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Stacy WengStacy Weng is the Senior Marketing Manager at Rivet Logic and oversees all corporate marketing related activities, partner relations and sales operations.

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Liferay Implementation

Posted by on March 08, 2016

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If you’re using Liferay 6.1 or below, then you might be aware that Liferay ended their 6.1EE support last month. With version 7.0EE set for release later this year, many businesses have an upgrade decision to make: whether to upgrade to 6.2EE or wait for the much anticipated version 7, which includes a completely new look and feel, new product and control menus, enhanced image selection experience, improved document management capabilities, and much more!

If your organization is an early adopter of the latest and greatest software, then waiting for Liferay 7.0 and upgrading then may be the right move for you. However, many other organizations prefer to wait until the initial kinks associated with any new major release have been worked out before deciding to upgrade. If you fall into that latter category, then upgrading to Liferay 6.2 now may be the better option.

For those that are considering a Liferay 6.2 upgrade, we’ve compiled a list of the top seven reasons through most noted features that we feel will help maximize your Liferay implementation…

#1: Mobile Device Preview & Responsive Design

Liferay 6.2 has done a spectacular job with its new mobile support features. And as businesses worldwide are seeking to strengthen their mobile presence, Liferay 6.2’s Mobile Device Preview and Responsive Design helps simplify the process and easily tops the list as the best reason to upgrade.

Liferay 6.2’s support of responsive themes means that sites can now automatically adapt to the appropriate screen size of the mobile device or tablet that’s accessing the portal pages. The power of this feature lies in the ability for it to address tablets and mobile devices at the same time, allowing the page structure and layout to dynamically change based on the screen size of the visiting device.

In addition, Liferay administrators and authors can preview site pages on mobile devices without the need for a physical device to test the site, allowing any changes to be easily previewed prior to going live. This enhances the ability to test and optimize for various mobile devices in a much more efficient way.

#2: New Control Panel UI

The main goal of the new control panel is user-friendliness, by addressing some of the challenges that have been growing since its introduction in Liferay 5.2, including:

  • Loss of context
  • Complexity
  • Mix of portal-wide, site, and personal account administration
  • Outdated UI
  • Empty first page
  • Non-intuitive navigation

Liferay 6.2 took steps to address these Control Panel issues by making it much more intuitive and user-friendly, through restructured navigation, more intuitive UI, and reorganized portlets.

#3: Enhanced Calendar

Liferay 6.2’s new calendar has several enhancements to benefit both internal and external users. Some of these features have even been implemented based on feedback from existing Liferay customers, which include:

  • Multiple Shareable Calendars
  • Resource Reservations
  • Custom Event Types

#4: Web Content Management Enhancements

With Liferay 6.2, users can now organize their Web content in folders and sub-folders, similar to documents and media.

#5: Drag-n-Drop Support for Document Uploads

Liferay Portal users can now drag a document from their desktop and drop it into the browser for document and media uploads.

#6: Application Display Templates

Application Display Templates (ADT) are similar to site and page templates, but at the portlet level. This allows custom templates for Liferay applications to be created and portlets to be re-skinned.

From a user perspective, this feature simplifies customization of the portlet display. And for developers, this saves them from having to modify the portlet configuration code every time a new setting is required.

#7: Improved Staging and Import/Export Features

These improvements will not only facilitate moving portlet data between environments, but also assist with development.

Liferay 6.2 Staging and Import/Export enhancements include:

  • Simplified configurations
  • Providing of status during publishing process
  • Providing of summarized information before and after publishing
  • Increased support of import/export scenarios

Well, there you have it, the top seven features of Liferay 6.2 that we think have the largest impact on your existing implementation!

If you need even more reasons, read our full white paper for 11 total reasons to upgrade! And if you’re already planning an upgrade, check out how Rivet Logic can help in our datasheet!

Rivet Logic Exhibiting at HIMSS16, Focused on Improving Healthcare Through the Use of IT

Posted by on February 16, 2016

With less than two weeks to go, the countdown to the annual HIMSS Conference and Exhibition is officially under way. The event will be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas from February 29 – March 4, 2016, and is expected to bring together 40,000+ health IT professionals, clinicians, executives and vendors from around the world. Attendees will learn about and discuss health IT issues, and on the exhibit floor, see innovative solutions designed to transform healthcare.

The exhibit floor will feature specialty exhibit areas such as Connected Health Experience, Cybersecurity Command Center, Clinical & Business Intelligence Knowledge Center, The HIMSS Interoperability Showcase, among others.

Rivet Logic is excited to be a first time exhibitor at HIMSS in the Connected Health Experience, a centralized destination experience for connected and wireless technologies. The Connected Health Experience combines the Connected Patient Gallery, Mobile Health Knowledge Center, Games for Health and a new focus on telehealth. Attendees will experience how emerging wireless and connected technologies address patient and consumer engagement, manage chronic conditions and create efficiencies in the healthcare system.

