilities are covered in IBM’s online documentation as fix pack supplemental documentation.

Basically, content targeting tries to match specific content to a specific visitor of your site.  When visitors log in to the site, content targeting is easier because we know more about the user.  When a user visits your site anonymously, targeting is much more difficult because we don’t know much about the user.

Typical content targeting patterns involve looking at the where the user is located (by geocoding the IP address of the user), by looking at the type of device a user is using, or by looking at where a user came from to get to your site (known as the referrer).  In the new content targeting features of WebSphere Portal, IBM makes it easier to examine the device and referrer.  Lets take a look a the referrer.

Read the rest of this post »

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals 2013

On September 12, 2013 Gartner released their latest Magic Quadrant report for horizontal portals.  Overall, the Magic Quadrant hasn’t changed much from last year with the vendors staying in the same quadrant as they were in 2012 (yawn…).  You can see my blog post from 2012: Gartner Magic Quadrant: Horizontal Portals 2012.Gartner Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals 2013

In the leader quadrant, Liferay has jumped ahead of SAP on the ability to execute scale, but the big three – IBM, Microsoft and Oracle – seem to be the same.

In the visionary quadrant, and Adobe are poised to bust into the leader quadrant, but haven’t been able to make the jump.

Like the other quadrants, there isn’t much movement amongst the other vendors.  Either they are all getting better at the same time or nobody is making significant improvements in Gartner’s eyes.

Customer experience, digital experience, customer engagement, and marketing integration have all been a focus of many of these vendors in the last couple of years.

IBM has been investing heavily in making WebSphere Portal a key component of its customer and digital experience strategy.

Likewise, Adobe and Oracle have been positioning their portal products as the foundation for customer experience suites.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has been focusing SharePoint more and more on the intranet experience.  While they do tout some of SharePoint’s external digital experience capabilities, Microsoft seems intent on excelling in the employee experience.

Salesforce’s push into the portal space seems pretty solid with a combination of and Chatter.  Many people still can’t make the leap from Salesforce being a CRM system to Salesforce being a horizontal portal, but it has lots of capabilities just waiting to be exploited.

I think I’d like to see added to the list more Web Content Management vendors who are offering portal and portal-like capabilities.  Sitecore comes to mind as a strong WCM vendor who could compete with many of these portal solutions.

5 Ways to Personalize Your Site Content

Claire Marshall  recently posted on IBM’s Smarter Conference blog an article titled “5 ways to personalize your site content via IBM Marketing Center“. In the post, she talks about the following ways to personalize your site:

  1. Greeting – if you know the person’s first/last name then display it on the page
  2. Referring Site – if you know where the person came from to get to your site, then display content targeted to users of that site.  She used the example of someone coming from Facebook.  You could display an offer to people that have “liked” your site in Facebook.
  3. Browsed – if the person is a return visitor, display content that is relevant to what they looked at before.
  4. Purchased – if the user has purchased something from your site, display a cross-sell or an accessory to that item.
  5. Offline – import offline data about customers, so when they come to your site, you can personalize something for them.

After reading the post, I was left the question, “Good ideas, but how do I do this?”.  And since this is a Portal blog, I thought, how can I do these 5 suggestions using IBM WebSphere Portal?

So, here are ways you can use WebSphere Portal to implement these five suggestions:

  1. Greeting – in your portal theme, you can easily display a welcome message to your logged in user.  You can use the JSP tag <portal-fmt:user attribute=” value”/> to display any attribute about the user that you store in LDAP (or via Member Manager to be totally correct).  So you can display the user’s name this way: Welcome <portal-fmt:user attribute=”Salutation”/> <portal-fmt:user attribute=”FirstName”/> <portal-fmt:user attribute=”LastName”/>.
  2. Referring Site – the referring site is available to the WebSphere Portal Personalization engine, so you can write rules about the referring site.  The referrer is available through the Profiling rule and you can use the host name or the entire URL.
  3. Browsed – You can capture the fact that a person has been to your site in a variety of ways.  One way is to log an entry in a database when the user logs on – you can use a login filter for this.  Another way is to capture the data being fed to your user analytics systems like Core Metrics or Web Trends.  As an example, you could update an LDAP attribute for the user to indicate they have logged on, or maybe you can add the date of the last login.  These LDAP attributes are available to the personalization engine as part of the user object.  With this data, it becomes a simple task to create a personalization rule that displays content to a returning user.
  4. Purchased – Here you can take a similar approach to the “browsed” suggestion above.  You can also use a custom data source in WebSphere Portal’s Personalization Engine.  With this in mind, you can create a custom datasource out of your “items purchased” table in your sales order system.  Using that datasource, you can now write a Personalization rule that decides what content to show a user based on past purchases.  In addition, WebSphere Portal includes the LikeMinds Recommendation Engine.  You can use that tool in your personalized site to make recommendations based on what purchases the user has made or where they have navigated on your site, and more.
  5. Offline – I think this is a special version of “purchased”.  If you can load data from your offline interactions with customers, then you can make a personalization datasource out of that data just as easily as the sales order data mentioned above.

There you have it.  5 ways to personalize your site in WebSphere Portal taking advantage of all the built-in features that have been available for a long time.  To learn more about all the Personalization capabilities of WebSphere Portal, take a look at the product document for Personalization on the IBM site.

Digital Asset Management in IBM Customer Experience Suite

In May of this year, I blogged about IBM’s then up-coming Digital Asset Management integration with MediaBeacon.  IBM  started shipping that product on June 18, 2013 via electronic distribution and July 12 via CD.  You can see the official announcement letter for details.

Here is a demo of MediaBeacon working directly with IBM Web Content Manager.

As I mentioned, the DAM solution is an integration with MediaBeacon R3volution Enterprise, so you must have access to a MediaBeaon server.  You can install the MediaBeacon server software on your Portal server or on a standalone server.  For development environments, combining Portal and MediaBeacon on the same server is fine. For production environments (authoring included), you will want a separate server for MediaBeacon.  MediaBeacon software and documentation are included in the IBM software you can download (see below).

According to IBM’s best practices documentation, when using MediaBeacon and IBM Web Content Manager, you have three options for accessing and storing your digital media:

  • Always store the asset in MediaBeacon.  With this storage option, you can directly manage and update the asset, regardless of whether the content item is in draft state or is published. However, you must also ensure that the authoring, delivery, and web servers in the environment can access the MediaBeacon server to render the asset.
  • Copy the asset into a web content library when the content item is created.  With this option, you can syndicate the asset along with the content item, which can be useful in distributed authoring environments. But if you must modify the asset before you publish the content item, you must repeat the process of adding the updated asset from MediaBeacon.
  • Preview the asset from MediaBeacon and then copy the asset into Web Content Manager when you publish the content item.  With this option, the asset remains in MediaBeacon while the content is in draft state. When the content is published in a workflow that contains the Promote Digital Assets workflow action, the asset is copied to a web content library and rendered normally.

The preferred storage option is to preview the asset from MediaBeacon and then copy the asset into Web Content Manager when you publish the content item. This approach has several benefits:

  • Because the asset is stored in MediaBeacon while the content item is in draft state, any changes to the asset are immediately visible in the draft content.
  • When the content is approved and published, a workflow stage copies the asset into a web content library. As part of the library, the asset can be versioned, syndicated to delivery servers, and rendered through Web Content Manager. Storing the asset in a web content library also ensures that changes to the asset in MediaBeacon are not automatically passed through to the published content.
  • When the published asset is stored in a library, unauthenticated users can view the asset without the need for configured access to the MediaBeacon server.

IBM has included Digital Asset Management into two new editions of the following products:

  • IBM Web Content Manager Rich Media Edition V8.0.0.1
  • IBM Customer Experience Suite Rich Media Edition V8.0.0.1

As with other products, IBM is selling these editions using the Processor Value Unit (PVU) method, so you will pay a license fee based on how many processors on which these editions are installed.

Documentation for these new editions can be found in the Fix Pack Supplements section of the portal wiki.  Finally, you can access quick start guides for both editions here:  Quick Start Guides for Rich Media Edition