Tag Archives: Confluence Development

Alfresco Continues to Enhance Its Content Management Offering, Enabling More Integration Touchpoints

Alfresco provides open source enterprise content management serving a variety of use cases. I covered them earlier in the year (see: Alfresco Brings its Open Source Document Management to the Cloud). Recently I spoke with Jeff Potts, their Chief Community Officer, to get an update and to go into their integration strategy in more depth.

Jeff Potts, Chief Community Officer, Alfresco

As Chief Community Officer, Jeff leads the Alfresco community. This includes partners, employees, developers, customers, and anyone else with an interest in Alfresco.  Indeed this is a large order, with over 200K downloads, and growing, of their content management server software to date – so that’s a large community.

Jeff focuses on the health of the community and makes sure it has the right tools, tutorials, forums, blog aggregation, wikis, and whatever else is useful to support collaboration and continue its growth. He also conducts outreach to other relevant communities to expand its awareness and participation.

The Alfresco open source offering is built on a repository for files of all types: documents, audio, video, images, and other types. Expanded access is made possible through its API using CMIS, an industry standard that is also used by other tools such as SharePoint and Documentum. CMIS uses “Web services and Web 2.0 interfaces to enable information sharing across content management repositories from different vendors.”

There are several applications that Alfresco has added on top of their repository. Share is a main one and it allows for users to share documents, calendars, links to support collaboration. In addition to collaboration and content management, use cases for Alfresco include records management and digital asset management.

Alfresco provides an on-premise Enterprise version of their software that is offered with support subscriptions. There is also a free community version available through the LGPLv3 open source license.  This year they have added a multi-tenant SaaS offering. This relieves clients of any hosting responsibilities so they can focus on organizing and using their content, not supporting the backend. Both the on-premise and SaaS version (cloud) have the same software and user interface.

With the cloud version, users can share content within the same domain since it is a multi-tenant offering. The cloud version also has a few less features at the moment, as basic document management is the primary use case. So the calendar, blogs, and wikis are not enabled at the moment. There are plans to make them also available in the cloud version in the future.

Next we discussed the Alfresco’s integration strategy.

Alfresco’s goal is to make Alfresco as open and available as possible. They want any interested developer to be able to work in the tools they are comfortable with to connect to the repository and create integrations. To enable this availability they have built APIs for both the on-premise and cloud versions.  While CMIS covers such functions as create, read, update, delete, Alfresco wanted a richer experience, so they added additional features to the API specific to Alfresco such as rating and comments.

AppFusions has worked with Alfresco to create integrations with Atlassian’s JIRA issues tracking tool and Confluence wiki. Both integrations are plugin and play, and provide seamless integration with Alfresco document management capabilities.

  • Alfresco in JIRA

    The JIRA integration allows Alfresco documents to be accessed, previewed, linked, edited, and downloaded – all from inside JIRA. Here’s a video.

  • The Confluence integration allows users to embed and access Alfresco file lists. Users can also preview, embed, print, download Alfresco files from Confluence.
    Alfresco in Confluence, v3.0 – List Macro

    Finally, when you edit an Alfresco document in Confluence, you are able to edit it in your favorite local Office application (MS Office, Apache Open Office, NeoOffice), and when done – the file is auto-magically saved back to Alfresco. Here’s a video.

AppFusions also has a Alfresco to Crowd authenticator, allowing for SSO (single sign-on) and user management of Atlassian and Alfresco via Crowd.

Collectively, these integrations really bring powerful platforms and brands, together. Best of worlds!

Alfresco has also recently released support for iOS and Andriod to enable developers to build mobile app integrations.  They are also expanding CMIS client-side libraries to better work with what Alfresco offers.

Alfresco has its third annual user conference, DevCon, coming up in November. This year the European version will be in Berlin, November 6 and 7. The US version will be in San Jose November 14-15.

The conferences will include technical workshops by Alfresco engineers and partners, case examples by users, and keynotes by the Alfresco leadership team. Both conferences will be preceded by a day of workshops for those new to Alfresco so they can more thoroughly engage with the event.

Jeff sees the use of the cloud continuing to expand and I would certainly agree. Alfresco will continue to offer more capabilities through the cloud. As CMIS becomes more widely used, they will make more CMIS-related tools available.

Alfresco is certainly moving in the right direction, hitting three of the main themes in the application marketplace with its expanding capabilities in social, mobile, and the cloud.

 

iRise Provides Functional Application Simulations to Accelerate Software Development

Visualizations through iRise give users the ability to create visual, interactive prototypes of new software projects that look and act just like the real thing, before a single line of code is written. This can be a major help in application development. I have written a bit about iRise before (see AppFusions’ Integrations of iRise® Visualization with Atlassian JIRA, Confluence).

Recently, I spoke with Pete Indelicato, Senior Product Manager at iRise, to get a broader overview of their capabilities and an update on their latest moves. Pete primary responsibility is understanding customer needs and defining solutions to meet those needs.  He then works closely with the iRise team of engineers to build out the solutions, as well as marketing for sales enablement.