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Topics include:

  • Mobile devices and applications
  • Patient portals and patient engagement/experience
  • Behavior change, wellness, medication adherence and gaming
  • Telehealth and remote patient monitoring
  • Wireless connectivity and access to health in remote, rural and underserved regions
  • Wearables and self-insured employee health
  • Wireless and mobile security and standards

Rivet Logic is also scheduled to present a speaking session in the Connected Health Experience pavilion at 1:00 pm on March 1 as we discuss best practices for patient, provider and member engagement.

If you’re planning on attending HIMSS, stop by our booth and hear how we’re helping healthcare solution providers enable better care by increasing engagement through solutions such as patient and member portals, enterprise collaboration, and mobile apps!

And if you’re a first time attendee, check out these planning tips and tips for navigating the event successfully to get the most out of your HIMSS experience!

See you in Vegas!

Creating a Successful Multi-channel Customer Experience

Posted by on February 11, 2016

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Forrester has coined the term Age of the Customer to describe today’s customer-centric era. To succeed, businesses must not only undergo a digital transformation, but to also do so with their customers’ needs in mind.

The modern consumer’s demands are ever increasing, they want the convenience of researching and comparing products online, and they want that information to be delivered on their terms. They also want options, with the ability to choose when, where, and how they interact with your brand.

Meanwhile, the digital landscape is ever changing, with the number of touchpoints on the rise, and each interaction with your brand is a piece of the overall experience. The key to a successful multi-channel approach is to put users at the center of your digital strategy and offer them a consistent experience throughout the entire journey that may span across multiple channels in a single transaction.

However, that consistent multi-channel experience also needs to be contextual, to serve up relevant content that enable users to more effectively perform tasks based on different scenarios they may be in. For example, a banking desktop site might show the user’s account summary after they log in, whereas its mobile app might want to show nearby branch locations.

Your technology needs to simplify this otherwise complex process, through a flexible solution that’s able to serve up that seamless experience for your users – they need to be able to switch from a desktop site to mobile app, and be able to pick up exactly where they left off.

To accomplish this, businesses need a flexible Multi-channel Content Management solution that can effectively engage a variety of audience groups across all applications, devices, and channels.

Rivet Logic’s Multi-channel Content Management solution is a seamless integration of Crafter CMS and Alfresco, enabling businesses to create and manage all content types through a user-friendly authoring tool, then publish to any or all channels and formats in a single step!

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The solution leverages Alfresco for its powerful content management capabilities and Crafter CMS for its modern platform for building and managing rich online experiences across all digital channels. The result is a solution that allows you to create engaging, two-way conversations with your users to enable that personalized interaction with your brand!

Learn more about how you can benefit from a Multi-channel Content Management solution in our datasheet.

In 2016, It’s Time to Drive Deeper Customer Engagement Through Deeper Data Insight

Posted by on January 06, 2016

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2016 is officially upon us! A new year means a fresh start with new and improved strategies and goals, right? If you haven’t already reflected on the success of your organization’s 2015 customer experience objectives, now’s a good time to do so, to see what worked or didn’t, and how to better strategize in the coming year for better results.

Some questions to ask your self are:

  • Did you achieve the level of customer engagement you’d hoped for?
  • What worked and what roadblocks did you encounter?
  • Can your technology stack adequately handle your existing and future needs?
  • What new strategies and projects should be on your roadmap this year?

Lesson From the Holidays 

The holiday season might be over, but there’s a lot to be learned. In the midst of the season, people were faced with busy schedules as they tried to squeeze in last minute shopping in between holiday parties and travel plans.

Today’s consumers move at a faster pace than ever before, performing tasks on-the-go on mobile devices, and with online shopping rates at an all time high. The challenge for brands is to keep up and stand out from the digital noise.

More consumers are doing comparison shopping between competitors, and the ability for a brand to deliver the right content at the right time through the right device can be the determining factor between winning or losing out on a customer.

The holiday season was a prime example of how critical it is for businesses to incorporate a big data strategy into an overall customer experience strategy to optimally capture the attention of today’s consumers. And this isn’t just limited to retailers or the holiday season specifically, but really applies to any business that can benefit from deeper customer engagement. Ultimately, your goal as a brand is to empower your customers to purchase through whichever channels that suit their needs by helping to move them along their customer journey.

It’s Time to Leverage Your Data

At the same time, the holidays in itself also presented a data goldmine with a wealth of valuable behavioral data for businesses to collect, analyze, and leverage to make better business decisions! Imagine if a travel company knew from previous behavioral data that a specific customer traveled to somewhere warm for the holidays every year and could target them with relevant travel offers? This would more likely result in a purchase vs. sending generic offers that may or may not align with the customer’s interests.

Rivet Logic’s Data Services Practice is focused on helping our customers make better and smarter decisions through deeper data insight, allowing them to keep up with evolving user demands and increasing data volumes. Our full suite of data services solutions include:

  • Enterprise Data Hub – Provide a single view of the business
  • Analytics Platform – Gain insight into data to make real-time decisions
  • Customer Identity Platform – Collect, analyze and personalize the customer experience
  • Mobile Infrastructure – Build a mobile app that’s flexible and scalable
  • Product Catalog – Flexible and responsive to cater to evolving business demands
  • Content Management and Discovery – Manage, discover and surface content for the user

In 2016, it’s time to rethink how to drive deeper engagement with your audience – through better tracking of the customer experience, delivery of personalized contextual content, maximizing the effectiveness of your campaigns, optimizing your business operations, and ultimately increasing your sales and revenue.

