Digital Experience Platform and the foundation called WCM

The buzz is just getting louder, it was Liferay who introduced the acronym DXP a couple of years back and was then followed by other WCM and Enterprise portal vendors (Adobe, Day, Sitecore, and Vignette).

To me, this concept is here to stay. It’s too early to evaluate the pros, cons, and business implications of this concept. We still have to witness a large size implementation of these “DXP” yielding some true business results. Well, This is my take on DXP, I am sure most of the readers would relate, especially the ones coming from the CMS background. So…let me try to answers some questions which come to my mind –

Q-1) What is DXP?

Answer:  Digital Experience Platform, is an emerging category of enterprise software where the base Content Management Product is an integrated set of technologies to create, manage, analyze, deliver relevant content to the targeted audience on a variety of end-user devices. This is also a marketing term coined by WCM/Portal vendors to position themselves above pure WCM vendors. A term that is now helping them to sell more licenses. A Nice-looking User Interface, an SSO software to back it up with integrations of the below software from the same vendor-

  1. Web Content Management
  2. Analytics
  3. Local/Social Collaboration/Community
  4. Targeting/Segmentation
  5. Omnichannel Delivery Platform
  6. Connectors for other WCM/ECM/DAM products

..and the list goes on.

Q-2) Is DXP a product, suite, or framework?

Answer:  For product marketing & sales group it’s a ‘suite’, for a buyer it’s a ‘product’,  for a technical developer it’s a ‘framework’,  for a business user/content contributor it’s a User Interface with drag-drop of layouts & content and for an end-user/content consumer it’s a ‘this is what I need’ delighter.

 Q-3) Do you need DXP or WCM?

Answer:  You need a WCM for creation, modification, targeting, publishing, versioning, and managing the lifecycle of content. You might need a Mobile delivery platform if you are targeting your content to a range of Mobile Platforms. If it’s just a couple of handsets you don’t even need the Mobile Delivery platform (more on a separate post). Analytics is a way to go if you want to know your online users, website visitors but it’s no point buying an analytics product from the WCM vendor. Separate specialized analytics software will give you more flexibility, control, and a higher degree of reuse. Revisit your business and technical requirements,  talk technically to the product vendor to check “how” DXP can help you cater to those requirements. So far, I have not seen anyone specifically writing requirements or budgeting for DXP.

However, if the DXP vendor is giving the customer the flexibility to choose from a range of products (those part of the DXP suite/framework) and charging only for the selected products then I think it’d be a good way to move forward.

Q-4) Is DXP a revolution, evolution, or transformation?

Answer: It’s not a revolution, but yes, there is a significant change in the way consumers are using the web. Users do not want one-sided communication but also want to contribute, provide feedback, personalize their content from across multiple channels, not just ‘web’.  DXP is an effort to provide a rich experience to both the content contributors as well as content consumers. Having said that, it does not mean WCM has evolved or transformed to DXP. The core WCM remains the same, and ironically, product vendors are not putting much effort to enhance the content management capabilities of WCM.

Final Thoughts:

Product vendors always look for some buzzwords to be in the news, to market their product, and to impress buyers. ‘God lies in the details ’ – don’t get fascinated, involve your IT staff, let your technical team sit with a vendor, let the vendor explain to you the basics and underlying components (REST, SSO, JSF, Taglibs, Delivery model, Web-services, etc). Get feedback from your technical team and see if similar can be achieved with your existing software infrastructure without much effort and cost.  If you still want to use DXP, check with the vendor if you can choose and use your apps on a’ la carte basis.

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.

Content Integration Vs Content Migration

Few days back Fatwire Software announced the launch of the Fatwire Rescue Program for Vignette and Interwoven WCM customers.
The program will enable customers of Interwoven and Vignette to upgrade to FatWire’s WCM solutions at no license cost. However, this holds good only if they engage Fatwire’s supported or so-called ‘proven’ migration tools and services.
Vamosa and Kapow. I hope this move will hold well for Fatwire in WCM market space.

If you remember Fatwire already has a Content Integration Platform(CIP), which is a “web-services-based” content sharing tool. In this Fatwire CMS user can access content stored across the enterprise without leaving the Fatwire CMS interface (CS-Direct). CIP offers connectors to access content from Documentum, SharePoint, and Windows and Unix file systems.

So why this rescue package from Fatwire when they already have a solution in place? Here are my insights on the demarcation between the two offerings and the differences in the approach –

1. In Content Integration Platform, the source WCM/ECM sever must be up and running in order to serve the content. The only difference will be accessing the content using Fatwire console (dash/advance/insite interfaces).
[Access + Connector = Integration]

2. Fatwire rescue program is based on the expertise and past experiences of Content Migration service providers (Vamosa and Kapow). Server Instances of Teamsite or Vignette will not be required after full content migration.
[Entire data movement (Assets/Content/Templates/Workflows/Roles/Security/Users/Publishing Events) = Content Migration ]

Since there is no Fatwire connector for Vignette and Teamsite as of now, I believe this is another way of attracting the customers to move completely into Fatwire at lower cost (No license cost + No Running Instances of Teamsite or Vignette required).

