Category Archives: Customers

Travis Perkins: Disrupting the Retail Industry with WSO2 Integration Technology

Travis Perkins, UK’s largest supplier of building materials, embarked on their digital transformation journey last year in the hopes of enhancing customer experiences, growing their business and improving the usability of their systems. At WSO2Con EU 2017, Christopher Stone, the head of integration at Travis Perkins, talked about the steps they took to go digital with the help of WSO2 technology and key partners.

To help understand Travis Perkins’ current situation, Christopher used an analogy coined by their previous CIO Neil Pearce – the house of IT.

By looking at all the areas of the house that need improvement, Travis Perkins realized that they needed to adopt integration technologies that would allow their systems to be flexible, future-proof, innovative, and reactive. “Integration is the plumbing, electrical wiring, and foundation — basically the rooms of the house,” said Christopher. “Effective integration and quality data are the key enablers for our digital agenda that is built on a solid foundation such as reliable cloud infrastructure and networking.”

Once Christopher explained this analogy, he explored how they previously worked on integration projects. He would most likely be a part of a program delivery team who is pressured to deliver fast and within a strict budget. This hinders their vision of the overall enterprise benefits and results in a point-to-point spaghetti architecture that leads to high maintenance costs, difficult to support, inconsistent standards, reliability issues, and limited reusability.

Today, Travis Perkins has a central integration layer powered by WSO2 integration and API management products. Services are developed according to project requirements, but built with the entire enterprise in mind using a set of policies, patterns, and standards governed by the project diagnostic team. This results in maximum reusability, easier support and maintenance, and continuous improvement in delivery, quality, and speed. The replacement of their core ERP system from a legacy system to an ERP vendor named M3, for sales order entry, sales order management, pricing, tool hire, finance, and supply chain is the largest program Christopher’s team is currently delivering on. But they have been involved in various other integration projects too. “The right tools combined with the correct mindset, architecture, and governance allows you to meet your goals in achieving good enterprise integration which benefits your company as a whole,” he says.

Many external parties helped Travis Perkins along their journey. In their early days, Wheeve, integration technology experts partnered with WSO2, gave them a theoretical and conceptual mindset on how an integration department should run. They helped set up the department and build up the team and aided them with their architecture and processes. During the delivery phase, Travis Perkins’ engineers and analysts were supplemented by ICT solutions providers partnered with WSO2 — Chakray and Mitra Innovation. They offered integration specialists well-versed in the WSO2 platform who helped analyze the requirements and worked in an Agile Scrum fashion to deliver the projects. “They have helped us come leaps and bounds, not only in delivering projects but also in terms of learning from their experience and knowledge of the WSO2 platform,” said Christopher.

“WSO2 is a great platform. It enables us to deliver quickly and compliments our strategy to utilize open source technology wherever possible,” Christopher concluded. “When any of our engineers come across difficulties in development, the WSO2 Subscription gives us great SLA’s. We don’t need to use production maintenance support very often, but when it does happen we have a very good relationship with WSO2 for them to support us in getting back to business as usual.”

To learn more about how Travis Perkins is successfully traversing its digital transformation path, watch Christopher’s video at WSO2Con EU 2017 below.

Bringing an Efficient Home Care Solution to Life with WSO2 Technology

Senior citizens and disabled people—many in fragile health and requiring assistance—often have limited resources for managing their health and ensuring their security. Effective home care solutions allow such people to safely go about their day-to-day lives and enhances their quality of life. To aide home caregivers and patients, Raffaello Leschiera, a solution architect at Engineering Ingegneria Informatica, proposed a reference architecture for efficient home care using WSO2 technology at WSO2Con EU 2017.

Raffaello began by exploring the proposed reference architecture that connected and interfaced with all stakeholders, like the patient, his/her family and medical staff. Firstly, they need to collect data from medical devices in the patient’s home. Protocols like IEEE VU specifications are used and medical devices are mediated using Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards. Once collected, the data needs to be normalized and stored so it’s represented in the same way no matter which device it was collected from.