Learn more about Rivet Logic’s Data Services solutions and how it can help your business in our datasheet.

5 Reasons Why Your CMS Should Move to the Cloud

Posted by on November 23, 2015

The Modern CMS and Crafter

Your website isn’t just brochure-ware or a place where people go for product updates, but instead it’s the lifeblood of your company and acts as an important sales tool for that first initial interaction with your users. It’s also an engagement tool, with the ability to segment and build personas, to deliver personalized experiences that’ll keep your users engaged. From an integration standpoint, a web CMS isn’t just a standalone effort, but needs to integrate with various other tools such as CRM, marketing automation, and analytics.

Crafter Cloud is a full featured, enterprise SaaS-based content management system with user-friendly authoring tools, easy integration, high-performance content delivery, ability for personalization and targeting, using a suite of industry-leading development tools to enable delivery of omni-channel experiences. Crafter was designed with flexibility and scale and can be integrated with a variety of digital efforts.

Why the Cloud? 5 Reasons to Move Your CMS to Crafter Cloud

From our experience implementing CMS solutions, we’ve across 5 consistent themes for why customers choose Crafter Cloud when deciding to move their CMS to the cloud.

  1. Custom development experience in the cloud – One of the biggest benefits from both an IT and marketing perspective is the availability of a custom development experience, which provides the front-end team a personalized development environment with the ability to use any front end framework of their choice. This leads to shorter release cycles, which benefits business teams and keeps them excited about the CMS as new features and functionality requests are met in a timely manner.
  2. Full Featured CMS – As a full-featured CMS, Crafter Cloud has the design, integration and security features of an enterprise CMS that’s traditionally deployed on-premise with your own resources. The cloud CMS is a great option for customers with a lot of security and integration requirements to deploy the system without a lot of IT overhead. In addition, one of the challenges businesses face during a rebranding effort or site redesign is the ability of the CMS to respond appropriately. Not only are there desktop views, we now need to accommodate multiple screens and mobile devices, and each experience needs to be unique. Design responsiveness and the ability to create custom design and not be limited by the CMS and its features is imperative.
  3. Augment IT – Deploying your CMS in the cloud allows you to augment your IT and accelerate time-to-market. This means freeing up time and resources and limiting your IT overhead so they can focus on new features and the overall user experience.
  4. Cost – Deploying your CMS in the cloud is also cost effective, with savings from resources, time and energy it would take to build and deploy the solution. Crafter Cloud employs a flexible pricing model that allows you to scale and buy as you grow, limiting any over buy.
  5. Running your business at the speed of the market – Often times your public facing website becomes an afterthought if the CMS can’t keep up (e.g. the need for IT resources to make updates, design updates limited by features, marketing needs more data / analytics, etc.). Teams often end up walking away from relying on the CMS and addressing these tasks independently. Crafter keeps in pace with not just consumers but also the technology side of the house by allowing development teams to work with tools they’re familiar with.

Design & Deployment Considerations

When it comes to Web Experience Management (WEM), it can be broken into 5 categories, each with its own subcategories to dissect and think about your business and users (IT, marketing, sales, customers, partners, etc.).

  1. Ease of use – Is it user friendly?
  2. Multi-channel – What are your multi-channel requirements? It’s no longer enough to say it needs to work on a mobile device. Mobile is a whole different experience to think through, and you need to make sure your CMS can be responsive and flexible in that sense. For example, a mobile experience for retail is very different from a services company.
  3. Personalization – Your site needs to be personalized to build engagement. A repeat consumer / site visitor doesn’t want to feel like they’re reintroducing themselves each time they visit your site, which can be very frustrating. You need a CMS that enables you to build the journey with the customer and not force a reintroduction at each touch point.
  4. Engagement – A CMS becomes a viable piece of your business when it can spark engagement, which comes in many forms. Engagement isn’t only about results in product buying, but also in comments, reviews, and feedback loops.
  5. Integration – Can it easily integrate with other third party systems – CRM, Marketing Automation, Analytics, etc.?

Who Are My Users and What Do They Need?

Users are typically divided between internal an external users. Internal users include Marketing, IT, and Sales, and all of these user categories have their own different expectations and opinions on how the site should be designed.

While IT wants security, Marketing prefers flexibility, ease of use and the ability to design and add new features, and Sales wants a site that’s captivating to bring them leads. It’s important to go through the process of defining and prioritizing expectations.

As you narrow down the list, you need to determine if the CMS is able to respond to these expectations, as keeping the internal team happy is the first step to launching a successful CMS. When it comes to features, determine what the current CMS supports, features you wish you had but previously had limitations, whether it’s lack of IT resources for customization or lack of familiarity with the CMS’s integration points. You need an extendable platform that can successfully address these feature requests.

