Enjoying the personal touch

Enjoying the personal touch

by Kellie White, Head of UX @ ClearPeople

Profile

Name: Kellie White
Gender: Female
Age: 35 – 45
Marital status: Single
Geographic location: London Borough of Barnet
Taste: Interesting, on-trend, glamorous
Needs: Inspiration, validation, admiration
Willing to pay: £100 – £150

The Story

Today is the day! I have saved for this day, fantasised about this day and looked forward to it for months. Oh yes, today is the day that I find those drop dead January bargains. The kind that leave me reeling with delight, wondering why on earth I ever buy anything full-price? Ladies and gentlemen, today I am hitting the high street in a big way, actually more like the Westfield… I have an A-lister event coming up and I need to look the part.

8461712544_80fa2acbf6_o

Firstly, I need a coffee. I head over to my local caffeine pusher. They know me by my painful, unmoving regulatory of choice. Coffee is one of those things that people like a certain way isn’t it and don’t like it any other? Personally I like it flat white and skinny, not too big, not too small – just right. I don’t want a caramel-vanilla shot do I, vile and sickly-sweet. Neither do I want to be offered a cup of tea, I’d recoil in horror, never to return. All I am here for is a few pleasantries, to get my hit, pay and leave, with all my expectations met in that first sip. It’s a relationship that’s established, trusted and loyal, and I love it!

I’m discovering though, as I heave through the writhing mass of Saturday sale shoppers that clothes shopping is not quite the same! No one knows me well enough to fulfil my desires as soon as I walk in the door. In fact as I contemplate, no one offers me that kind of service apart from my friend Amanda who has introduced me to many of my best buys. “Jacket meet Kellie, Kellie meet jacket” she sings, as she holds it up to me with her knowing smile. I gaze at the creation, eyes glittering as much as the lapel. She’s so unbelievably good at finding those hidden gems, the things that I’d walk straight past.

Amanda is a fashion buyer, she understands it and knows it inside out. All the body shapes, the lumps and bumps and the lines and cuts to make them work. Most importantly she knows me, my personality and my style. She knows I love a jumpsuit, a bit of glam-rock and that I fantasise about wearing the softest pimped-up leopard print coat. Where is she on a day like today though, when I need her solid, good judgement as I stumble clumsily through piles of clothes and multiple fluorescent changing rooms, swimming in angora, chintz and faux-fur?

clothesrail

And then, just as I am about to lose my cool and post a number of selfies on Facebook for advice, he appears at my side, cool, elegant and in complete control. I hold fire on the posts, as he lifts up a panné velvet number in black with a slight shimmer of snakeskin and I instantly fall… Not for him, no way! A man with that much inside knowledge is not to be trusted, but I definitely have my dress and as you’ve guessed, it fits like a dream at half the price, yes please!

Next he’s gliding me along effortlessly matching earrings, heels and a clutch. This guy’s unbelievable, a perfect match for Amanda and as I am pondering ways of chance encounters, he leads me swiftly to the till, flashes me a devilish smile, slips me a card and exits. All the card says is ‘Thanks for shopping with us today. Why not try our online stylist next time? We’re sure you’ll be just as pleased.’

What, seriously, will it ever be that good and easy? I’m not sure but if they hired him they must know what they’re doing right? And I can’t deal a minute longer with these crowds. What a breeze, I walk out the door a happy lady and have all I need to make that impression!

The facts

Getting the things we want and need easily are great, aren’t they? Just like my regular morning coffee and finding that fabulous, (virtually free) frock. I am super pleased when I’m presented with the things that I want without much effort because there is so much these days, an overabundance of choice, far too much information and I’m very thin on the time to digest it all.

That’s where personalisation can help and has been helping for quite some time in our online experiences. It’s all about getting the things that we need without looking too hard, with the aim of saving time and effort – it’s that simple.

Now imagine an online experience that you’re creating in which you’d like to apply the same principles. How would you know what the different types of people are who visit your site? My bet is you’d start by meeting and talking to them and asking lots of questions. In this way you’d get a good understanding of their likes and dislikes, how they behave and interact, and what they’re trying to achieve. You’d start to see similarities and differences, you’d start to organise them into groups based on buckets of similarity. Each one of these groups become what is called a persona, which is an archetypal user of the site. There are usually around 5 to 6 personas in a site, which are real users because you’ve done your research.