This data needs to run through analytics to monitor the patient’s health, process events and if needed, send notifications through various communication channels. Data integration channels using the HL7 standard protocol for health care is used to send this data to medical staff. The medical staff can then access it through web and mobile interfaces and an API gateway decouples all features from these user interfaces. And finally, the entire system needs to be synchronized and controlled by identity and access management to ensure security and privacy.

Reference architecture for a home care solution

Raffaello noted that WSO2’s comprehensive technology platform, particularly its integration and analytics capabilities, were the main reasons for picking WSO2 as their technology partner. The open source nature of the products was also a key deciding factor since Raffaello and his team work with many public administrators who prefer to adopt solutions that are completely open source. “WSO2 has a wide technology platform so you can find the right answer to every part of your problem,” said Rafaello. “And because all the products seamlessly integrate with each other it’s easy to focus on the domain problem rather than the technology problem,” he added.

To describe how WSO2 products were used for different tasks, Raffaello compared the home care solution to a football game:

  • Goalkeeper: WSO2 Microservices Framework for Java (WSO2 MSF4J) serves as the goalkeeper. This is the entire back-end of the system, which is based on lightweight microservices that are developed, deployed and monitored through MSF4J in a highly scalable and reliable manner with integrated security.
  • Defenders: WSO2 Data Analytics Server serves as one defender that receives data, analyzes it in real-time, and sends notifications. WSO2 Enterprise Integrator is the next defender who transforms disparate types of data into a normalized format and sends it to the hospital IT systems.
  • Forwards: WSO2 API Manager is one of the forwards, which faces the medical staff and is used to design, prototype and publish APIs and govern API usage. WSO2 IoT Server is another forward, which faces the medical devices for data collection, device management and protocol support.
  • Wings of the pitch: Here the WSO2 Identity Server takes care of all the strict security and privacy requirements.
  • Center of the pitch: Finally, WSO2 Governance Registry serves as the ‘Lionel Messi’ at the center of the pitch; in other words it governs the solution through surveillance just like how Messi would guide and lead his team to victory.
  • For this solution to work, Engineering Ingegneria Informatica needed a remote device that can track a patient’s movements within his/her home. Enter Joe Care (or the Joker pictured above). Joe Care is a remote presence device that is flexible and agile enough to move around the patient’s home. They used various technologies like Arduino boards, software that deals with movement and the sense of space as well handling (touch). It served as the medical eyes, ears, voice and fingers within the patient’s home.

    In the future Rafaello and his team aim to engage with users more, further analyze threat paths and include more technology like wearables that monitor movement and exercise. They would also like to create more intelligent early warning score models and move their entire solution to the cloud so more patients and operators can access it.

    Watch Rafaello’s presentation at WSO2Con EU 2017 below to learn more about their home care solution powered by WSO2.

Creating an Award Winning, User-Friendly Digital Tax Portal Using WSO2’s Integration Platform

The Netherlands has a long history of water management, owing to a significant proportion of its landmass being below sea level. At present, there are 22 regional water management authorities in the country. One such water management authority is Hollands Noorderkwartier (HHNK) which partially relies on citizens’ taxes to carry out its important work. Recently, HHNK created an online tax portal using WSO2’s integration platform, which reduced costs, improved efficiency and transparency, and facilitated a simpler tax payment process for Dutch citizens.

HHNK is responsible for various activities – building dams and dykes, sewage water purification, road safety (as some of these routes are based along dams and dykes), water storage, and crisis management. They engage with 1.2 million citizens and 30,000 companies who pay taxes, has water control assets amounting to 1,000 miles of embankments, 17,771 miles of canals, and overlooks an area of approximately 500,000 acres of land.