In addition, your CMS manages a variety of content, from blog posts to news articles, to products and press. Your CMS needs to be flexible from a content editing standpoint, where non-technical business users have the ability to edit, preview and publish without any additional IT support. Depending on the organization, IT may or may not be involved in the CMS, so it needs to be self-sufficient, with Marketing owning the solution.

Your external users include customers, partners, and other stakeholders, and you need to start thinking about perception and how users view your brand during their site visit.

To manage user expectation, you need consistency across each digital touch point. The experience from desktop to mobile to kiosk should be consistent so that users don’t need to learn a new UI at each touch point. In addition, if you publish a lot of content, users are going to have certain expectations around the frequency of your updates, and the context in which they’re consuming the content from. All of these points warrant discussions when it comes to your CMS process – it needs to be flexible enough to address most of these challenges.

Customer Win Patterns & Success Stories

Customers select their CMS based on a few consistent win patterns – full-featured with the ability to respond, ability to integrate, provides developers with development tools, limited IT overhead so IT resources can be reallocated to other strategic initiatives, fast time-to-market, and ability to consolidate various sites into one platform.

Our customers are leveraging Crafter Cloud to address a variety of business needs, including:

  • Rebranding a 30 Year Old Company – This health & fitness customer had many inconsistent brands, designs and technologies across their sites that needed to be consolidated into one platform. With a strict timeline and lack of IT resources, they started by deploying their core public facing website onto Crafter Cloud, with other web properties to follow, all accomplished within a two month timeframe.
  • Creating an identity in Ad Tech – This advertising technology company went through a rebranding to create a new identity. Design was extremely important and they needed a CMS to support pixel perfect design. With Crafter Cloud, their solution was up and running in under 1.5 months.
  • Enhancing a Global Platform – This customer already had an existing technology platform in place with high user adoption. They wanted to enhance their site with social capability without disruption. Crafter Cloud provided the necessary social features that were implemented with limited platform disruption.

These are just three examples that all come back to the consistent theme of full featured CMS in the cloud, low IT overhead, cost effectiveness, and speed of market.

Creating a Memorable Web Experience

The larger goal is to have your web presence create a memorable experience so that it reinforces your brand. Best practices to accomplish this include the three C’s:

  1. Consistent – Both internally (equipping marketing with necessary tools in one area to create these experiences and providing IT with the right development tools) and externally (across multiple devices)
  2. Contextual – Providing the right content in the right context
  3. Conversational – The ability to create conversations and enable engagement, and ultimately build a community around your web experience

To learn more about Crafter Cloud, visit crafter cloud.io.

NoSQL Design Considerations and Lessons Learned

Posted by on July 29, 2015

At Rivet Logic, we’ve always been big believers and adopters of NoSQL database technologies such as MongoDB. Now, leading organizations worldwide are using these technologies to create data-driven solutions to help them gain valuable insight into their business and customers. However, selecting a new technology can turn into an over engineered process of check boxes and tradeoffs. In a recent webinar, we shared our experiences, thought processes and lessons learned building apps on NoSQL databases.

The Database Debate

The database debate is never ending, where each type of database has its own pros and cons. Amongst the multitude of databases, some of the top technologies we’ve seen out in the marketing include:

  1. MongoDB – Document database
  2. Neo4j – Graph based relationship
  3. Riak – Key value data store
  4. Cassandra – Wide column database

Thinking Non-Relational

When it comes to NoSQL databases, it’s important to think non-relational. With NoSQL databases, there’s no SQL query language or joins. It also doesn’t serve as a drop-in replacement for Relational Databases, as they are two completely different approaches to storing and accessing data.

Another key component to consider is normalized vs. denormalized data. Whereas data is normalized in relational databases, it’s not a necessity or important design consideration for NoSQL databases. In addition, you can’t use the same tools, although that’s improving and technology companies are heavily investing in making their tools integrate with various database technologies. Lastly, you need to understand your data access patterns, and what it looks like from the application level down to the DB.

Expectations

Also keep in mind your expectations and make sure they’re realistic. Whereas the Relational model is over 30 years old, the NoSQL model is much younger at approximately 7 years, and enterprise adoption occurring within the last 5 years. Given the differences in maturity, NoSQL tools aren’t going to have the same level of maturity as those of Relational DB’s.

When evaluating new DB technologies, you need to understand the tradeoffs and what you’re willing to give up – whether it be data consistency, availability, or other features core to the DB – and determine if the benefits outweigh the tradeoffs. And all these DB’s aren’t created equally – they’re built off of different models for data store and access, use different language – which all require a ramp up.

In addition, keep in mind that scale and speed are all relative to your needs. Understanding all of these factors in the front end will help you make the right decision for the near and long term.

Questions to Ask Yourself

If you’re trying to determine if NoSQL would be a good fit for a new application you’re designing, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Will the requirements evolve? Most likely they will, rarely are all requirements provided upfront.
  2. Do I understand the tradeoffs? Understand your must have vs. like to have.
  3. What are the expectations of the data and patterns? Read vs. write, and how you handle analytics (understand operational vs. analytics DB and where the overlap is)
  4. Build vs. Buy behavior? Understand what you’re working with internally and that changing internal culture is a process
  5. Is the ops team on board? When introducing new DB technologies, it’s much easier when the ops team is on board to make sure the tools are properly optimized.