After this groundwork is done you’ll be in a much stronger position to work with your users in more realistic goal-focused ways, to create optimum user journeys based on their needs. With these ingredients and the right people to bring their stories and your story to life, you’re in exactly the right place to increase audience engagement by grabbing their attention with focused messages that are quick to inform, and relevant.

Working with a provider who understands segmentation empowers marketing teams to analyse and respond to their users’ demands in new and innovative ways. The analysis doesn’t stop there though, it’s important to continuously test new content and your personas so that engagement strategies can be fine-tuned, to give your users a better experience every time they come to your site.

Posted in consulting, Content Management, Customer Experience, Digital Marketing System | Leave a comment

Getting to grips with a 1 Sitecore 7.2 JQuery Modal Dialog Box Issue

Getting to grips with a 1 Sitecore 7.2 JQuery Modal Dialog Box Issue

by Alan Yip, Senior Sitecore Consultant @ ClearPeople

So you’ve installed a vanilla install of Sitecore 7.2 and you are about to give it a test run to make sure that basic features like content creation and publishing works. But you stumble across a weird issue when you try to publish an item and no popup is displayed! In fact, if you try any function where the new modal dialog Sitecore popup is used, you will notice that none of this actually works now…

The Issue

In Sitecore 7.2, XAML is still widely used throughout the admin pages and in some cases, the new JQuery modal dialog is used, for instance the publish item popup. An example of this popup is shown below:

sitecore popup

You will notice that the XAML windows are not affected by this issue, but only the new JQuery ones are. This is not easily identifiable at first but I will explain how you will find out what causes this.

The Cause

If you are in Chrome (And no, this is not related to the Chrome Modal Dialog issue) you will want to press F12 to bring up the developer toolbar. You will notice the following error messages as shown below:

error message
You will notice some JavaScript errors being fired when you refresh the admin page.

Highlighted is the term “rejected-by-urlscan”. This is the cause and if you are getting this error, then you are in luck because there is a solution for this.

The solution

In IIS and under ISAPI Filters for your website, you will probably have URLScan 3.1 installed on your server for penetration test fixes. This is a module that you install in IIS to lock down certain HTTP requests.

You can remove this from your list of ISAPI Filters and your popups will function again with no problem and this is a solution from some Googling.

But you may not be in the position to do this because it may fail your penetration tests. So what can we do instead?

The problem is that the default installation has the following configuration set to false:

AllowDotInPath=0

This basically says that URL paths cannot have more than 1 dot in its URL and if it does, then it will return a 404 for that file. The problem we have with websites nowadays (including Sitecore) is that JQuery files for instance have dots everywhere! (well, not everywhere) so these always return a 404, thus stopping most of your JQuery features from functioning.

So to get around not removing URLScan from your website, you can set this property to 1 and reset IIS and you’re good to go!

Please note that you will need to work with your penetration company to make sure that by removing this you mitigate other areas.

Posted in Sitecore, Sitecore 7.2 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Test Automation at ClearPeople

Test Automation at ClearPeople

by Ricardo Abreu, Quality Assurance Test Analyst & Barry McKaine, Head of Project Management @ ClearPeople

There is a common belief in the digital industry that test automation is the solution to improve defect detection as part of regression testing. In fact, if well implemented, automated testing can form the basis of a sound Quality Assurance process. This approach is the driver for companies to invest money in resources and tools that aid testing automation. These tools tend to be “user friendly” and the learning curve for adoption is much smaller than learning a programming language from scratch or learning how to program within a test framework.

However, even with the promises of improvements advertised by companies that build these tools, most QA teams soon realise that many of their claims fade into a sea of issues when it comes to their day-to-day usage; from problems with the software itself to the time spent customising for reporting or waiting for support teams to answer niggling questions on how best to implement or use the software. Test cases can fail due to brittle code behind the scripts and an unproductive amount of time can be spent on script maintenance. Such issues often result in frustration and negative opinions about the chosen software and QA teams can end up ditching the automation tool altogether immediately after their first project. Others will keep moving from one tool to the next, seeking the “Holy Grail” of test automation that best suits their needs.

