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CMS and All That…. July 14, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in brand, CMS, eWorkPlace, Java, Joomla, Web Culture, Weblogs, Work.
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I’ve been very busy in the last month. I’m architecting a new web platform for a medium-large UK organisation.

I’ve done a lot of Content Management System rescue engagements in my time. Like customers implementing CMS as a silver bullet that will solve every problem conceivable. In my experience, this is never the case. It always depends on the customer. If you’re a medium to large business. You will need more than a CMS to fully engage with customers across multiple touch points.

If you’ve got a really good web application for managing relationships etc you can get by for a little while. Problem starts if you really want to do A/B campaign splits and really test customer life-cycles or user segmentation. Personalising user experience occurs in two ways what you accurately inferred about a customer and what they told you about themselves. In most cases, you’ll get the latter with a CMS !

I thought about writing this post because, after several years of people buying content management systems. If we exclude open source offerings such as Mambo or Joomla which are not really enterprise scale CMS. I feel most CMS vendors always think all presentation logic and meta-data should be coupled into the CMS. Whatever happened to Portals and Commerce Engines. Are you sure you really want to be making Web Services calls to build dynamic content in each JSP or ASP Page ?
I know JSRs are really difficult to follow and hardly anyone is implementing JSR 170 correctly. I still think CMS vendors do themselves serious disservice if they keep selling their solutions as one stop shop for everything from integration to back-end system, personalisation, etc.

If you’re in the market buying a CMS, ensure decoupled delivery is the default mode you engage with the vendor. Meaning you deliver content into a Content Repository for example, a database schema for a dynamic JSP/ASP whatever to use jsp tags to look-up the data and render it using an ORM.
Effectively, you’ve exposed all the meta-data for any degree of personalisation you might want. If however, the html, stylised content, tags and content items are all locked in deadly embrace in jsp pages. I really feel sorry for you and your company. You really ought to start again.

Effectively, there is no decent means other than the CMS of doing personalisation campaign management analytics whatever. Please don’t come and tell me I should be making SOAP/WSDL calls to a CMS repository. You don’t need to do that. Just bung it in a database schema bodytext, headline and all and off you go. Use an Object Relational Mapper with caching capability to retrieve the data into your dynamic JSP/ASP pages.

Remember, the CMS will need to notify your Object Relational Mapper of additions or changes to the content items. You can still carry on deploying static content to your Webserver document root. It’s better there. Except, the CMS or Portal provides decent full-text search of documents such as pdf. Don’t waste your time putting them in a CMS.

Two of the vendors we saw delivered a decoupled implementation. They know who they are and I really appreciate their effort. For us and the vendors, it means if we decide to buy an eCRM Platform or Personalisation engine none of the new vendors can turn round and tell us we’ve never integrated with that CMS before. I’ll just give them the reference implementation to use. Saves everyone a lot of time. (This is a MacDonald’s tip for you).

One of the best CMS implementations I’ve worked on that still does that to date is Den Norske Bank, Vital and Postbanken in Norway with Guray Sen & Razorfish. Same parent company different trading divisions, same database schema all very dynamic way before anyone thought of JSR 170. It’s called common sense and flexibility meaning you can localise to whatever language since all content is dynamic.

Given this frustration of mine, I seriously recommend if you’re in the market for a CMS, tell all the vendors to deliver a decoupled delivery implementation of the content items into a Tomcat or JBoss reference implementation using hibernate and a decent set of taglibs to retrieve an array of news-feed and a detail news item page from a MySQL database. See below for an example schema.

What you’re doing is building flexibility into your content architecture. All data should be available for creating a 360 Degree View of the relationship with your customer where-ever it lives.
More importantly, if you’re using a personalisation engine or campaign management platform with your web application, you’re now in a position to really personalise the user experience and create effective campaigns that really affect your audience. Even better let the user liven up their interaction with your site as they wish e.g. Playing with the colour scheme or delivering relevant news-feed based on item-Types such as football assuming you categorise your content repository.

Finally, the demands of participative architecture (AKA Web 2.0) means delivering an online experience that has stick-ability is a serious challenge going forward.

CMS vendors really need to be careful with the messages they’re sending out when selling their solution. I came away from this excerise feeling all CMS tools are actually, the same. The difference now is in usability. If you’re doing due dilligence means you need to ensure you get what you want and what the users want !!!

ContentSchema

Reinventing Brands for Generation Y June 14, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Bazaar, brand, Chaos, Collaboration, Edge Thinking, generationy, Social Software, Web Culture, Weblogs.
2 comments

It’s becoming apparent over the last couple of years that participative architectures or Web 2.0 will bring seismic changes to IT, the workplace and the way companies engage with their target market using their brand.

Here are some good indicative links, Dion Hinchcliffe’s Five Techniques for Using Web2.0 to Reinvent the Customer Relationship, Deborah Eastman of Biz360 recorded a podcast with podtech.net about measuring the impact of blogs and mainstream media on the value of the brand.

I like this article about Enterprise Valuenetworks. It’s important, because in IT we tend to think that implementing process oriented applications is all about analysis, the old fashioned way top down bottom up etc, I’ve covered all the grounds.

Yeah right, the problem with this approach is that you tend to have the most important bits falling through the crack because, people oriented activities do not lend themselves to data modelling or use case modelling for that matter. Meaning we invariably exclude these fuzzy processes. An evident effect might be corporate sites rarely deliver any incremental value to the brand.

Why ? We forget real people in all the mad rush to encapsulate process automation on sites or brochure-ware. participative activities are random and amorphous.

Generation Y and their younger sibling that have grown up with social networking platforms such as facebook and myspace to define their identity will subsequently engage emotionally with companies or brands that identify with their outlook on life and provide positive aspirational means to express these identity.