Schema Design Tidbits

Schema is one the most critical things to understand when designing applications for these new databases. Ultimately the data access patterns should drive your design. We’ll use MongoDB and Cassandra as examples as they’re leading NoSQL databases with different models.

When designing your schema for MongoDB, it’s important to balance your app needs, performance and data retrieval. Your schema doesn’t have to be defined day 1, which is a benefit of MongoDB’s flexible schema. MongoDB also contains collections, which are similar to tables in relational DB’s, where documents are stored. However, the collections don’t enforce structure. In addition, you have the option of embedding data within a document, which depending on your use case, could be highly recommended.

Another technology to think about is Cassandra, a wide column database where you model around your queries. By understanding the access patterns, and the types of questions your users are asking the DB, then you can design your schema to be more accurate. You also want to distribute data evenly across nodes. Lastly, you want to minimize partition (groups of rows that share the same key) reads.

Architecture Examples

MongoDB has a primary-secondary architecture, where the secondary would become the primary if it ever failed, resulting in the notion of never having a DB offline. There are also rights, consistency, and durability, with primaries replicating to the secondaries. So in this model, the database is always available, where data is consistent and replicated across nodes, all performed in the backend by MongoDB. In terms of scalability, you’re scaling horizontally, with nodes being added as you go, which introduces a new concept of sharding, involving how data dynamically scales as the app grows.

On the other hand, Cassandra has a ring-based architecture, where data is distributed across nodes, similar to MongoDB’s sharding. There are similar patterns, but implemented differently within technologies. The diagram below illustrates architectural examples of MongoDB and Cassandra. All of these can be distributed globally, with dynamic scalability, the benefit being you can add nodes effortlessly as you grow.

NoSQL Data Solution Examples

Some of the NoSQL solutions we’ve recently built include:

Data Hub (aka 360 view, omni-channel) – A collection of various data sources pooled into a central location (in this case we used MongoDB), where use cases are built around the data. This enables new business units to access data they might not previously have access to, empowering them to build new products, understand how other teams operate, and ultimately lead to new revenue generating opportunities and improved processes across the organization

User Generated Content (UGC) & Analytics – Storing UGC sessions (e.g. blog comments and shares) that need to be stored and analyzed in the backend. A lot of times the Document model makes sense for this type of solution. However, as technologists continue to increase their NoSQL skill sets, there’s going to be an increasing amount of overlap of similar uses cases being built across various NoSQL DB types.

User Data Management – Also known as Profile Management, and storing information about the user, what they recently viewed, products bought, etc. With a Document model, the flexibility really becomes powerful to evolve the application as you can add attributes as you go, without the need to have all requirements defined out of the gate.

Lessons Learned

When talking about successful deployments, some of the lessons learned we’ve noticed include:

  1. Schema design is an ongoing process – From a Data Hub perspective, defining that “golden record” is not always necessary, as long as you define consistent fields that can be applied everywhere.
  2. Optimization is a team effort – It’s not just the developer’s job to optimize the schema, just like it’s not just the Ops team’s job to make sure the DB is always on. NoSQL is going to give you tunability across these, and the best performance and results
  3. Test your shard keys (MongoDB) – If sharding is a new concept for you, make sure you do your homework, understand and validate with someone that knows the DB very well.
  4. Don’t skimp on testing and use production data – Don’t always assume that the outcome is going to be the same in production.
  5. Shared resources will impact performance – Keep in mind if you’re deploying in the cloud that shared resources will impact distributed systems. This is where working with your Ops team will really help and eliminate frustrations.
  6. Understand what tools are available and where they are in maturity – Don’t assume existing tools (reporting, security, monitoring, etc.) will work in the same capacity as with Relational DB’s, and understand the maturity of the integration.
  7. Don’t get lost in the hype – Do your homework.
  8. Enable the “data consumer” – Enable the person that’s going to interact with the DB (e.g. data analyst) to make them comfortable working with the data.
  9. JSON is beautiful

To summarize, education will eliminate hesitation, and don’t get lost in the marketing fluff. Get Ops involved, the earlier and more often you work with your Ops team, the easier and more successful your application and your experience with these technologies will be. Lastly, keep in mind that these are just DB tools, so you’ll still need to build a front end.

Click here to see a recording of the webinar.

Click here for the webinar slides.

5 Reasons You Should Consider Building a Native Mobile App

Posted by on June 12, 2015

The buzz around mobile has been around for a while and isn’t going anywhere, and with good reason. When over 90% of adults have their mobile phone within arm’s reach 24/7, it’s apparent that as a society, we’ve become largely dependent on our mobile devices. I bet the last time you forgot your phone at home, you felt like a part of you was missing, didn’t you? Well, you’re not alone.

