Web Content Collaboration: Extending WCM Realms?

FatWire recently announced the release of two new products -Gadget Server and Community Server. These social computing products are tied directly to FatWire’s Content Server (CS), a Web Experience Management (WEM) platform.

Real Story Group Analyst Apoorv wrote a nice post with some great takeaways.

Yes, there are not enough gadgets for content contributors and the community server does not offer anything more than just blog functionality, but I think the idea behind is to “populate” or “pull” content from the end-users. A young platform laid out for a two-way content collaboration i.e. exchange of content from both corporate content contributors and site visitors.

Having said that, this is my take on the recent release –

1. WCM Implementation in Conjunction with Portal:

Customers with existing Implementation of FatWire Spark-PCM on Sun/Weblogic portals have the luxury of using various portlets that are tightly integrated with CS. Administrators could easily configure portlets based on the editor’s needs. So, in this scenario, just a few WCM specific gadgets will not make much of a difference for editors, but developers can easily place these gadgets on any web page as a part of the FatWire page layout process.

Personalization is a capability that every portal offers, based on requirements, personalization at multi-levels can be configured using the portal itself. Additional Investment on gadget server will not be many benefits unless you have a requirement to let template developers utilize the capabilities to add gadgets on web pages during the page layout processor for the end-users to personalize their dashboards with these light-weighted apps. The usage of gadgets becomes positive within the WEM framework where  Site Admin wants to create a page with a certain layout and include these gadgets within the slots. It’s a quick and easy way of developing new content-centric pages. Another advantage is gadgets created within FatWire’s Gadget Server can be exported for use on third party websites such as igoogle.

2. Pure WCM implementation for external WebSites:

It depends on what type of website one has. For a website selling products online, it will be a nice idea to implement functionalities offered by Community server as it will get you customer’s feedback and reviews related to product sold. This can potentially be a platform for you to support customers online, share best practices or share product manuals. As good it may seem from the user end, it is equally difficult from the website management perspective. Most of the user-generated content will be stored in the Production environment while Staging will just be used by internal content editors. Different information will be stored in various silos and IT will have to work around syncing of content between environments.

3.  Pure WCM implementation for internal Sites/Microsites:

I see a huge potential in this area. We have a large number of ‘social networking’ platforms and tools in the market and over the internet. What lags in the WCM space are the tools and functionalities by which internal users within an enterprise can be networked together and form a ‘content collaboration’ space.

With community and gadget server integrated within the WEM framework, the realm of WCM is extended, so does the flexibility of retrieving and contributing information from the internal users. If wisely implemented and keeping security and authorization into consideration, information and knowledge can be reused, relevant content can be collaborated from across the boundaries and from within a business unit of your enterprise. Now, it’s on the individual organization’s WCM strategy how they drive productivity around the information. All an all a right Content Strategy that identifies the demarcations and overlap of document, social and content collaboration.

Most of the organizations believe in the ‘push’ of the content. The push of content happens at various levels, it can be targeted to either one business unit of the organization, or a partner on the extranet, or the site visitors on the internet.

There are valid use cases and business requirements for the same, but that’s not the point where the story ends. Enterprises today are not just targeting content (newsletters, campaigns, product info, recommendations, etc) to the end-user but the emphasis is being given to ‘pull’ of information from the end-user. There is a need for a business channel that is interactive. This 2-way methodology of content contribution and collaboration helps organizations to–

1-  Create a Knowledge repository from the users of a particular business unit working towards a similar goal.

2-  Get actual feedback from the site visitors

3-  Interactive Support

and most importantly –

4-  Reach out for useful insights

Rich back-end content management systems with complex features are around for a while. A non-technical business user finds it difficult to learn, contribute and manage the content.

WCM products lag User Experience, which is quite seriously taken up by collaboration products. Amalgamations of these two categories of products are on the roll and the adoption will be fairly wide shortly.

RFPs, Implementation Scope and Costs

It’s been quite some time that I am into responding RPFs and RFIs in Portal and Content Management space and sometimes jump onto implementation for the solution that we have provided 🙂 .
This post highlights issues that project delivery faces when a customer hides the information of its existing software infrastructure during pre –engagement stage.

Most of the customers do not supply enough information while releasing RFP. (for a mid-large size project it might just be a 2-3 pages of “relevant” information).
Along with RFP comes predefined “timelines” and “scope” and as usual, time-bound response is expected from vendors. In any circumstance you are paid to respond and get business for your company. You are not left with a choice, but to provide a solution based on one or two liner requirements with no information or volume of development, enhancement or migration of software/applications. Apart from solution, you have to mend your effort and cost estimations and make then inline with what was proposed to you.

Also, you must have experienced a time gap between the day you get the project and the day your SOW is signed off. What happens in this time gap? Answer is simple. You end up including another set of high level tasks that were neither part of RFP nor you have heard in your pre-engagement calls(lucky if you get this more), which slightly(as of now) adds to what you have proposed.

Few weeks later you will come to know more about customer’s existing s/w infrastructure and you are told that apart from portal development there is/are CMS/DMS/Back Office application that needs to be migrated or enhanced to latest version. Not bad so far. You start analyzing, assume few things, give better estimates and go ahead. Bad happens, if the existing CMS /DMS/Back Office application doesn’t fit in to the portal product that you proposed (Remember: it’s not your fault). Service providers end up doing all tricks to make the integrations work and customer ends up paying huge $$$ to product support and consultancy. These commercials would have been easily eliminated if right information would have given at right time.