The digitization of the tax payment process has its beginnings in 2013, when the Dutch Government introduced a policy stating that all services offered by government agencies must be carried out electronically. At the same time, HHNK was also looking at ways to improve services to citizens. On assessing their technology architecture, they realized that there was minimal integration and a large number of applications (around 400 in fact at the time). HHNK was looking to implement a service oriented architecture (SOA) with decoupling and reusability of services along with a canonical data model. “People accessed data from an application, which was then taken to another application for uploading. This process resulted in errors at times. When there was integration, it was mostly point to point and we suffered a lot of vendor lock-in. By striving to an SOA and loosely coupled applications, we are now far more flexible than in the past,” elaborates Michel Zwart, Enterprise Architect at HHNK.

HHNK’s WSO2 ESB based architecture

The architecture, developed and implemented together with Yenlo (a WSO2 Premier Certified Partner), is comprised of back office applications providing tax services when users log-in to the portal. Specialized applications are in place for communications, archiving, and other services, such as the residence service for information collection. Business application services were built using WSO2 Enterprise Service Bus.

The new system has delivered wins for residents, employees, and HHNK. The portal is user-friendly, not only making the tax payment process convenient for citizens, but encouraging them to make their payments on time as well. The portal is transparent and provides an online statement of accounts for taxpayers. As for HHNK, they have been able to make some big cost savings. Telephone calls have reduced by 25%, saving them around €40,000 a year due to the presence of the online statement of accounts. They have managed to save about €350,000 a year on hiring costs through the reduction of internal resources, and lower banking costs as a result of direct online transfers. Overall, HHNK has experienced a total cost reduction between €400,000 to €600,000 a year.

There is more good news – HHNK even won an award for providing 100% digitally available services. With these successes, HHNK is looking ahead, and there are plans to introduce WSO2’s API Manager into their architecture. “We will continue to innovate with WSO2,” says Michel.

Watch Michel’s presentation below for a more in-depth discussion of how HHNK digitized their tax payment process.

Find out more about how you can optimize business processes, integrate legacy systems, create digital assets, and more with WSO2’s integration platform.

iJet International: Transforming Identity Management for Increased Agility

iJet International provides customized risk management solutions, underpinned by intelligence, to global organizations for enhanced functionality and profitability. Their global intelligence experts monitor the world around the clock and empower their clients to respond to events such as natural disasters and political upheavals. The R&D at iJet is owned by their innovation arm, iJet Labs, who transformed their identity and access management (IAM) systems using WSO2’s IAM and API management capabilities. This transition was driven by a need to become more competitive, agile, and improve their business value for customers.

The pre-WSO2 days at iJet Labs were challenging, if it were to be described in one word. A centralized IAM solution was absent and in its place, there were purpose-built custom applications. As the user base increased, scalability became difficult and iJet could not always meet their various customers’ exact requirements. iJet Labs understood that it was imperative to create a centralized solution, which can be delegated to their clients to help meet their requirements and give them greater control of managing their credentials. At the time, user provisioning was a manual process. Even though this process was functional for several years, it was not necessarily user-friendly – there were examples of users repeating this process multiple times as they needed to access different types of systems.

Adding to their list of challenges, the architecture was an issue. From its inception in 1999, iJet has continually added many applications to their architecture, built on a central database. Yet again scalability proved to be problematic, as an application had to be scaled in its entirety and this was time consuming (though possible). “We are a product company, it is very important for us to market our ideas from the product team within the shortest possible timeframe. We need that market advantage, and this legacy architecture made it too difficult for us to be competitive,” says Ismail Seyfi, Lead Software Architect at iJet Labs.

iJet upgraded their architecture using WSO2 capabilities and migrated their servers to a WSO2 managed cloud. As big advocates of open source, Alfresco, Liferay, GeoServer, and Apache applications also contribute to their architecture. The WSO2 IAM platform has replaced iJet’s custom-built user and access management system. This introduction did not disrupt any existing applications, which now use proxy-based authentication. WSO2’s API management platform has enabled iJet to write microservices and replace their monolithic applications.

iJet Labs’ aspirations were not solely limited to revising their architecture, there were several deployment goals in mind as well. They wanted to build and configure an environment where new products could be developed efficiently without causing any interference to other development projects in progress. This was achieved by using an iJet development stack (which separates environments, installs software, and integrates them into one environment), base installation of WSO2 products and automated configuration. Ansible was adopted as the infrastructure and configuration tool. The positive results have become evident at iJet International. The changes have allowed them to integrate environments efficiently, provide dedicated environments to each development stream, sync environments with production, eliminate manual changes, and provide a single source of truth for configurations.