Whilst these testing automation tools offer some great advantages, we also have to consider their flaws and learn how to overcome them. One way to do this is for QA teams to write the code for the test themselves, based on a framework such as Selenium webdriver, Cucumber, or Microsoft Coded UI. This places the QA team in control from of their destiny from the outset and allows much more flexibility – leaving behind the standard “record and play” functionality that most tools are limited to. Your QA team’s imagination is the only limit here, and of course, their expertise in programming!

At ClearPeople, our testing team went through some of the learning and experiences outlined above during the last year. We have standardised and implemented Telerik Test Studio and have been on that steep learning curve with some of our larger projects over recent months. Moving into 2015, we hope we can leverage even more from this tool and continue to integrate our own code to build even more robust tests to ensure quality deliverables to our clients.

Posted in programming, Testing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Looking ahead – What does 2015 hold?

Looking ahead – What does 2015 hold?

During 2014 many organisations discussed the importance of implementing their new digital strategies. Many already knew what they wanted. Some had already put plans in place to achieve this. Some failed. For most, their pursuit for a best in class digital strategy involves providing a truly integrated experience across social, email, web, mobile, advertising and marketing. But many organisations will not get off the ground in actually delivering this truly integrated experience across their offline and online channels during 2015.

What will happen though is a year of learning – the awareness and the need to understand how all those channels really work together to deliver ONE experience to the customer will likely drive businesses to think, plan and prepare for what they will be more likely be able to deliver during the year 2016.

Resource, money and proven experience in this area, and a conscious effort are all required to bring disparate groups to the table to learn how to collaborate across different screens, devices and channels to deliver a seamless experience to customers wherever they may be in the customer journey.

The best (or at the very least, the most likely to be successful in the future) organisations will not run these channels as silos but will look to merge the functions previously held and looked after by disparate teams into a single customer-centric focused team of experts dedicated to deliver the right experiences at the right time in the right manner regardless of location, device or channel.

One department, one focus – the Customer.

This is by no means a new notion, but we see 2015 as being the year that many businesses strive more to achieve this. And here’s a snapshot of what else is happening in the industry to make this possible:

1. The online experience is already being personalised for different users. Technology is evolving in a way that soon everything can be based on predictive personalisation and experience. So instead of having marketers thinking about the rules involved to show specific content to specific types of users, platforms will be able to “guess” what the user wants to see ‘Minority Report’ style, by intelligently learning from the massive amount of data it’s now able to gather.

2. The term ‘post-demographic consumerism’ has been coined which suggests businesses need to step away from traditional stereotypes of consumer behaviour where specific groups are targeted, and go beyond demographics to an individual level as consumers are now constructing their own identities more freely. For example, IAB statistics show that in the UK women now account for the majority of video game players and there are more gamers over 44 than under 18.*

3. More and more businesses will move to the Cloud. Already this year we have seen the majority of our own clients take the leap to hybrid or Cloud-based solutions, with the devices in the market their users are consuming their information from being the main driver. Smartphones, tablets and now Smartwatches require data to be hosted elsewhere than in a business’s own servers/machines to allow access anywhere in the world whilst consumers are on the move.

4. The rise of big data also contributed to the migration to the Cloud, but understanding and analysing this data will be even more important. We will see analytics tools really come into their own as businesses intelligence guides organisations into the future.

5. No digital strategy will be complete without social and user-generated content will continue to thrive. With social media now an accountable part of the marketing mix, businesses need to speak to, and more importantly, listen to what their customers have to say. Brand websites are becoming social platforms in their own right, and by giving customers the means to communicate with you directly and share their own content will not only increase dwell time but will ultimately lead to conversions.

6. Your internal Digital Workplace should be fully integrated with your external online presence. As the pace of change in the world of technology quickens and there is an ever increasing demand for collaboration and a seamless cross-device experience, organisations need to satisfy their internal customers as well as their external ones. More than just an intranet, a digital workplace is defined by working in a more collaborative, engaging and productive way that enables individuals to work from any place in the world at any time to better serve their end users. 2015 will see more businesses look to climb the Digital Maturity Framework ladder to improve efficiency and productivity.

2014 saw ClearPeople refine our ‘consultagency’ approach, fusing technical consulting skills with traditional digital marketing agency services. With 2015 around the corner, we’re excited to show how this approach will help our clients to achieve business transformation and gain competitive advantage by putting the customer experience at the heart of our solutions.