With the population spending more and more time on their mobile devices, businesses can no longer afford to ignore their mobile experience. With an unlimited amount of information at their fingertips, consumers expect the ability to quickly access whatever info they need at that moment. And that’s not just limited to consumers. In B2B environments, business users are researching products and services on their smartphones, and performing tasks that would typically be done on desktops.

mobileapp-bannerleftThis requires a different approach to strategizing for mobile, a mobile-first approach. The question is no longer “should I build a responsive site or a native mobile app?” It’s not a matter of one versus the other. Businesses today need to have a mobile friendly website, period. It’s what your audience expects.

The question now becomes, “is mobile web enough?” To bring your customer engagement to the next level, it’s a good idea to consider a native mobile app. If you’re still not convinced, here are five advantages of mobile apps that makes the UX superior:

  1. Better handling of touch, gestures, and swipes – Side to side swiping, while very popular on mobile apps and desktop sites, doesn’t work as well on mobile websites
  2. Faster and more responsive – While mobile sites download the experience and data for each page through verbose HTML, mobile apps already contain most of the experience definition and only need to download the data
  3. Easy to continue where you left off – Mobile apps allow users to carry on tasks that span over long periods of time without having to log back in each time
  4. Tighter device integration – Mobile apps are much better equipped at handling features like geo-location, camera, and push notifications. While HTML5 is capable of supporting some of these device integrations, it’s not to the same degree and is often a power drainer
  5. Integration with other apps – It’s much easier and seamless to launch from one app to another app, than from an app to a mobile web app (take using your Facebook login to login to Pinterest for example)

Well, there you have it, five advantages that native mobile apps have over their mobile web counterparts. Of course, this doesn’t mean everyone should go and replace all their web apps with native apps. Each business still needs to determine what works best for them. But this provides some areas for consideration the next time you’re trying to decide whether or not to build that mobile app!

 

Utilizing the Employee Experience Maturity Model to Optimize Your Enterprise Collaboration

Posted by on February 19, 2015

What comes to mind when you think of an intranet? In theory, intranets should deliver results in real time. HR should be able to easily publish new policies and other documents, marketing should be able to easily find an inside expert when researching a new technology, and sales should be able to quickly get help on a new presentation. But in reality, this usually isn’t the case.

Legacy intranets are plagued with information that can’t be optimally leveraged –1) outdated old documents, 2) static content instead of useful conversations that draw out important ideas, 3) half-baked people directories instead of rich user profiles, 4) irrelevant company news that doesn’t help get our job done, and 5) lack of mobile access.

Unfortunately, due to these issues, many organizations consider their intranet the place where information goes to die. In fact, a recent survey showed that while a vast majority of organizations have had an intranet for over five years, and over 70% also utilize social business tools (e.g. wikis, forums, messaging, etc.), almost 3 out of 4 would rate their tools as BAD.

Part of this can be attributed to the strategy and approach. Just because you have an intranet and social tools, doesn’t mean it’s a social intranet solution. Organizations need a fresh approach to this problem.

Social Intranet Strategy & Tools

First, a social intranet is multi-faceted. In addition to supporting social collaboration, it needs to support the people and their profiles, user groups, tasks, files and documents, departments, projects, and communities with an organization. An intranet must also integrate easily with other enterprise systems – ERP, CRM, WCM, cloud services, and even outside social networks. In addition, a social intranet should also support the development of custom apps as necessary.

In determining a social intranet strategy, we’ve developed the employee experience maturity model to help organizations assess their current state based on employee behaviors, and establish new targets based on corporate strategy.

Employee Experience Maturity Model

The Employee Experience Maturity Model is comprised of four dimensions – Process, Collaboration, Integration, and Content. Each can be ranked along its level of maturity, from Low to High. Based on actual behaviors and not tool features, you can measure each dimension and plot your current overall maturity level.

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Together, these four measurements can provide an overview of how mature an organization is at delivering effective and productive digital experiences for its employees.

Content Maturity

Organizations that are high in Content Maturity typically allow their employees to own all content, making them both content producers and consumers. They also support all media types (documents, images, video, audio, etc.), and content is easily accessible by search and faceted navigation. In addition, content is published across multiple channels, with the ability for social commentary, and personalized to individual users, teams, and departments.

On the other hand, those low in Content Maturity tend to have top-down, one way communication, where documents and textual information predominates, with the use of ad-hoc repositories and no way of indexing, tracking or searching content.

Collaboration Maturity

On the Collaboration Maturity scale, companies that rank high tend to easily support collaboration both inside and outside the organization. In addition, a variety of social and collaboration tools are used, including collaborative work spaces, comprehensive user profiles, all with social content weaved throughout and the ability to easily share and subscribe.

On the low end of the scale, email and shared drives are the dominant tools used, along with other ad-hoc tools. The people directory is incomplete, and there are no social features, such as the ability to follow people and teams or comment and rate content.

Integration Maturity

On the Integration Maturity scale, those that rank high generally use standards-based, open architecture platforms that can easily be integrated with. In addition, enterprise applications are used in intranet/portal solutions, where capabilities and interactions are exposed as services. These organizations also utilize Single Sign-On (SSO) across all applications used, along with comprehensive user profiles.

Conversely, businesses on the low end use standalone apps with separate logins, often on proprietary closed systems, resulting in silo’d repositories of content, data, and people. There’s also no employees access to customized dashboards to meet their specific needs.