“Right information at right time” is what makes a better response, which not only provides a better solution (considering all underlying application, their integration, SSO etc) but also reduces cost (Trust me, Indian service based s/w companies charge far less than any Product base company for their support and consultancy excluding license and training costs))

Oracle-Bea, Portals,Portals everywhere !!

Is the portal market going to see another acquisition by Oracle? Though Bea has denied the deal of $6.66 bn as “too low”, but as we know Oracle has a history of acquiring BIG companies and maintaining multiple products of same line. BEA and Oracle own two Portal products each (Aqualogic and Weblogic) and (Oracle Portal and webcenter), respectively.

If in case, the acquisition happens then in my view it will be relatively hard for Oracle to maintain and sell these portal products as Oracle is concentrating and investing huge in its webcenter suite and has a roadmap of releasing the next version i.e. Webcenter 11g very soon.With so many like products and no clear
feature demarcations of which product will cater to which type of customer its going to be a big challange for the sales team.

Looking from another perspective, Oracle surely will have business benefits with this acquisition as –
1) Oracle will eliminate a very big competitor.
2) Oracle portal is quite old and is in the edge of retirement and Oracle Webcenter is new in the portal market and is more developer centric. Oracle will revive with having aqualogic and weblogic in its main portal product stream
3) With Aqualogic and Weblogic from BEA, Oracle surely will have more and better products to sell.
4) As BEA Weblogic application server leads the middleware market and Oracle standalone application server lags far behind. Selling Bea appserver is going to add huge $$$ in Oracle’s account.
5) Oracle will also get boost to its SOA strategies, as both the companies have invested heavily on the SOA paradigm.

Apart from the above stated products, Oracle will rethink in supporting the other Bea products and suites as they may lag behind when compared to Oracle’s home grown products for example, BPEL solution and Presence Solution

Lets wait another leap that Oracle going to make and keep eye in the next quarter results.

JAX India 2007: Web2.0: What you should do?

Craig McClanahan talked on the Web2.0 at JAX India 2007.You can find more detilas about what he covered in Shishank’s post. Here’s a bit of elaboration of those 10 points what Craig suggested to make the web right :-
10 – Expose Data/Logic as services
* Content is more important than presentation.
* Use REST based Services when you “Can”
* Use SOAP based Services when you “must”
9 – Incorporate External Content
* No single application or database can contain everything
* Combine available content from multiple sources
8 – Seek QOS (Quality of Service) deals from Sources
* Authentication guarantee
* Performance provisioning
* API and format compatibility
7 – Give QOS Deals to users
* External consumer will also become dependent upon your content
6 – Adopt Agile Processes
* Continuous iterative improvement model
* Incremental release every 7-14 days
5 – Test Driven Development
* Reduce release testing
* Do aggressive unit /functional testing
4 – Architect for Scalability
* Separate view, logic and persistence
* Break into layers that can be independently scaled
* Add resource as needed for bottlenecks
3 – Embrace Heterogeneity
* Data and logic as “service” insulates layers both internally and externally
* Agile Technology benefits in for fast UI fixes
2 – Reach out to Mobile Clients
* UI for Mobile devices can share existing service
1 – Enable User Provided Content
* Participating in “mashups” counts
* User like to participate not just “view”

The suggestion that Craig has provided, gives a clear perspective on how Web2.0 should be incorporated gradually within your organizations portal, CMS or website.If you read the above points again I feel that some of them directly or indirectly take you to the SOA space where we re-architect our implementations so that our applications can be “loosely coupled” and “interoperable” when used as “services”.

Portals: Intruding the ECM space?

If Portals are the underlying technology for the presentation, aggregation, integration and SOA implementation (as every vendor talks about it ), then the Content Management System (CMS) is what feeds the portals.

Portals, Ideally meant to be more towards  integration and presentation side, are now coming up with their own version of built-in CMS.

Besides Partnering with vendors from Web Content Management (WCM) / Enterprise Content Management (ECM) arena, Portal vendors are also working successfully towards their own built-in CMS. These built-in CMS provide you the best a CMS product can offer. Journal Content Management, Document Management, Integration with MS office or Open Office, Drag and Drop of your desktop files, Workflow management, Integrated Publishing and Search.

WebSphere Portal 6.0 Integrates externally with CMS products like Interwoven Teamsite ,Documentum etc , also includes IBM Workplace Web Content Management Version 6.0 which itself carries a full fledged WCM capabilities. BEA provides the integration with Stellent, documentum and Vignette CMS products but has its own Content Management system and virtual content repository. Open source player Liferay portal 4.2 has come up with portlets for Alfresco (another open source Leader in ECM),but again it has its own “Liferay Journal” CMS which covers most of the WCM functionalities.

Sun and Bea have partnered with FatWire to provide Portal Server customers with unlimited-use licenses of FatWire Spark Portal Content Management (pCM) software at no cost.

There is a definite and clear separation of a built-in CMS and a third party CMS integration on to the portals. The choice is up to you, it all depends on what satisfies your business requirements. As for small and mid-size customers, these built-in CMS are doing the job, that too with a lot of ease and bringing in cost benefits.

CMS market has always been more mature, streamlined and more professional. On the other hand, the Portal market are not making the impact that was expected of them and was so fiercly predicted by the experts, a few years ago. The reasons could be cost, need, ease of implementation or lack of expertise with the service providers. In such a scenario are Portal vendors adding on CMS to their product feature list to stay alive?

If yes, what next? Would they continue to break ground and venture into ECM territory as they have now ventured into WCM territory?

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