*(Marketing Week)

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The Digital Workplace – More than just an intranet

The Digital Workplace – More than just an intranet

by Katya Linossi, Managing Director@ClearPeople

We are all feeling the impact of the pace of change in the world of technology. An increasing demand for global collaboration and a need for a seamless experience across multiple devices is paramount as so much of our day to day lives has become digitised.

Organisations are witnessing this demand like never before, needing to satisfy not only their own paying customers but also their internal customers (employees) too through digital tools such as the intranet, wikis, instant messaging and search. The term “Digital Workplace” is hence being used more and more frequently to describe the way in which organisations need to work.

So what is Digital Workplace, and more specifically the Digital Workplace Maturity Framework?

A Digital Workplace is more than just an intranet or technology. It is defined by working in a more collaborative, engaging and productive way that enables individuals to work from any place in the world at any time. This is advantageous not only for an organisation in terms of cost savings and increased productivity, but also for their external customers who expect an efficient and timely service. As demand for this increases, some of the tools and processes required for organisations to improve efficiency and share knowledge are now more readily available and easier to use and implement.

When doing research on intranet maturity models, it came to my attention that many of them were either outdated or did not satisfy our clients’ requirements. So I decided to use the best elements of these models to create a more relevant illustration of digital workplace maturity – aptly named the ClearPeople Digital Workplace Maturity (DWM) Framework. This is predominantly based on the Razorfish Intranet Maturity Framework (2006).

Digital Workplace Maturity Framework

The ClearPeople DWM Framework is by no means perfect nor academic. However, it is a useful way to understand what your organisation’s digital workplace is achieving right now, and more importantly, identify what you want it to achieve in the future. The model can also be used to help recognise what tools, technology, processes and people you may need for each stage as the digital workplace grows to have more strategic value within your business. The stages are not necessarily sequential.

Stage 1 – Information Publishing

Traditionally, Stage 1 is your classic intranet, focused on primarily meeting the most basic of employee needs such as the dissemination of news, providing an organisation chart and relevant templates for each department. It has a low level of resources and a very low degree of management is required. For organisations that currently have no digital workplace, this stage can easily be bypassed and they can progress along the maturity scale instantly given that many technologies such as SharePoint for example, include out-of-the-box collaboration and other relevant features.

Stage 2 – Interaction

This is the stage where employees are provided with information and services that enable them to better manage their work. They can now contribute to the digital workplace through available tools like wikis and discussion forums. This stage provides easily measurable benefits that reduce employee overhead, streamline business processes and could result in a more paperless organisation.

Stage 3 – Collaboration

This is where the true Digital Workplace starts by typically incorporating collaboration and social tools so that employees have a single interface through which they can communicate, collaborate and share knowledge with one another via multiple devices, rather than a variety of tools from which to do so. The focus of this stage is collaboration while continuing to improve communication, information-sharing and self-service components.

Stage 4 – Dashboard

This stage includes all features and functionality from preceding stages but is fundamentally concerned with displaying business information (often of a confidential nature) through an intranet interface to specific users (mostly senior level employees). These dashboards give new significance by not only empowering employees to communicate, collaborate or conduct business tasks but also assess the performance of their business units.

Stage 5 – Consolidated Workplace

Unlike the earlier stages, the Digital Workplace responds to the way employees accomplish tasks in the workplace. This stage includes integrating legacy applications into one single, consolidated and dynamic interface. Very few organisations achieve Stage 5 owing to the dramatic organisational and technical changes as well as the investment required.

As aforementioned, the progression through the model is not necessarily sequential, and moving from one stage to the next does not mean that what is done in an earlier stage is no longer required in later stages. For example, the provision of information does not move out of focus once an organisation advances to another stage, but should also be moved to the next stage in its evolution.

In conclusion, the ClearPeople Digital Workplace Maturity Model, like most models of its nature, reflects the broad nature of the Digital Workplace and the changing world of work in general. As businesses aim to satisfy the growing demands of their internal and external customers as technology advances and raises expectations, the Digital Workplace needs to evolve. There is no “one size fits all” approach as all organisations have different requirements and priorities. I believe the model is an excellent guideline in seeing the art of the possible but it is by no means definitive; a detailed discovery phase and user requirements gathering is essential to pin down an organisation’s current situation and future planning.

Posted in Customer Experience, Digital Workplace, Intranet | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Did your agency build your website CMS? 6 reasons why in 2014 this isn’t a great idea!

