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12 Things You Can Do to Get Your Portal to Production Quickly: Part 5 – Use the Capabilities Portal Provides Out of the Box

Welcome to day number 5 in our series.  Sometimes out of the box portal capabilities are not perfect.  Perhaps some of them don’t even meet 90% of your requirements.  Does this mean you should develop a custom home grown solution?  Well, not unless you want to spend a lot more money and take a lot longer to get to production not only with your first release but with all your future releases.  Speaking for WebSphere Portal, there are many great capabilities available out of the box.   These include major components such as IBM Web Content Management, Personalization, the Web Application Integrator, Tagging and Rating, and the list goes on.  One of the biggest mistakes that can be made on a portal project is to simply gather business requirements and do whatever it takes to implement them perfectly.  I have seen first hand where customers have done this and spent many months of effort with huge development teams only to have nothing to show for it in production.  Worse yet, these custom solutions tend to introduce major performance issues since the decision to write a custom solution was likely made by someone (or a team) who do not understand how best to leverage portal technology.

Portal provides so many powerful capabilities out of the box, adapting requirements to meet the capabilities of WebSphere Portal can not only cut out a lot of development time now but save you huge headaches in the future.  While a solution may not be perfect now, IBM listens to customers and puts an incredible amount of money in research and development which means capabilities improve drastically from release to release.

Here are a 3 of my favorite must use capabilities of WebSphere Portal out of the box:

  • Personalization – The portal personalization engine is one of the most under utilized, yet most powerful portal capabilities.  See this previous article I wrote (The Power of WebSphere Portal Personalization) for more detail on how to leverage personalization.  Visibility rules are one of the most important personalization capabilities overlooked.  They allow you to selectively show or hide any portlet or page based on information in any Java accessible repository such as a database, web service, LDAP, etc.
  • IBM Web Content Management.  Writing a custom content integration solution is time consuming and often does not perform well.  Additionally integrating personalization and security become problematic with custom solutions.  Many of our customers have developed world class solutions using IBM WCM and it is a capability you must consider.
  • Page Parameters – Arbitrary name/value pairs can be assigned to any page through portal administration.  This is a capability I often use to implement various theme customizations.  An example is a theme navigation loop could examine a page parameter called “launchNewWindow” and if a page has a value of “true” you could generate the link in a manner that launches a new window.

If you are looking for a really good example of why you shouldn’t avoid portal’s out of the box capabilities, check out Building My Own MVC which is part 12 in the previous series Mike and I wrote, 12 things not to do on a portal project.

Check back in tomorrow for part 6.

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Glenn Kline

Area Vice President, Custom Development and Mobile Solutions

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