Process Maturity

Businesses than are high in Process Maturity have processes embedded in their intranet and other applications, which are monitored and managed by workflows that work seamlessly across applications. In addition, analytics are used for process optimization.

Those on the low end of the scale employ ad-hoc manual processes that are only available through desktop access and often not fully documented.

Strategizing With the Maturity Model

While the Employee Experience Maturity Model provides a way to assess where your organization stands, it’s important to keep in mind that a “high” rating on every dimension isn’t required, or even desired. Organizations need to choose their targets based on individual corporate strategies.

For example, companies that focus on innovation, such as startups, may be high on Collaboration and Content, but rank lower on Process. On the other hand, a cost leader may rank high on Integration and Process, but lower on Collaboration. Even more, organizations that want to maintain a singular voice would likely rank high on Collaboration and Process, but lower on Content. Determining your organization’s priorities and choosing your targets is an important part of your overall strategy.

Click here to learn more about the Employee Experience Maturity Model.

Vitalize Your Content in 2015

Posted by on January 13, 2015

revitalize-conceptAt the beginning of every year, the web is flooded with blog posts, articles, and infographics with predictions and trends of what’s in store for the year ahead.

This year, there are a few key trends that seem to consistently appear in every prediction, and they all seem to revolve around mobile, social, personalization/targeting, and analytics.

Not surprisingly, with mobile on an unrelenting rise, organizations large and small are shifting towards a mobile first strategy. And as we’re surrounded by more and more digital content, organizations need to find creative ways to grab users’ attentions, through delivery of targeted and personalized content, and with social features that encourage audience participation.

In a recently published white paper, Vitalizing Content to Drive Social Customer Engagement, we introduce the concept of Vital Content, a new content class born from connecting content, which ultimately enables a deeper level of user engagement.

Traditional Social Enablement Limitations

In this age of the customer, consumers expect their online experiences to be seamless and omni-channel, filled with consistent and contextual data, all the while engaging them through bi-directional conversations.

Traditionally social content and social enablement has been handled with a collection of individual platforms, perhaps one for reviews, another for discussion forums, yet another for ratings and so on. Having content stuck in such silos limits the value we can expect to derive and deliver from our social platforms. While traditional platforms have helped facilitate conversations and drive greater engagement with customers, these individual channels can often seem unrelated and disjoint.

 “Vital Content” and Its Production Challenges

Motivating engagement and participation in the content lifecycle establishes a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers. To build this kind of deep relationship with your customers you must give them a voice and provide them with content and functionality that is vital to their needs. The answer can be found in a combination of process and technology designed to personalize the experience, gather insight, and surface connected content.

This process produces a new content class — Vital Content — resulting from content creators and consumers building a deeper relationship as each learns more about the other. The outcome of this process keeps users actively engaged, connected longer, and produces a more meaningful experience.

However, traditional solutions fail to build an ongoing relationship with the audience because they fail to keep the right content in front of the right people and encourage engagement that breathes new life into the content. Users today want, and expect, a personalized experience that is consistent and contextually relevant and that spans across their entire customer journey. They shouldn’t have to re-educate at each engagement event on their likes, dislikes or previous history. Instead, they should be presented with relevant content that addresses their needs and triggers new engagement. The process of building a relationship with your user or customer is ongoing, and technology should enable that relationship to prosper.

Building Relationships Through Metadata

So how is this accomplished? Since content, comments, ratings and other social content are essentially the same, by connecting them with metadata, it’s possible to build relationships between them, pulling them out of their traditional silos. Through the application of metadata such as tagging, content curators and end users are able to create relationships between any piece of content or commentary, regardless of the source. These cross-referenced pieces can then be dynamically embedded, restructured and linked together in endless configurations.

With these ends in mind, Crafter Software has created Crafter Social, an innovative platform leveraging MongoDB, for creating Vital Content to help organizations maximize their customer engagement and the strength of their customer relationships. Crafter Social enables an increased level of engagement with the user while enhancing the overall experience. Furthermore, requirements will evolve as the user’s engagement increases over time. Crafter Social provides a flexible approach built on a system of relationships, and as these relationships grow, it provides the tools to take action on new data types and sources.

Click here to read more and download the full white paper.

Implementing an SEO Strategy for Your Liferay Websites

Posted by on November 10, 2014

The internet has revolutionized the way companies market their products and services today, and one of the biggest changes is how businesses are leveraging their websites to market their online presence. In a competitive digital world, the key to success is reaching potential customers and driving them to your website.

In a webinar earlier this year, we discussed how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a top priority in today’s growing world of technology reliance on web-based platforms, and how Liferay’s newest features can be used to implement SEO-friendly dynamic pages, illustrated by a real world customer example.

What is SEO?

For those who aren’t familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it’s the process of affecting the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid “organic” search results. Unlike paid search results, like Google Adwords, where you’re essentially paying for your URL’s to display in a favorable position, SEO involves the natural algorithms that sort the results.

Organizations are always trying various SEO techniques to increase high value traffic to their sites from search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Common SEO methods include getting indexed, controlling the crawl, and increasing prominence. It’s important that your page is highly relevant to the keywords that users would use in their search for that page.