Listen to iJet International’s presentation by Ismail Seyfi and Matt Barnes (Automation and Software Engineer, iJet) for an in-depth discussion of this project.

Find out more about using WSO2’s IAM and API management platforms for business agility.

Fulfilling Integration Aspirations at the University of Exeter

Integrating 50 software applications in just three months – this is the feat Chakray Consulting UK achieved for the University of Exeter using WSO2’s integration capabilities. A part of the Russell Group, the University of Exeter is renowned for its research intensive agenda. As with any world-class educational institution, the University of Exeter seeks to build winning partnerships with their diverse student base and employees, create an impact with their research and ensure their strategies are future-oriented. Their digital strategy falls within this framework and a university of this scale (over 20,000 students, approximately 4,000 employees and campuses located in multiple locations) has several different systems in operation.

“Integration is strategic, it is always long term,” explains Jack A. Rider, CTO of Chakray Consulting. Accordingly, the university wanted to discard their legacy systems and adopt a cloud framework and service-oriented architecture. The beginning was quite daunting – as there were over 50 third party applications to contend with, and much of the time was spent on meetings alone (around 1,500 hours as shown by a rough calculation). Yet, the project was made easier because the university’s enterprise architects had a precise idea of the architecture they aspired to. Furthermore, Chakray Consulting has developed a solutions accelerator to build WSO2 platforms from code. As the name suggests, it expedites this process.

Selecting a cloud provider raised some issues as well initially – the Zero solution enabled them to create this on-site, Chakray then used AWS, switched to Microsoft Azure and reverted to AWS (without causing any significant changes to the project timelines). The current architecture uses a range of systems – SQL Server, Oracle Database, Git repository and Amazon Aurora to name a few. WSO2’s integration platform was used as the modular design, was absolutely necessary for integration of this scale, engages with continuous integration and automation technologies to enable the Zero solution, and could be used for hybrid and cloud deployments.

Now that the integration has proved successful, Jack is especially thankful for the encouraging leadership extended by the University which, in his opinion, is one of the lesser mentioned aspects of large-scale projects.

Watch Chakray’s presentation for more details of their integration feat.

Explore the WSO2 middleware platform with its offerings in integration, API management, identity and access management, analytics, and IoT.

A Smarter Transport Management System for London with the Help of WSO2

Transport for London (TfL) has a daily challenge – to keep a city of over 8 million people moving around the metropolis. Its magnitude can neither guarantee the transport system will always absorb commuters nor give them a congestion-free experience. It is a place where the smallest of changes would have a massive impact on your journey. Citing an example, Roland Major, a former enterprise architect at TfL, says that a London Underground strike once saw a 3% increase in traffic and a staggering 90 minute increase in journey time. Estimates project a 60% increase in congestion around central London by 2031.

Given all these complications, TfL decided to become more intelligent with technology to reduce commuter times, make the roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, and to slow the pace of traffic. Intelligence and data with a purpose are the buzzwords here. “We need better understanding of real-time demand. What insight can we get from our data, and how can we get innovative with all this information?” says Roland. He was actively involved with TfL’s Surface Intelligent Transport System (or SITS), a project that aims to better manage the city’s entire road space of pavements, cycle lanes, and motorways.

SITS’ business proposition is that it can offer billion pounds’ worth benefit to London by identifying delays in the road networks sooner than it is done at present: “We weren’t detecting incidents, and by the time we have detected them, they were already over. With technology, we can see these incidents early. We recognized that the market can do sensible things with our data,” says Roland. For example, within the traffic light system in London, TfL manages an estimated 7,000 junctions around the city and 14,000 magnetometers detect millions of daily events. This data is discarded after analysis; however, if used, TfL realized that the response time to delays improved by 15 minutes.

