Posts Tagged ‘#wcm’

Oracle Web Centre (Fatwire) : Is it an old generation CMS?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Recently Oracle acquired Fatwire, which has been one of the leaders in the WCM/WEM space. I have been tracking its progress through various releases and recently got a chance to work with Content Server 761. I had great expectation and always wanted it to do well ( may be because it was the first cms product I ever used and also worked for them during Divine days). Here are some of my ever good and no so good list which I try based on my product experience.

Good

  • Follow,to the dot, the separation of content assets from presentation templates which has been in question recently with the more newer Cms’s like Adobe Day CQ
  • Publishing mechanisms available out of the box are one of the strengths with recent addition of Real Time Publishing
  • Enhanced caching and seperating the cache to each individual nodes has been one of the great improvements to its performance questions
  • Availability of system tools in a supported version is always a nice thing to have
  • Finally that there is some respect towards developers by coming up with initial version of Content Server Developer Tools (CSDT), though there are number of shortcoming with it
  • Introduction of Central Authentication Service (CAS) is a welcome change to the stack which provides much more flexibility around development and extending it beyond stereotype implementations
  • etc. etc.

Not so good

  • Some of the basic changes within the implementation requires quite a lot of work. A good example is vanity URLs. Most of the clients now a days have this basic requirement especially around blobs but there is none out of the box URL assembler available
  • Deployment is one of the most painful area. Even with CSDT, which is just the recent addition to product, there are many area’s which it lacks. The basic use cases are not covered by CSDT
  • With CS 761, there are headless installs which is welcome change through if you are upgrading to CS 761 from version below CS 75 there is no other way apart from GUI based installers
  • Product customisation is one of the pain area’s. There is no concept of extending the existing elements into your project elements and apply changes. Which means each time you run an upgrade, there is an activity to reapply all the changes again which makes upgrades sooo much error prone and time consuming
  • CS Engage, for providing personalised content, has never been an easy product to work with and get your head around it
  • There are number of modules on top of core content server but its been utilised scarcely across the globe and tough to find a single case study when in need
  • Rollbacks are still is old 90’s fashion way of taking file system and database dump and restoring them back. Cold dumps needs to be taken to get an exact snapshot of the system at that point in time
  • Lots of documentation is there but they cover basic information and for anything beyond basic changes require folow-up on yahoo groups or through support
  • Support centre has not been supportive. It sometimes feel, just to meet their SLA’s, there are responses which doesn’t even relate back to the actual query
  • etc. etc.

Most of the not so good issues has already been addressed by the newer CMS products and what is taken for granted with a product,Fatwire has not been able to address them. It will be good to see how Oracle take them on board and how WebCentre integration brings in to overcome some of the obvious issues.

Choosing a CMS: Have you considered upgrade process?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

There are lots of sites/advisory papers which talk about how to choose a right WCM for your needs. And I am not going to re-invent the wheel here. But there is one aspect which is always given less importance and usually neglected during CMS selection and that is the upgrade process.

Usually upgrades shouldn’t be too tricky as most of the upgrade does is change some schema definition and update existing product code base. So why it needs to be considered at CMS selection process? Read on !

Most of the big WCM Implementations need customisation of some sort and so upgrade projects become more tricky when product overwrite these customisations. A lot of it depends on the under lying architecture of the product. Lets consider two well known products: Oracle WebCentre (previously Fatwire) and Adobe Day CQ. Adobe Day CQ provides facility to overwrite the default components and configurations by simply extending them within your own project. Customisations are achieved without modifying any of the system files, provided its implemented based on CQ recommendations. So, upgrade path for CQ is pretty straight forward and shouldn’t cause sleepless nights.

On the other hand, consider Oracle webcentre where customisation could be achieved only by modifying the underlying system elements. Even your implementation follows the Fatwire recommended approach for customisations, it will lead to changes to system elements. What that means is that upgrade is not straight forward and upgrade itself becomes a project in its own where time lines vary with the number of such customisations.

In a short period product A might satisfy your requirements more than product B, but its important to look at the longer picture because something which looks cool and easy to implement and run might not get you the expected returns in future. And considering the way technology is changing, no one can move away from not upgrading their products for long.

WCM solution for financial institutes

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

WCM is a software system which helps organisations to create, manage and publish web content to their websites. WCM opens door for organisations to effectively manage their online presence. There are large number of pure WCM vendors in java and .net domain which provides number of attractive sales features though, in reality, most of them are not used during implementation.

financial institutes

financial institutes

WCM products fit in most of the institutions but its always tough to use any product with financial institutes. And these are the main reasons I think:

  • There is always extra layer of security applied within financial institutes which not always fits well with most of the products security models
  • Each financial institute has rigid auditing requirements of capturing each of the activity that happens within WCM. And to my knowledge, I do not think any WCM really supports required granual level for auditing
  • As part of audit requirement, there is always need to generate how the site looked on a certain past date and if we add personalisation angle, it will make all the more
    complex.