Did your agency build your website CMS?
6 reasons why in 2014 this isn’t a great idea!

by Brad Smith, Commercial Director@ClearPeople

I’ve noticed that a lot of businesses I talk to about their website and intranet development projects work with ‘agencies’ who deliver solutions built on a content management system that they have developed themselves.

It got me thinking about the pros and cons of such a relationship, and also about the benefits of working with an agency that is agnostic in its approach to technology.

It may sound a bit weird coming from a technology agency, but here at ClearPeople we believe that technology is secondary – i.e. it’s not about the website, it’s about the experience.

For us, a digital project begins with a deep understanding of your business and not with a ‘one size fits all’ technical solution.

That’s why I have come up with 7 reasons why I think there is an inherent risk in working with a company that puts its own technology first. Let me know if you agree.

1. You’re locked into a technology for a long time…

Market experience tells us most businesses expect to get between 3 and 5 years out of their investment in their chosen content management system (CMS). However due to budgetary constraints and the need to prove an ongoing ROI, many organisations actually try and push this nearer to 5 to 7 years. That’s a long time to use one technology that may or may not be keeping up to date with currents market trends and your business objectives.

2. If you fall out with the agency who built your CMS, you’re stuck with a technology nobody else understands…

I’m sure the relationship would have been sold to you with the key benefit of working with one supplier, but in reality how many technology companies have truly managed to deliver exceptional technology and a superlative delivery capability?

3. Your user requirements don’t come first, the technology does…

Proven technologies have proven implementation partners. Companies like Microsoft, IBM and Sitecore don’t have in-house delivery teams implementing their products for their customers. Why? Because technology moves at such a pace that priority needs to be given to continuous development and improvements of a product, and working to satisfy client’s requirements will get in the way.

4. A jack of all trades is actually a master of none…

I’ve never met an agency that has won awards for producing the best design, best processes, best delivery capability and the best content management platform in the industry. There’s a reason for this.

5. You don’t want the same website as everybody else…

Customisations to the product that the client requests that don’t enhance or drive forwards the CMS platform will be ignored because it takes away from investment in the CMS itself. If your customisations are not agreed to you’ll have to settle for the same as everybody else.

6. The solution may look nice on the surface but often is only skin-deep…

Many agencies with their own platform use proprietary or bespoke solutions, sometimes built 7 or 8 years ago, and sprucing them up so that they appear on face value to have a form of depth, but when you dig behind the scenes it’s evident that the capability of the product is very limited.

When talking to businesses about this I often ask them to imagine building a new home from scratch. You’ve hired a fantastic architect who has drawn up some inspirational designs. His skills lie in putting the overall vision down on paper. But you wouldn’t expect him to build the foundations and get his hands dirty with the bricks and mortar. You wouldn’t seek him out to fix your plumbing and your electrics, or glaze your windows. You would choose the right people, with the right skillsets for the job, who recommend appropriate products to complete your dream home.

The same can certainly be said for your digital projects. Hire an agency that has a specialised team of experts in their distinct disciplines to bring your vision to life. They will help you choose the right design and the right technology to create an exceptional user experience.

Drop me a line if you’d like to talk through this approach in more detail

Posted in Content Management, Website Design | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to install MiniProfiler in Sitecore

How to install MiniProfiler in Sitecore

by Sergio Gisbert, Senior .Net Developer@ClearPeople

The problem to solve

Sitecore has some tools for performance profiling that we can use out-of-the-box, like /sitecore/admin/stats.aspx or the Debug mode in the Page Editor. But, in my opinion, they’re useful when you already know you have a problem, and even then, they’re not really straight-forward to use. But how can we detect in real-time that we have a performance problem? I suggest using MiniProfiler

 The tool that will solve it

MiniProfiler is a light-weight plugin for ASP.NET applications that add live profiling capabilities to our application. Apart from the basic plugin (ASP.Net WebForms), there are also several extensions for MVC, EF, Ruby, Node.js, etc. MiniProfiler will add an unobtrusive layer on the top left side of the website with the time taken to render it. Then we can open it to see the whole breakdown of steps.

image1

image2

This way we can easily see if a concrete page is taking more time than necessary, and then try to dig deeper in the components that conform that page, using Sitecore profiling or our own methods. Please refer to MiniProfiler documentation at http://miniprofiler.com/ or check the sample project at GitHub (https://github.com/MiniProfiler/dotnet/tree/master/Sample.WebForms) to see how you can wrap your own profiled sections in your code, and see them at the output layer.