Pete Indelicato, Sr. Product Manager at iRise

Most recently, Pete has been focused on “platform capabilities” based on APIs that let partners and customers leverage and extend the iRise platform.  He also manages the relationships with their integration partners, like AppFusions.

These extensions, like the Jira and Confluence integrations, allow the iRise platform to better fit into customers’ various processes and ecosystems, and the APIs lets other organizations contribute to and customize the capabilities of the iRise platform. iRise is in the middle of creating a new set of APIs focused on events and analytics.

I asked Pete for a brief overview of their Enterprise offering and how iRise helps their customers.  He began by saying that while communication is key to successful software development, many teams still rely on static documents, pictures and low fidelity click-through prototypes to communicate requirements, interaction design, and more.

For today’s rich, interactive software, these types of communication tools are not enough. The iRise platform allows teams to define and develop software collaboratively while focusing on a high-fidelity iRise simulation as the key communication asset.

These simulations can be constructed in a few minutes by non-technical business analysts or user experience professionals, without writing a single line of code.  You simply have to drag and drop application components to build a simulation. Then you add functionality by drawing lines indicating the course of user interactivity and data flow. In the screenshot, you can see a sample iRise studio screen on a tablet and a smart.

The simulations can then be used to communicate with business and technical stakeholders to make sure the organization is building the right thing.  Then, using other platform capabilities (such as RM integrations and code generation), the latter stages of the software definition and development can benefit from the ultra-realistic iRise simulation.

Pete went over several use cases. First, requirements solicitation can be made more effective. It can be difficult to engage business people who provide requirements when you are limited to offering them a text summary of the design with some static screen shots or a low-fi prototype. With iRise, the designer can show their team how the application looks and, more importantly, works to gather much more effective feedback and reduce the number of iterations and rework.

This same principle operates for interaction designs. Interaction designers can experiment with multiple approaches to solving the same problem while gathering useful feedback from potential users without having to build the software.

Then downstream, communication between designers and implementors is facilitated through the use of simulations of the design that look and act like the designer’s vision. Meanwhile, many related tasks such as documentation and training development, and even selling, can get a critical jump start while the application is still being built based on the iRise simulations.

Pete said that the iRise simulations are the most realistic simulations you can create without writing code and that is one of the reasons they call them “simulations”, not “prototypes”. They not only look accurate (visual fidelity), but act accurate: the user interactions and the data/logic in the simulation are also high-fidelity.  This latter capability is particularly important for efficient software development.

In most cases, the simulations that their customers create are indistinguishable from the production product, developed through code, that comes out months later.

When you think about the level of engagement, quality of communication, and all the parallel activities that iRise simulations bring to the table, the advantage integrations and extensions into a variety of ecosystems becomes clear.

I next asked Pete about their application integration strategies.

He said that very few software engineering / development organizations have identical ecosystems (tools, processes, habits, etc.).  iRise could spend many many thousands of dollars trying to make a complex “one size fits all” product, but instead they are choosing to open their product to integration.  This strategy not only facilitates more efficient internal development of their iRise Connect products, but it allows customers like AT&T and partners like AppFusions to build additional extensions and integrations that help iRise fit in other ecosystems.

iRise Catalog in Confluence. Select Simulation to embed and collaborate around.

The simulations are built on web technologies (HTML, CSS3, etc.). That makes them easily embeddable into other web-based platforms like Confluence and JIRA.  Putting iRise simulations in context of the collaborative environments and other development assets (e.g. story cards) makes that blend of information an ultra-effective communication asset.  Then, when team members not familiar with iRise simulations start to see them embedded in streams and story cards, they will start asking “Where can I get one of those?!”

Pete offered specific use cases for the Confluence and JIRA integrations that AppFusions created. Developers often use the Confluence wiki to create requirements documents. You can embed iRise simulations right in the Confluence-based requirements documents (videolisting). For the JIRA integration,  the issue tracking tool, is often used for more granular requirements or specific issues. (video | listing.)

OCT 8 – 10, 2012 in Las Vegas, NV

Again, iRise simulations can make the communication and handling of these development related issues much more efficient and effective.

Visualize 2012 is this year’s version of iRise’s annual conference where they gather practitioners, customers, and thought leaders for three days of workshops, presentations and socializing.  The 2012 session will occur in Las Vegas, October 8-10.  Speakers include Graeme Hackland, the Lotus F1 Team’s IT/IS Director responsible for all the Team’s Information Systems and many members of the iRise team, including CEO, Emmet Keeffe. They will also be doing workshops on their iConnect capability covering all the ways to use their APIs.

Live preview of linked iRise Simulation in JIRA.

Pete said they are very excited about the potential of their APIs because every day, it seems, someone has a new, inventive idea about a new integration, report, extension, etc.  Of course, they build the APIs with specific use cases in mind, but without fail someone outside of iRise thinks of a way of using iRise APIs in ways they never thought of.  He added that it is a good day every time that happens!

Pete is thankful that innovative companies like AppFusions and SquareOne Solutions are willing to spend some time exploring the possibilities with them. As iRise moves forward it is continuing to expand the number and type of API calls to support further integrations. They are also making significant infrastructure changes to support their more rapid product development.