Removing obsolete items in Sitecore Package Designer

Removing obsolete items in Sitecore Package Designer

by Alan Yip, Senior Sitecore Consultant @ ClearPeople

Sitecore’s Package Designer is a very useful tool for packaging Sitecore items and transferring these between different environments.

There is a very useful feature in there where you can store the structure of these items in a definition file as XML. This can then be stored somewhere and later ran against the latest content tree or wherever you decide to generate the content from and a new package is then created.

In one of my latest projects, I had to do a migration of content from one environment to another. This was not a simple straight forward migration, but that is something else.

I was in continuous communications with the clients’ developer and they were responsible for creating these packages. Now as most projects go, there will always be obstacles in the way and this project was no different.

The developer had generated the structure of the content into a definition file which was going to be used for the real content packaging, but as time went by, the actual packaging of the content didn’t actually happen until a few months later in which case, we all know content comes and goes.

Yes you’ve guessed it, when I tried to generate the content, I got the nice “Package generation failed…” error!

package failed
But luckily, I found a nice little gem that was to become my lucky charm and that was the “Remove obsolete” button!

remove obsolete
This button removes any items that don’t exist in your current Sitecore tree thus making the creation of your package possible!

NOTE: After pressing this button, it doesn’t save a copy of the updated XML definition so it’s entirely up to you how you want to manage this.

Happy packaging!

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Gleaning insight from your Intranet – A review of SharePoint Analytics tools

Gleaning insight from your Intranet – A review of SharePoint Analytics tools

by Benjamin Moles, Senior .Net Developer @ ClearPeople

As SharePoint specialists, ClearPeople helps many clients implement intranets and extranets based on this platform.

With the advent of SharePoint Online, we are often asked what analytical tools can be used to improve the current out-of-the-box analytical functionality. This prompted us to conduct independent research on analytics tools available for SharePoint and Office 365.

There are two main reasons why companies are interested in analytics tools:

  1. To gather usage information that allows them to identify what elements within the intranet are the most successful
  2. To measure the overall success of intranet projects – knowing what works best within the intranet can help business leaders make better decisions

When reviewing available analytics solutions on the market we identified key criteria that would help a business select the right solution based on their specific needs:

SharePoint integration

Most analytics tools in the market including the most popular one, Google Analytics, do not integrate well with SharePoint. The grade of integration with SharePoint is important because it determines what data can be collected and how this information is collected for further analysis. Low levels of integration makes it difficult (if not impossible) to collect data such as users’ identity. This makes a big difference in segmenting usability data by teams, departments and actual users. This criteria may be used to discard many tools available in the market for intranet analytics.

Budget

There are big differences in cost from one solution to another. For a company with a limited budget this will obviously be a major factor in their choice of analytics tool.

Pricing Policy Complexity

Some pricing policies are complex and based on usage quota and features which makes it difficult to evaluate upfront the final cost to be paid for the solution. This factor is especially important if the budget is small.

Training

Analytics is a complex subject. Analytics tools can provide useful information but businesses need to know how to use information to glean relevant insight from it. For companies without extensive experience in using analytics tools and with a limited budget, it may be more useful investing in training rather than an expensive and soon to be redundant tool.

How can ClearPeople help?

With these criteria in mind the options are narrowed down quite a lot as there are few tools that match all of them. At ClearPeople we are happy to help our clients to select the right analytics tool for their business needs.

If you are interested in migrating all or part of your intranet to Office 365 and you want to quantify and maximise your ROI, please get in touch with one of our consultants who will be happy to help.

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A review of our past year: Building a team to last

A review of our past year: Building a team to last

by the Senior Leadership Team @ ClearPeople

As the new financial year approaches, it is time to review the changes we’ve seen over the past 12 months. It’s clear to say that ClearPeople has undergone significant change. And admittedly it has been a bit of a challenge, but the change has been necessary – so many companies that fail to adapt as the industry evolves, fail themselves. To quote Harold Wilson: “He who rejects change is the architect of decay.”

But ClearPeople continues to grow from strength to strength. We’ve almost doubled our turnover in 2 years which has led to the growth of our Alicante team by 78% and our London team by 22%.

Such an achievement requires an evolution of business processes to sustain it. And we are really proud that with the appointment of a new Senior Leadership Team, this change has been managed effectively to the benefit of our business and our employees.