TfL has a 10 year plan in place, with all the of different required components mapped out. Data analytics form the core of this operational model. Data is obtained from GPS systems and bus routes. The road incidents are logged and used to determine what additional information is needed to understand and manage each leg of commuter journeys. All the data is hosted on the cloud and currently TfL is in the process of adding these components to the framework.

TfL’s transport management system

London’s new road management system relies on WSO2’s API management, integration, identity and access management, and analytics products for the intelligent work needed. These products are deployed on a private cloud managed by WSO2. The starting point – LondonWorks, a registry of all road works and street related events, both planned and current, in the Greater London area. LondonWorks is used to assess road networks, coordinate the various road works to minimize congestion and for inspection, compliance, and monitoring. Maps and forms of type data have been integrated to allow entry of incidents into the system and their identification on the map.

As their model progresses, TfL has ambitious plans for all the data they have streaming in – big data analytics to give them more insights to road movements, which will enable them to give the necessary alerts and empower them with smarter ways to deliver better, safer commuter experiences for London.

Watch Roland’s presentation for more details on TfL’s plans for London.

Explore the WSO2 middleware platform with its offerings in API management, integration, identity and access management, analytics, and IoT.

Did you know that WSO2 won TfL’s data analytics Hackathon contest? Learn all about it.

Building a Cloud Native Platform for CitySprint’s On the Dot Delivery Service

Picture a scenario where you are analyzing the results of a marketing survey which shows that a high percentage of consumers prefer same day shipping, online tracking of their orders, choice of shipping options, and deliveries within a specific time slot. Then you find out that retailers already fulfill around 65% of these needs, but there is a gap in the market, a gap that you can fill by offering a novel service. This is precisely what UK-based logistics and delivery service provider, CitySprint did when they developed the On the dot delivery service, which allows shoppers to receive their orders during a one hour time slot of their choice without extra costs.

“We wanted to positively disrupt the time slot delivery space. In doing so, we wanted to build an API ecosystem that sparks interaction, open new channels and reach new streams of revenue,” says Eduard Lazar, Senior Solutions Consultant at LastMileLink Technologies (a CitySprint Innovation Lab). At the heart of of this project was generating value for users and driving innovation, “On the dot is all about convenience for consumers, be it as a fulfillment method or in terms of collection and delivery time slots. We also wanted to simplify integration and create a developer community through our API ecosystem,” he adds.

Defining the key challenges was one of the first steps before introducing On the dot to consumers. To begin with, CitySprint had to move their data centers to the cloud in order to become a cloud native platform. They also had to create open RESTful APIs, enable identity federation, foster innovation so that it can result in a community of developers who will think up new marketable ideas and simplify integration. Selecting open source software is one of main tenets at CitySprint, and as such, they set about developing an open source platform made of WSO2’s API management, integration and identity and access management capabilities, using a DevOps approach. Meanwhile, the architecture was developed using Apache’s Tomcat and Cassandra, and WSO2Carbon used for continuous deployment.

By placing API management at its core, CitySprint has been able to achieve the required functionality and formed their innovation community (an interesting anecdote on the latter, a TechSprint event was organized where high profile companies sent teams of developers to CitySprint to build innovative products within 24 hours. Results have been quite amazing with an added bonus of introducing CitySprint to new leads).

From a business perspective, implementing this project was primarily underpinned by issues of costs, in addition to those of speed, integration, lifecycle, and skillset. When CitySprint introduced more complexity into the system, this also meant they potentially introduced a time lag. Yet, can this platform control costs through simplification and reuse? Is there a way to save time by simplifying integration? Is the skillset future proof? Can they model the whole lifecycle?