Based on my experience, deploying any WCM product within a financial institutute leads to lot of customisations within the core product functionality. And that is always scary because it raise lot of questions around the credibility of the product and its selection process. Also, managability and upgrade of such system is a nightmare.

Even though it is time and money to develop an in-house CMS system, but I think in long run it pays off and the system could be easily designed to meet the above requirements.

Perfect Example: WCM project Lifecycle : Sign-off’s?

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Some days back I wrote about sign-off’s value in a WCM project lifecycle. Recently, I came acoss a perfect example to showcase the same. We recently launched a website based on signed-off requirements, signed-off wireframes, signed-off designs, signed-off HTML mock-ups, signed-off browser support, signed-off content etc. All worked perfectly until two super high priority stuff came through:

Website to run on iPad and iPhone’s
Why this has become a super high priority is due to the fact that senior managers in the organisation are having iPad and the site is not working fully in iPad.

Changes to content – (text and images)
Changes to the images which are hardcoded in CSS. This brings back to the point of realization of technical verification of HTML mockup so that authors could have more control over images than governed through CSS/JS hardcoding

The first point is really interesting of the fact that there are no actual requirements around support for iPad. iPhones. And more interstingly, does the same website presentation holds good across desktops, laptops to iPhones? Or it is better to have a cut down version of the site for mobiles which in turn reference the same content instances?

I am in suppot of cut down version of site as the original site could be lot more fancy with images, graphics while the mobile version can limit them, though providing all the functionality. But again, there is no definitive set of rules which defines whether to have cut down version of site or the same site can run on mobiles. I think it varies from case to case basis.

How have your experience with website Vs mobile sites?

WCM project Lifecycle : Sign-off’s?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Each and every project has milestones and one of the important milestone is the sign-off of various artifacts including site designs, wireframes, functional specification, HTML mock-ups, content etc. With the WCM projects, my exeprience of sign-off is just a formality but in reality it doesn’t hold any vlaue. And the reason: changes and more changes after sign-off.

Normally when the design and wireframes are laid down, there is just specific group comprises of few individuals from IT and business teams that will look at them and sign-off. Based on the designs and wireframes the HTML mock-up originates and again in most of the cases the same approval authority sign off without getting into much details.The mock-up are presented to the development team who start to churn out templates and components and setting up website to deliver content. Once the development has passed a reasonable phase, someone in the approval team suddenly come up with a novel idea of presenting this new webiste within the higher authorities. And this very novel idea presents highter authorities with their first view of the site. This is the very first time they start inputting their feedback and the whole ball game of sign-off, CRs start. This sometimes is so drastic that teams go back to the drawing boards and start implementing new designs.

Content sign-off is a very different story with CMS projects where customers always take a view that the whole idea of implementing a CMS is that they can make changes nth minute before the launch of the website.

Also, when the mock-ups are signed off, there is a need for technical review of the code. It is pretty easy for the creative agencies to place lots of images and make them as part of CSS which are non editable by authors. I think it is important to have certain more activities on the plan to cover some of the above issues including:

  • Technical Verification of HTML mock-up to make sure that editable/ dynamic area’s/ extensible area’s are not goverend through CSS/JS hardcoding
  • Presentation of HTML mock-up to all the stake holders to identify gaps earlier than later
  • Involvement of high level management in each stages of the project, including design sign-off, HTML mock-up sign-off etc.
  • etc.

If the issues are raised during development or in UAT, it involves lot more effort than getting it right in the initial stages.

Anyone experienced such situations in their WCM project lifecycle?

WCM Space: Where are we?

Friday, February 25th, 2011

The CMS space, especially WCM or WEM industry, has moved rather rapidly over last few years. With the dotcom boom followed by social media explosion and bogging space expansion, we can see CMS tool in some form or shape being present behind all these changes. That means that CMS tools has undergone rapid changes from being just managing content to managing business processes to social collaboration to campaign management and with the recent addition of mobile web and customer relationsship management.

Its good to see so much development in such a short period of time but I think this rapid change has created gaps in getting the basics right. To name a few:

  • Lots of talk over internet around What is WCM or WEM? If you ask me what is WCM, I will struggle to answer that as the WCM space is changing everytime and we have lost what is the core for a WCM product.
  • Still struggling with the same issues in almost 90% of the projects even though we are moving at the speed of light. That means we are just innovating new ideas without really solving the everyday problems. There was a recent post on RealStory Group Copy-pasting from Word to hightlight the same.
  • Same information getting presented in different ways to express that we are still not solid at our base. Six Critical Ingredients for a Great Website
  • I think it is time that we get our basics right and define what is WCM? One way could be to divide the core functionalities using MoSCoW method:
    * M – MUST have this.
    * S – SHOULD have this if at all possible.
    * C – COULD have this if it does not affect anything else.
    * W – WON’T have this time but WOULD like in the future. Alternatively WANT.

    And on top of these the flashy features which are good to attract clients during presentations/demos but are not useful in everyday life.

    What are your thoughts?