Content Migration is a very risky, customers are advised that there is no fully automatic or a neat way of doing it. Manual intervention and tweaking of trusted scripts, XMLs and non-java based templates is very much required in order to do the migration. Evaluate and request for case studies or a proof of concept from the product vendor before you make a decision.

I am glad that in the midst of acquisitions in the WCM space, Fatwire is the one of the niche player who is moving a step forward by collaborating with content migration service providers like Vamosa and Kapow. I hope this move will hold well for Fatwire in WCM market space.

How IBM is #1 in web portal software?

IT analyst firm Gartner, Inc., has ranked IBM as the worldwide market share leader in the Portal Products and User Interaction Tools enterprise software segment. Here is my take –

There is no question on the capabilities and functionalities of IBM WebSphere Portal V 6.1, which is well designed to collaborate the information from users, communities, corporate enterprises, and the Web. I will not discuss the cool and robust features of IBM but will list down the external factors that might have influenced the ranking-

1. Technology: Still the market share of .net is much less than java. IBM being a java based portal and is adopted by organizations who either already have java based software infrastructure or their decisive people are pro-java. I agree with Janus

“Microsoft is known to give away SharePoint like candy, so SharePoint might indeed have less revenue. A substantial portion of SharePoint licenses remain unused.”

Yes, the Adoption of SharePoint (MOSS) is much higher than any portal in the market (07-08), and who does the marketing better than MS, but the point has still not reached where SharePoint can be ranked as #1.

2. Choice: Do customers have choice?..ummm –lets find out-
a) Opensource/Liferay: Even though Liferay is named as the Visionary portal product in Gartner’s magic quadrant, the financial industry has no confidence in this open source portal. On the other hand, IBM software is being used by the top 10 global banks.

b) Sun JES Portal: before the acquisition: The setting sun finally decided to stop the further release if its enterprise portal product (last version 7.2) and decided to contribute towards Websynergy and Webspace (Liferay-Sun combo Prj).

c) Oracle/Weblogic/Webcenter: Oracle invested huge $$$ in their Webcenter portal project but failed to market their so-called strategic portal product. Market still questions Oracle’s portal leadership. With five portal products under its belt, seems like that sale and marketing team is confused on which portal to highlight. I believe that aqualogic and weblogic are doing pretty well but not widely adopted as IBM WebSphere.

3) Leadership/Support/Cost: IBM tops the chart in terms of cost for its product, services and support. Even then, organizations opt for security, availability, collaboration and other web2.0 stuffs over the cost. It might be because IBM promises better ROI. I believe that 2011 will be a crucial year for IBM portal after the economic recession ends as most of the organizations have kept their decisions on hold for buying an expensive portal products.

There can be other reasons as well such as innovations, industry types, underlying architecture etc that might have valued customers more in buying this product.

More information about the report, features, and a case study is here-
http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Web-Services-Web-20-and-SOA/Report-IBM-Number-One-in-Portal-Software-333186/

Sun-Liferay and Project WebSynergy

After Sun-Liferay partnership early this year, Sun Microsystems has releases a stable version of a new Portal (from common code base) codename Project WebSynergy. A stable build 2 of WebSynergy is also available for download. Here are some of the new features in this release –

1. Portlet container 2.0: Complaint to JSR286 specs. Built on top of Open Portal Portlet container. Supports expiration and validation of cache, eventing and more advanced IPC.
2. JCR Compliance: Liferay Portal uses Mirage API that enables to use JCR compliant content repository, the same is incorporated in the WebSynergy release.
3. WSRP 2.0 Consumer Support : A WSRP consumer support and a new administration application is added that enables managing multiple WSRP consumers
4. Roller Blog Portlet: The Roller Blog portlet provides integration with Roller Weblogger version 4.0. Using this portlet, portal users can create and manage blogs on a Roller 4.0 server.
5. Presence: Presence Infrastructure also known as RUON has been integrated into Liferay Portal. Not really sophisticated as of now but there are plans to include more presence portlets to provide more presence-aware portal to the end user.

Its not far when a commercial release will be in the market. Surely this will be a big move from Sun’s perspective after a long time as there will be no more Sun JES Releases. This does not mean that Sun will stop shipping Access Manager and Directory Server duo. Both Access Manager and Directory Server are well known in the market and Sun will sell these products separately while relying on the Liferay community to concentrate on the portal side.

I think there is a possibility to see a connector/integration of Liferay Portal with Sun IDM stack in the near future.

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