The result – On the dot – answers all the above with a yes. On the dot cloud native platform has empowered CitySprint to enter the market with an adaptable platform, which allows developers to self-sign and begin using the APIs, it is integrated as there are multiple systems working together, they have also connected data and devices, integrated platforms with those of their partners, and connected the user experiences of both customers and partners. Following their successes in the UK, plans are underway to make On the dot a global phenomenon and CitySprint is certain they can achieve this with the right technology.

If you need more details on how CitySprint made On the dot, watch their presentation.

Learn more about WSO2’s API management, integration and identity and access management capabilities.

UNRWA and Capgemini: Creating a Refugee Centric Data Model for Better Insights

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has over 5 million registered refugees requiring education, healthcare and social safety assistance, among others. UNRWA aids refugees across five countries – namely Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, Syria, and the Gaza Strip which has over 500,000 students, 692 schools as of now, and hundreds of primary health facilities.

In order to automate several processes across the region, the team based in Gaza had already developed the Education Management Information System (EMIS) consisting of three modules (students, staff and premises) and reporting tools. EMIS captures information and manages the educational progress of half a million students, by integrating data from registration, health, facility management and human resources systems that are already in existence.

Yet, given the numbers and scale of its operations, a central data model that has the capacity to integrate data from several entities was the need of the hour to support its regional operations and EMIS. To transform their information management system, UNRWA and Capgemini used WSO2 technology to create a model which mirrors UNRWA’s organizational ethos – placing the refugees at the heart of all their operations.

“The technology is there, but it’s really about the people,” says Francesco Lacoboni, Managing Consultant at Capgemini. Accordingly, the main drivers of the new UNRWA Enterprise Architecture are built upon the strategic principles of people, information, collaboration, and security. People influence how the information is created, managed, and consumed. The platform is an information-centric one – rather than managing documents, it manages open data and content. Its shared approach design aims to improve collaboration, reduce costs, maintain standards, and ensure consistency across the board. Security and privacy features for data protection round off the principles of this platform.

Before the new model was introduced, there was a time where the information that streamed through the system was physically replicated via the transaction log. For reasons of ease and efficiency, UNRWA and Capgemini decided to provide a common set of APIs to all the developers, not only to fulfill the needs of the specific application, but to also create the framework for future use of this semantic concept. Every entity has a credible API that can be used to navigate the knowledge, eliminating the need to design a new API. The resultant Common Data Model (CDM) was created using OWL (Web Ontology Language), and its architecture and governance completed using WSO2’s integration and API management platforms.

For Luca Baldini, Chief of Information Management Services at UNRWA, it was the first time such an approach was used and now that it has been rolled out, he praises its benefits: “The new model has been very productive, as it created a common language between IT specialists and our business representatives. We can use different kinds of technology for data retrieval and distribution.” Francesco believes one of the main benefits of the new model is that it helps increase the transparency of UNRWA’s operations. Now that the new model is successfully in practice, analytics is the next frontier and they hope to leverage WSO2’s analytics capabilities to meet their requirements. Spurred by the possibilities of analytics, plans are in the pipeline to use this data model along with unstructured data provided from the field to improve operations and add further value.

You can watch Luca’s and Francesco’s presentation at WSO2Con USA 2017 to hear more about their project.

Learn more about WSO2’s integration, API management and analytics capabilities if you would like to use them in your enterprise.

State of Arizona: Introducing a Statewide Private PaaS to Improve Efficiencies and Trim Costs

Government institutions across the globe are using cloud-based technologies to add value to citizens and improve their functionality. The State of Arizona is no different, having built the Arizona Enterprise Services Platform (AESP) to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and foster sustainability in the long term. With over 32,000 state employees, 170 business units, over 1,400 IT professionals, and over 100 data centers/server rooms, a transformation of this scale was challenging. Yet, Prasad Putta, the director of enterprise technology services at the Arizona Strategic Enterprise Technology (ASET) office in the State of Arizona who oversees this project, saw an opportunity for improvement and seized it.