SEO Strategy Considerations

When determining an SEO strategy, there are several important factors to consider:

Controlling Meta Information

First and foremost, it’s important to ensure that all of the properties being used to describe your page are relevant and descriptive of the page’s content. HTML pages contain metadata – title, meta tags, keywords, etc. – and search engines look at this metadata through sophisticated algorithms to determine its value, which is then used to score the page.

Liferay allows users to control the metadata for each page, along with the ability for localization. For example, the US page can have metadata in English and a Chinese page could have the metadata in Mandarin in order to maximize the score.

Site Map Protocol

Another feature that search engines provide is the ability to show searching users a site map of the website directly in the search result page to help them find what they’re looking for faster. For example, if you searched AT&T in Google, you will see search results for AT&T along with the site map, as shown in the image below. Liferay has an out-of-the-box capability of pushing your sitemap out to Google and Yahoo using the Site Map Protocol.

Friendly URLs

A good SEO strategy also involves the use of friendly URLs. Your URL patterns need to be descriptive of the content. Out-of-the-box, Liferay URLs in many cases aren’t good enough as they contain a lot of URL parameters. However, Liferay allows for the creation of custom friendly URLs through the Friendly URL Mapper to solve the problem.

SEO Friendly Sliders/Carousels

Lastly, many organizations struggle with the issue of SEO friendly sliders and carousels. In a nutshell, a page rendering carousels should only have the content of the relevant slide instead of all the slides. When users perform a search, the search engine crawls through each slide and indexes it as part of the same page. The challenge is tricking the search engine into viewing each slide as a separate page, while maintaining the animation.

For example, if a user searches for something that lies in slide 3 of a carousel, and the search results take them to slide 1 where the information isn’t relevant to what they were looking for, it can cause confusion and frustration. It’s easy to see why this is something companies want to avoid as it can result in a poor user experience that could deter the user from visiting the site again.

The solution lies in the URL. By creating unique URLs for each slide of the carousel, search engines can treat and index them as separate pages, making them SEO friendly.

To maintain the proper carousel transitions between slides, the slides are linked so that a simple AJAX call back to the server allows users to view all the carousel slides. In addition, all of the carousel slides are managed in one Liferay Web content article. This way, only one slide in the carousel is rendered during rendering, preventing any false positives when search engines are indexing the page. With this solution, you can still have carousels without sacrificing the SEO friendliness of a site.

Real World Customer Example – Sensus

Sensus is a global enterprise in utility infrastructure systems and resource conservation. For its global website, products are organized in a way as illustrated in the diagram below – where sensus.com contained multiple country sites, each with multiple divisions, and those with their own product lines, each with multiple products.

However, in reality, the associations between these entities were not as cleanly hierarchical as the diagram implies. In fact, all the entities could be associated with one another, as shown in the following diagram.

This presented the biggest challenge as it meant that a truly hierarchical representation for the content behind Divisions, Product Lines, Products and Solutions could not be created. And from an SEO perspective, all this content still needed to be searchable, and needed to be in a hierarchy that search engines understood.

Templates and Page Types Are the Answer

To solve this problem, we leveraged templates, which helped content managers organize their content in a way where it’s reusable, without losing the site map and structure of the content.

Liferay’s built-in rich WCM capability allowed us to divide a page into building blocks. For example, a product line page would be divided into the following sections – overview, products, and associated solutions.

We also created page types, where a single Liferay page can display as many articles as necessary for a particular page type. For Sensus, we had page types for Division, Product Line, and Product.

What about SEO?

When addressing SEO, the answer was in the method of content delivery. We needed to make sure that content authoring and delivery were decoupled to maintain SEO friendliness of each country’s site.

We achieved this through a process where content authors didn’t touch the Liferay pages. Instead, all they had to do was create Web forms and tag each article using Liferay categories, in turn capturing the hierarchy. That way, the article can surface in various places throughout the site based on how it’s categorized, allowing content authors to maintain a single source of truth for the content and also the hierarchy in the information architecture on the delivery side. Now when search engines scan through the pages and come up with a searchable index, the structure makes sense and there’s no loss of content organization.

As a result of this solution that enables the creation of a global website with shared content, we also encountered some SEO challenges that were specific to Liferay – HTML Titles and Breadcrumbs. As discussed earlier, search engines expect a page’s HTML title to be relevant to what’s on the page. However, since we’re using page types, where each page is displaying multiple products, we couldn’t have the same title for each product page, and Liferay out-of-the-box controls the page title based on the page type. Similarly, Liferay’s Breadcrumb capability had to show hierarchy of the content.

Both of these challenges were solved through a plug-in that enabled us to intercept the HTML Title and Breadcrumb generation code and replace it with dynamic logic so that it made sense for search engines.

In summary, SEO is something that’s becoming increasingly important for all public facing sites to focus on. A key SEO success factor lies in the strategy that must be defined early on in the planning phases of a project to ensure maximum SEO friendliness, and Liferay as a CMS provides a great tool for SEO that can satisfy almost all requirements.