How to install MiniProfiler in Sitecore

As MiniProfiler is deployed through Nuget, it seems that getting it up and running in Sitecore should be something easy. But there are a couple of things to do before this comes true.

Installing MiniProfiler plugin

The first step is to get the MiniProfiler package to our website. To do so, we will open the “Package Manager Console” in Visual Studio and select our Website project in the “Default project” dropdown.

image3
We can use MiniProfiler capabilities in other projects that are part of the solution (data layer, services, etc.), where it will probably make more sense than in the top layer website. Then we will need to install the package in those projects as well. In this case we’re installing the basic package for WebForms, as this has been tested against a Sitecore 6.6 installation. We can use the specific packages for MVC if needed.

MiniProfiler setup

We need to add three small changes to our website to have MiniProfiler running:

Global.asax.cs

We will copy the configuration from the sample website: https://github.com/MiniProfiler/dotnet/blob/master/Sample.WebForms/Global.asax.cs

I suggest modifying the method void InitProfilerSettings()  and including these lines:

ignored.Add(“.axd”);
ignored.Add(“.xml”);
ignored.Add(“.mp3″);
ignored.Add(“.flv”);
ignored.Add(“.js”);
ignored.Add(“.css”);
ignored.Add(“.gif”);
ignored.Add(“.png”);
ignored.Add(“.jpg”);
ignored.Add(“.woff”);
ignored.Add(“.ttf”);

// Sitecore specific URLs
ignored.Add(“sc_mode=edit”);
ignored.Add(“~/media”);
ignored.Add(“~/icon”);
ignored.Add(“/sitecore/”);

So we avoid messing up with static files and Sitecore specific urls timing.

Web.config

1. Make sure the <modules> section looks like this:
<modules runAllManagedModulesForAllRequests=true“>

2. Edit the “IgnoreUrlPrefixes” setting, and add the following url, /mini-profiler-resources.

It should look like:
<setting name=IgnoreUrlPrefixesvalue=“/mini-profiler-resources|/sitecore/default.aspx|/trace.axd|…/>

Default layout

Finally, we must add the frontend resources (CSS/JS) that render the layer in the site. To do so, we have to add the following line to our main layout, at the end, just before the </body> tag:
<%= StackExchange.Profiling.MiniProfiler.RenderIncludes(useExistingjQuery:false) %>

This is the WebForms syntax. Please refer to the documentation if you’re using MVC.

Conclusion

MiniProfiler is a widely recommended way to include basic profiling in our website projects, and it’s really helpful to have your code under control.

The main trick to get it working with Sitecore was adding the MiniProfiler url to the ignored Urls by Sitecore, so Sitecore doesn’t think it’s an item path and return a 404 error.

This has been tested with Sitecore 6.6, but it will probably work as well with newer versions.

This post is an update from the original post in Spanish at my personal blog: http://www.sergigisbert.com/blog/como-instalar-miniprofiler-en-sitecore-cms

Posted in Front End Development, programming, Sitecore, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Introducing the Sitecore Workflow Manager module

Introducing the Sitecore Workflow Manager module

by Alan Yip, Senior Sitecore Consultant@ClearPeople

The Workflow Manager module came about when I was looking for something to start assigning workflows to existing items in my content tree. Surprisingly enough, there were loads of scripts and bits of code on the web that dealt with this and in the past, I created a standard ASPX page to deal with this (The quickest option I had back then in my disposal!)

But the issue I had was that I had to manage this process separately like not deploying the page to production, develop it enough to run it once and get rid of it which sometimes was missed out and in some cases, content migration would be involved and workflow was left till the end.

So an idea crept into my head when I had a bit of spare time to create a tool which managed your workflows for you without having to write up any code.

What can it do?

The module comes with 2 main features:

  • Managing workflow for your templates
  • Managing workflow on content

When I talk about managing workflow, I mean adding and removing workflow from your Sitecore items. It is as simple as that because as we all know, that is exactly all we need to do (other than maybe set up the workflow itself!) But we’re not discussing the details here.

Managing workflow for your templates

The module allows you to add or remove workflows to templates and you can choose which workflow you want to assign to these templates.

