Defining content and the tools to manage it

A big part of managing an eCommerce site is to be able to manage the various forms of content on the site.  Content is a relatively vague term, so we need to provide some additional definition.

Defining 'content'

Development assets - This includes things like java code, configuration files, and JSP pages (templates).  These assets are typically maintained in source code control systems.  There are usually 'build scripts' that will compile the source code, and package the whole application into a form that can be deployed to the application server.  Deployments (moving the code into staging or production environments) is something that takes careful planning and organization within the development / operations group.

Oracle ATG-specific assets - These assets include content groups, segments, content targeters, promotions, scenarios, etc.  There are a few different approaches to managing these assets, but in general, they are best managed using Oracle ATG tools such as the BCC and Merchandising.

For the most part, what's we're left with can be considered some form of content.  We can break down what's left into two categories:

Static content - examples include style sheets (CSS), small navigational images, static html files, etc.  These assets are authored by designers who usually have their own process of managing these assets (i.e. they might leverage the source code control system that the developers use, or there could be other tools they prefer).

Dynamic content - this can be considered any content stored in an Oracle ATG repository such as products, categories, skus, media items, etc.  This content is typically managed using Oracle ATG tools such as the BCC or Merchandising.  When this type of content changes, it's expected that the changes will go through some kind of approval or review process.  At the very least, the changes need to be 'previewed' in order to see what what it will look like before being deployed to production.

What about other content items that are not listed above?  Perhaps your site has other kinds of content such as articles, tips / advice, detailed product sheets, etc.  Do you consider that content to be static or dynamic based on the definitions above?   You may already be managing that content in another content management system (CMS).  Should all of that content remain in the existing CMS, or should some or all of that content be migrated into Oracle ATG to be managed there?

Which tools to manage your content

There are a number of factors to consider when making that decision:

Factor 1: Investment in existing CMS

  • Sunk cost of the software
  • Sunk cost of any customizations done to the CMS
  • Training investment for the people who use the system

The existing investment might be too much to walk away from, especially if the system is functioning well.  If that's the case, then you're likely to end up with a 'combined' way to manage the assets of your site (see description of this below).

Factor 2: Enhancing your content management capabilities

What are the advantages of managing the content in Oracle ATG?  Some possibilities could include:

  • A single UI for managing content along with the rest of the sites assets
  • A single mechanism to deploy assets to the site (one approach for content along with all the other assets managed in the BCC)
  • Narrow down to a single vendors solution (reduced support cost, operational efficiencies, etc)
  • Potentially easier to cross reference content with catalog assets (perhaps you want to create a relationship between a product and articles related to that product.  Having them in one system may make that easier)
  • Do you plan to 'target' this content to customers in personalization rules?  In order to specify content to be targeted to customers, Oracle ATG needs to be aware of the content (at least the ID and meta-data).

Factor 3: Existing system effectiveness

If it's not broke...

  • Is the existing system performing well?
  • Are users able to manage the content effectively?
  • Are there any unique features in the existing system that users simply can't live without?

Different approaches

That's alot to think about.  The good news is that you can make it work either way.  First, let's take a look at how it would work if you decide to migrate all the content into Oracle ATG; we'll refer to this as the single system approach:

Steps:

  • Analyze the existing content
  • Define the Oracle ATG content repositories to store that content
  • Consider functional requirements (preview, security, workflow, etc).
  • Migrate content into Oracle ATG
  • Instrument your pages to render the content accordingly

Below is a simple diagram that represents what the single system approach might look like.

3pCMSDiagram_1.jpg


Next, we'll have a look at what happens if you decided to continue managing content in the existing CMS; we'll refer to this as the combined system approach.  This approach allows you to leverage your investment in your existing CMS, but rather than have the content being published to your production servers, it publishes to a place where Oracle ATG CA can 'pick up' that content and store it in the same system you use to manage other assets.  There are a few benefits to this approach when you need to combine Oracle ATG with an existing CMS:

  • Single deployment mechanism to production (can take advantage of Oracle ATG switching data sources, cache invalidation, etc).  This will provide a higher level of reliability in terms of knowing what the site will look like when the deployment has completed.
  • Easier to preview site as all content is available within a single system
  • Ability to ‘relate’ an item managed in CA to an item which is authored in the CMS (but fed into CA)

Steps:

  • Analyze the existing content
  • Define Oracle ATG content repositories to store content
  • Consider functional requirements (preview, security, workflow, etc).
  • Create the process of importing the content into the Oracle ATG repositories in an automated fashion (Oracle ATG provides a framework for this).  This content should not be modified by hand in Oracle ATG; you should only change it in the existing CMS in order to keep everything in sync.
  • Instrument your pages to render the content accordingly

Below is a simple diagram that represents what the combined system approach might look like.

3pCMSDiagram_2.jpg


Final thoughts

There are a number of different content management systems on the market which are all built differently.  These differences can have a dramatic affect on the 'best' way to integrate with Oracle ATG.  For example, some CMS's can act as a runtime engine which means they are capable of serving content / pages to the customer.  This capability (if used) will potentially complicate an integration, but at the very least, it could easily lead to a fragmented customer experience as multiple different systems will be delivering content.  This is a prime example of a time where it will be essential to work with Oracle ATG Professional Services to ensure that your environment is designed in a way that makes sense for your business.


Comments:

This article is very intersting. Was it written keeping in my Oracle's UCM and ATG platform? if I have UCM and ATG currently running, would it typically make sense to go all out with ATG if I dont consider the sunk cost? I totally agree with the your last comment about fragmented customer experience.

Posted by guest on May 10, 2012 at 01:11 PM EDT #

I'm glad you found this useful. This was mostly written from the perspective of any ATG customer regardless of whether they have a CMS (including Oracle UCM) or not. The main purpose was to create a structure to help determine the best path to follow (rationalizing the decision). I think it's difficult to answer your question mostly because it will depend on how UCM is being used (what content is being managed there, who manages it, etc). The only thing I will say is that if you find that your current ATG + UCM environment is too complex or has architectural issues, then your decision will be to determine how to fix / enhance how they work together. The focus should be operational efficiency / reduce complexity balanced with trying to leverage as much functionality from either that makes sense (i.e. single preview, etc). Not sure if this helps, but feel free to reach out to me directly if you would like to get into a more granular discussion.

Posted by guest on May 10, 2012 at 01:33 PM EDT #

thank you for the wonderful article on content mgmt., I'm newbie in ATG, I was checking the last diagram in which we are integrating an existing CMS with ATG Merchandising, one query is if BCC users makes any update in content and publish it to production, then is there any mechanism or way in ATG to feed back the update content to existing CMS so that CMS user are able to see the latest content. As per the diagram, it is only a one-way feed pushing content in merchandising.

Posted by guest on May 08, 2013 at 03:52 AM EDT #

Hi,

Normally, the CMS is considered the 'master' of the content, so all changes should be made there and flow (one way) into ATG. If you wanted to allow for changes in ATG feeding back into the CMS, it might get tricky. You would have to determine what to do when there are conflicting updates between ATG and the CMS. Most times, I've seen customers implement the one way approach. Hope that helps - Glen

Posted by Glen Borkowski on May 20, 2013 at 03:52 PM EDT #

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