SLT

Through small incremental changes over the past 12 months, ClearPeople has come to be in the leading position it is today. Our client work continues to be award-winning, with a recent project named the Best IT Project at the BCS & Computing UK IT Industry Awards, and we were also recognised as the first Microsoft UK partner to be awarded Cloud Platform Gold Competency for Microsoft Azure. This demonstrates our best-in-class capabilities in delivering Cloud platform based solutions to UK Enterprises.

Of course, with any form of change comes an element of uncertainty and we obviously had to accept that change does not suit everybody within an organisation. We have had to adapt our processes and internal structure to be able to meet the demand of our clients and that has seen some of our employees leave for pastures new. We wish them well in their endeavours and thank them for all their hard work and contribution. But it has meant that many new, talented experts have joined us and many of our staff (some who have been with us for more than 10 years) have embraced it. The Senior Leadership team have sought to provide stability through this period and as we approach the new financial year we are pleased to be in a position where these changes are starting to pay off.

Katya Linossi, Co-founder and Managing Director of ClearPeople says: “It’s an incredibly exciting time for ClearPeople as we continue to grow and add to the services we’re able to offer to our clients. We’re proud to have built a really strong team, rather than a company of individuals, and I am confident that our team’s expertise will help us to maintain our position as one of London’s leading digital and technology agencies.”

Our ‘consultagency’ proposition, fusing the skills of technical consulting with creative digital marketing agency services, has been well received by our customers giving them real and clear business value. Everything ClearPeople does is focused on meeting our customer’s business objectives and providing value back to those that put their trust in us. This is evident in our 85% repeat business and referral rate.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any of our Senior Leadership Team:

Katya Linossi, Managing Director LinossiK@clearpeople.net
Gabriel Karawani, Director KarawaniG@clearpeople.net
Wesley Hogg, Digital Strategy Services Director HoggW@clearpeople.net
Eneko Vallecillo, Technical Consulting Services Director VallecilloE@clearpeople.net
Barry McKaine, Head of Project Management McKaineB@clearpeople.net

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Designing the perfect Document Management System

Designing the perfect Document Management System

by Matthew Quenby, New Business Manager @ ClearPeople

In my opinion, there are only a few things that separate SharePoint from being either one of the world’s worst or best platforms for Document Management.

  • The first concerns the choices you make when designing the user interface and experience – taking into account (or not) the user’s day to day experience (so over 80% of the user’s time is still today in 2015 spent in MS Word or Outlook).
  • The second is how you design a sensible information architecture (IA) that will withstand the pressures of today and the changes over time.
  • The third is how you manage, maintain and control the IA day to day, avoiding it getting out of hand, while not constraining the business from using the portal for what it was intended (collaborative and flexible document management).

Generally speaking, our team spends lots of time talking about and advising on how to avoid the most common mistakes and how to take best of advantage of SharePoint for what it is. I won’t cover these more general points, but you can read more about them in the Guidelines for SharePoint 2013:

From a user’s perspective, one of the greatest shortcomings is often the first point mentioned earlier. The interaction between Microsoft Office applications Outlook, Word etc. and SharePoint itself.

In this series of blog posts my colleagues and I will cover this point in detail but we will also discuss how SharePoint can deliver high intensity/volume document management to a level that will not only match but be more versatile and applicable than traditional DM systems.

As a taster of what is possible from a user’s perspective, the below screen shots show a SharePoint document set folder being surfaced in Outlook including a site/library/folder structure in the right hand panel. This example is delivered by combining a SharePoint DM portal with a third party product DMF to provide a great user experience. More about this in future posts.

DM2DM1

And – of course – I will also cover how social and communication features (mainly Yammer and Lync) layered into the Microsoft product suite is reducing the need for email communications and content sharing, but I want to balance this with facts. Because the fact is that the majority of information workers still rely heavily on email and indeed spend most of their working day using Outlook. Irrespective of that, social features do have an impact on all three key points above, so they cannot be ignored by anyone designing DM systems today.

For those of you that deal with information management – the key challenge is: how do we maintain, manage and secure all the information sent and received through different channels when our users are given so much freedom and power with the technology tools we are handing out. A tough question – which I look forward to discussing further soon.

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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.

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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.

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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

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