I had the pleasure of sitting through Vishal Chawla’s session Monday morning at IBM’s Digital Experience conference in Atlanta, where he talked about Lincoln Lab’s process of upgrading Portal and Connections. Vishal is the Senior Manager of Technology Innovation and Integration with Lincoln Lab and was the team lead for their upgrade project. Lincoln was running Portal version 6.1 which was no longer supported, so they had a clear business need to upgrade to a later version of Portal. After visiting multiple IBM portal and digital experience conferences, such as ConnectED, Vishal’s team felt Portal 8.0 would give them the functionality they required.
Vishal had two primary challenges with Portal 6.1, one of which being the lack of a standardized content management process, resulting in a vast amount of desperate and duplicated content across their environments. Second, they needed to shift IT operations to a self-service model. The goal here was to have internal customers of their services make requests via a service catalog or form and submit them to a queue, without involving any IT personnel. Portal 8.0 brought both of these features to the table through IBM’s Web Content Manager (WCM) and Form Experience Builder (FEB). WCM created a standardized content authoring and syndication process, and FEB helped IT quickly develop and publish self service forms for business users to request IT services. Now their lines of business personnel can easily and quickly author, manage, and deploy new content to their sites and applications with little to no assistance from IT. The shift allowed IT and line of business resources to be much more agile and accomplish higher task volumes in a shorter period of time.
Further, Portal 8.0 brought in the ability to expose IBM and non-IBM applications as portlets within their site by leveraging Web App Integrator. WAI allows a site to maintain the same user experience while accessing non-portal applications. In essence, you always have consistent navigation and page layouts inside the portal site, even though the portal is running other applications behind the scenes. This type of marriage between complex backend integration and a consistent front end user interface is what all companies strive to deliver in a digital experience. Lincoln Labs is a great example of how enterprise IT solved the challenge of digital experience in two phases: backend integration, and frontend user experience. When you marry the two tightly and provide an intuitive UI for your customers, user adoption and project success will surely follow, as Lincoln Labs has already seen.
Enterprise IT is significantly farther behind the curve than consumer technology. The user interfaces and information architecture are often clunky and don’t make sense to the user. Fortunately, companies like Salesforce, Adobe, and now IBM are working to change the stigma of enterprise grade technology from a user experience perspective. Through their work with IBM and other service partners, MIT Lincoln Laboratory was able to develop and deliver an intuitive and enjoyable user experience to all of their internal customers. I look forward to seeing where successes such as these take Lincoln Labs, IBM, and enterprise technology in the near future.