The actual work is processed on the standard values of the template and only the default workflow field is populated.

As you can see, there is no need for the developer to learn everything there is to know about workflows on templates which can sometimes be complicated when you start delving into the details.

workflow manager

Managing workflow on content

You can also add and remove workflow to items in the content tree or wherever you see fit. You can set the workflow, the status of the workflow, omit any templates that you don’t want to assign workflow to like folders.

This feature gives you the flexibility to manage probably the most important part of the process, especially when you’ve already got lots of content items that need workflow adding to them.

The removal of workflow from content items is a little more brutal. It will simply get rid of workflow from all descendants of the selected content root and itself. This was created this way initially for me to be able to remove workflow quickly.

workflow manager 2

Where do I get this?

You can download this module from the Sitecore Marketplace or click here to go directly to the module to download it.

This is an initial release and I can see extensions or improvements being made to it, e.g. re-writing it in SPEAK, but I hope it can help some who may be interested in it.

Have a play with it, use it and I welcome any feedback that you may have with the module.

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Introducing Luke Smith, Cloud Services Manager

Introducing Luke Smith, Cloud Services Manager

by Ricky Wallace, Marketing Manager@ClearPeople

In the week that ClearPeople was announced the first Microsoft UK Partner to be awarded Cloud Platform Gold Competency for Microsoft Azure, we also welcomed a new addition to the team – Luke Smith, as our Cloud Services Manager.

He knows his stuff – with over 15 years’ experience in the industry and Microsoft certifications coming out of his ears – I caught up with Luke to get the low-down on all things Cloud.

Luke Smith

Hi Luke, and welcome to the team!

Thanks, it’s great to be here. I’m really excited to get stuck in.

What are your first impressions of ClearPeople?

It’s a modern organisation where everyone is welcoming. It’s clear that the main focus of the company is on its client relationships and creating the right solution, shown by its repeat business.

It’s a client-first, people-first business, with a Cloud-first, mobile-first approach.

Talk us through your first day…

Well, the morning didn’t start very well with the trains running late due to a signal failure at Slough! But once I finally arrived at the office and had a meeting with company founders Gabriel and Katya, they introduced me the rest of the team and I got straight down to business. I started working with the Technical Consulting Services Director, Eneko and our Alliance Director Gurmail on our Cloud strategy and I already feel part of the furniture!

So tell me, how long have you been in the industry?

Over 15 years. I’ve been working with Microsoft Technologies since MS-DOS 5.0.

Quite a while then! So you’ve been at the forefront of the latest Microsoft developments…

I certainly have. And to date, I have been working on Microsoft’s latest cloud technology Windows Azure, Office 365 and SharePoint with their associated technology stacks to it, like System Center, Lync, Windows, Exchange and TMG/UAG.

What were you doing before joining ClearPeople?

Before joining I was working for another Microsoft Partner and for Microsoft UK as an Azure P-TSP evangelising and designing Microsoft Cloud Services. I have worked with many organisations from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, with my main focus being Microsoft Cloud services – Azure and Office 365.

What kind of projects were you working on?

I’ve worked on all kinds of projects – small to large implementations of Windows Azure, SharePoint, Office 365 and BizTalk, comprising of recommendations, design, implementation and support transition.

Additionally, I have worked with technologies including System Center, Windows Server, SQL Clustering, AD, Kerberos authentication, Third-Party solutions, Firewall, Load balancing and Office Infrastructure.

Tell me more about your new role here at ClearPeople, and what are you most looking forward to?

I head up the Cloud Services practice at ClearPeople. I’m really looking forward to working with like-minded people and continuing the success you guys have achieved so far. And I’m also really looking forward to growing the team too, and making sure that the Technical Consulting Services team hits some ambitious targets.

The term ‘Cloud Services’ is a real buzzword at the moment. For those who don’t know, what exactly is it? And what do you think is exciting about the Cloud?

Think of the Cloud as similar to a utility service such as your electricity. When you switch on the lights, you didn’t have to generate the power yourself, it’s just there – and you pay the utility company based on your consumption.

Cloud computing works in the same way. You can access an enterprise level service without having to run the infrastructure yourself. Whether you want the power of a super computer for an hour, want to store data, or share a file, you can from anywhere at any time instantly and only pay for what you use. In some instances the services are provided for free, such as OneDrive or Outlook.com.