These values could be social, fashion or health related. If these were the case, I can imagine a situation in the future where businesses that provide quality syndicated feeds related to my lifestyle will get more of my attention. The feed content might include Blogs, Videos and forums. These content might also be user mediated.

So the Advertising model we have today will surely go away. Why waste your money advertising to folks that aren’t interested. RSS feed subscriptions may one day become the real measure of brand value and loyalties. If businesses spend more time providing really valuable content that encourage user feedback and participation you’ll be onto a winner. I’m not talking about posting a Nike shoes video advert on a site for customers to watch. Feeds might be the best indicator of group intention.

It’s exactly what Lego are doing now with Lego Factory. If I can design my own Lego bricks to order, I’d be more inclined to value the brand and pay more attention to their message board.

So think about it, is it not better to empower your customers to have a real say in your products? rather than a feedback buttons on your site. If any industry needs it more than any other, I think banks could do with a human face. For too long in this industry, the computer has been saying yes or no….. Here’s my mind map of what’s wrong and how to put it right.

UserExpectations

Paradigm Intelligence – A Manifesto for Enterprise IT May 12, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Absolutism, Bazaar, Chaos, Collaboration, Edge Competencies, Edge Thinking, Microsoft, Paradigm, ParadigmIntelligence, Politics, Social Software, Web Culture, Weblogs.
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Finally, my PSP, Metal Gear Acid and a Spanking New Sony MDR-NC50 noise cancelling headphone turned up yesterday from my insurance company eSure. They're not going to replace the stolen laptop because of the cost of a T42p over £2000.00, they're going to send a cheque for £1500.00 better than nothing I guess. I've actually not had much time to look at the gear been busy with start-up related work. I've actually missed the PSP a lot. It was my replacement for the Radio. Even the freebie iPod Video I got from signing up for a new phone plan can't match it. All that trouble of Synching with iTunes before I listen to a podcast is annoying. At least with the PSP I can stream Podcasts over WIFI !!

 Anyway, for the past week, I've been thinking about a way of describing why Enterprise IT just can't handle or understand Web 2.0, this is a follow up to my previous post about Dynamic Languages. I stumbled on this link, What is Web 2.0 ? a poll of readers of the Register. Honestly, I've found the feedback in the poll fascinating. For a lot of people struggling with every new thing/buzzword under the sun I can understand.

Fundamentally, we have a problem with how we as humans process information or things we come into contact with. I think it's all about Paradigm Intelligence, the ability to stay above the fray in your respective perspective, mind map or profession and see things from the other camps perspective. It's a very rare skill indeed. Our attitudes and behaviours all flow out of our paradigms using our self awareness and rose tinted glasses to examine them. The last bit paraphrasing what Stephen R Convey said in his book. What's even more striking is the ability to see through the waffle and identify the excellent opportunities to redefine your existing paradigm for the better. All we get today is reactive language judging by the comments in the poll above.

We all talk about emotional intelligence, no one really talks about Paradigm Intelligence, if an Ulster Protestant can see things from the perspective of his Catholic Ulster-bretheren and vice-versa then they're paradigm intelligent.

This morning I was listening to Dr Moira Gun's Technation Interview of Dr Amartya Sen it suddenly struck me that India is perhaps the best example of a nation that is exhibiting Paradigm Intelligence tendencies. The UK is also an excellent example in parts. I especially like what Dr Sen, a Nobel Prize laureate of Indian background said about radical Islam plays on fear to whip up hatred against the West. I've therefore come up with a series of phrases to describe what it means to be Paradigm Intelligent and otherwise.

  •  Paradigm Intelligence is recognising that social networking and participative architectures present an opportunity for IT to engage real users and re-energise enterprise architecture,
  • It's not reacting negatively to every thing even though it starts up looking like another buzzword, it's your job to identify the substance,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not your race, colour or creed taking over your common sense and appreciation of another person or their culture,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is there for everyone to see in a Nation with a Sikh President, an Italian Born female party leader and a Muslim Prime Minister,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not scare mongering and acting in a protectionist manner when a foreign company attempts to take over a crown jewel,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not voting on tribal lines and blind ethnicity as is the case across Africa,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not blindly buying everything from IBM, SAP, MSOFT or any other supplier for that matter regardless of the stupidity of your judgement, Who told you no one ever got fired for buying from these guys. Well, some day you will !!
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not sniffing at Dynamic Languages and calling them crap and chaotic, I've been there, I was once guilty of this !
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not rubbishing everything from Apple, okay most of it is good albeit every Apple product is hyped to death, (Guilty)
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not Blair and Bush invading Iraq without a plan B,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not Pastors or Religious leaders being brazenly richer, rotund and looking healthier than their congregation in third world countries,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is most certainly not putting street signs and council leaflets into ethnic languages in an English speaking country. Thank you Mr Council official we don't need you wasting tax payers money. If you can't speak English go back to wherever you came from.
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not DRM'ed music and films, hey guys, we're not kids your epoch, era or whatever type of control you're imposing will not last,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is being pragmatic about using whatever tool is best for the job in the context of IT as opposed to being dogmatic and bigoted. (Very difficult one, I'm guilty of this sometimes).
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not believing everything you hear or read in the Fox News, Mail or the Guardian (UK Newspapers, masters of polarised views),
  • Finally, Paradigm Intelligence is understanding the relevance of open source bazaar software development approaches in delivering really useful solutions that end users use for play and work.

If you can think of anymore, go ahead and add your own or write about it. The more you ask yourself are my paradigm intelligent looking at this issue, the more likely that you'll be able to understand things better and not get too arrogant about your reactive clouded absolutist views. Remember, no one, is totally, paradigm intelligent !!