Great analogy – making the technical simple, I like it! Can you tell me an example of the Cloud Services ClearPeople can provide?

Office 365 and Microsoft Azure are such Cloud services that ClearPeople partner with Microsoft to offer organisations globally, suitable if you’re a small start-up or an enterprise business with hundreds of thousands of users. The services give users access to the same highly available global infrastructure starting from as little as £1.30 per user for a whole month.

Last week we were announced the first Microsoft UK Partner to be awarded Gold Cloud Platform Competency. Can you tell me what this means to our customers?

Meeting such accreditation will give our existing and new customers the confidence that we understand the Cloud and can help their business to move forward to Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. It is obviously awesome that we got there first!

There are a lot of stories in the press at the minute about privacy and security due to certain photos being leaked online. What would your response be to customers who are concerned about the safety of Cloud hosting?

Microsoft Azure and Office 365 are tested to the highest security standards. These are likely to be much higher than those in your server room. The reports you hear in the press are not directly related to Cloud being unsafe, but are fairly classic attacks known as phishing. To help prevent against these types of attacks I would recommend the following action:

  • Be vigilant when responding to emails
  • Change passwords on a frequent basis
  • Have a complex password (containing numbers, characters (mix case and symbols)
  • Run up-to-date Anti-Virus software
  • Limit the number of users with elevated permissions, like administrators, to the absolute minimum

Great advice. What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

I’ve got quite a few outdoorsy hobbies like cycling, skiing and snowboarding. And I enjoy the odd bit of DIY too and spending time with the family.

Thanks for your time Luke – what’s next on your agenda after this interview?

I am just about to head into a project kick-off meeting – we are implementing a StorSimple solution for a client with lots of data and DR requirements, so it is great timing for me to get stuck in… great speaking to you Ricky.

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ClearPeople: Facing the challenge of leading the way with strategic Sitecore deployments

ClearPeople: Facing the challenge of leading the way with strategic Sitecore deployments

by Barry McKaine, Head of Project Management@ClearPeople

“Sitecore’s partners seem unable to deal with the increasing complexity of deployments and digital strategies.”

You can download the Gartner report here.

Gartner’s recently published report on Web Content Management Systems made some interesting observations on how Sitecore’s CMS was currently perceived in the marketplace.  Whilst on the one hand the report recognised the CMS for its ease of use and adoption within businesses, along with an openness to address key customer needs, Gartner raised concerns around some of Sitecore’s partner capabilities.

On reading the above statement, I found myself agreeing with the Gartner conclusion.  However, rather than feeling knocked by the comment, I realised I am part of a company that is already addressing this deficit with our unique integrated digital agency and consultancy offering within the market.

During 2014, ClearPeople has been reassessing our positioning within the digital space.  Building on our heritage of providing both digital services and technical consulting, I have been working with other members of the Senior Leadership Team to invest in strategic hires and processes to further strengthen our offering across these areas with the objective of remaining at the leading edge of delivering complex Sitecore projects.

Yes, there are many agencies out there that can “do Sitecore builds”. In fact if this is all an organisation is looking for, then it is probably best for them to offshore this somewhere in the world other than the UK to save on costs.

What I am increasingly finding however is that companies are seeking more than just development build houses that can deliver a sound CMS build or re-platform.  As the importance and maturing of the digital channel – and indeed the digital workplace – begins to take hold across organisations it is digital strategy, rather than business or functional requirements or a specific technology platform that is, and rightly so, driving expenditure and commitment to investments in business change.

The change and the challenge we have committed ourselves to at ClearPeople is to continue to ensure our proposition and service offering meets the needs of the ever shifting digital landscape.  We see ourselves as a ‘Consultagency’ a hybrid breed of business offering both strategic digital services and technical consulting, meaning we can provide clients with a ‘best of both worlds’ approach.

So whilst some Sitecore partners struggle to deal with complex digital strategies and deployments, I believe our Consultagency ethos strongly positions ClearPeople to address the challenges that Gartner have identified within the Sitecore ecosystem in this area. Watch this digital space!

 

A Certified Sitecore Solution Partner since 2005, ClearPeople is also recognised as a leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and Cloud Accelerate Partner within the UK.  In October 2014 ClearPeople was first Microsoft UK Partner to be awarded Cloud Platform Gold Competency for Microsoft Azure.

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