ASET is responsible for IT strategy, enterprise capabilities, policies/procedures, and managing high-risk, high-funded projects. AESP was rolled out as an answer to several questions: “How do we not start projects from scratch, stop re-inventing the wheel all the time, and have better data sharing practices? What can we do about redundant solutions throughout the enterprise, ease up license cost payments and solve security issues?” asks Prasad. With these in mind, Prasad and his team had a clear set of objectives they wanted to achieve. At the top of the priority list were cost reduction and sustainability as being a public institution, accountability was a key consideration. Other objectives included the enforcement of standards, revenue generation from data and services, a profitable mechanism for data sharing, allowing better data discoverability, risk reduction, and ease of development/maintenance from a developer’s perspective.

To address these requirements, ASET turned to the public cloud and decided to implement AESP as a private PaaS. The team at ASET was not looking to replace all the applications, rather prefered custom applications across the state agencies. They were also looking to expose data through APIs for private consumption, make the collaboration environment API-centric across the state, shorten their development cycle and ensure all the data is private to the state to mitigate any security and compliance risks. ASET was also looking at economies of scale as not all of the hundreds of applications were fully utilized at one given time. Their existing architecture was entirely hosted on AWS, but for the revamped architecture, AWS was limited to the infrastructure while the rest was built by using WSO2’s integration and identity and access management capabilities.

Introducing AESP brought with it another set of challenges. With agencies working independently, they had to be convinced to opt-in for this platform. Additionally, round-the-clock support was needed along with the right pricing model. Fortunately, AESP found the successful strategies and has several applications in the pipeline now. “Size the menu right” is one of Prasad’s analogies for success, i.e. to reduce the scope of applications to the most sought after ones. Initially, his team spent 30% to 40% of their time maintaining the sheer volume of applications, which is now handled by WSO2’s Managed Cloud. Several issues, such as the pricing model, are still work in progress, but buoyed by the successes, Prasad foresees a busy future.

For more information, watch Prasad’s full presentation at WSO2Con USA 2017.

Find out more about how you can use WSO2’s integration and identity and access management capabilities to improve your organization’s operational efficiency.

The WSO2 Approach to Creating and Managing Content for Open Source Products

“Just open, honest communication is the best thing in the world” (Brett Davern). I was delighted when I stumbled upon this quote, because it sums up our approach to technical content at WSO2. There are plenty of advantages to open content: driving adoption and expansion, improving content quality via better feedback from users, and increasing successful usage of our products.

You may wonder why we make our documentation and even our training content publicly available for free. After all, support is an integral part of our business model, and it contributes to a sizable percentage of our revenue at WSO2. What we have discovered is that high-quality, freely available content does not deter users from buying support. For customers who are building mission-critical solutions, support is essential to receiving timely responses to problems they may be experiencing, whether it’s a bug in the code or a question about the best way to solve a particular problem.

One of the primary advantages of open content is that it drives adoption and expansion. Our goal is to have as many users as possible, and when our documentation and training content is freely available, users have a better opportunity to get up and running with our products quickly and effectively. As they learn ways to solve their business problems with our solutions, people discover more of our products and features that can be used to solve other problems that they envision.

Another major advantage is that open content helps you to improve content quality. More readers mean more feedback. At WSO2, we take it one step further by making the documentation available during the development process itself to ensure that we receive feedback during the entire content release cycle. Getting user feedback early helps us immensely in the planning stage to make sure that issues of concern are addressed in our next release.

When developing training content, we point to the documentation for much of the conceptual information, so that as you learn to use the products during training, you become thoroughly familiar with the documentation as well. This approach allows users to easily go back and find information after they’ve completed the training. We’ve also discovered the following best practices for creating content for open source products:

  • Categorize the content types – at the beginning of a release, plan not only the documentation and training content for each new feature but also what would work best as technical articles, blog posts, or marketing content.
  • Write for a wide audience – open source products have wider audiences, many of whom are non-native English speakers. Use clear, concise language and include a glossary of terms.
  • Test and review on multiple platforms.
  • Engage the community – introduce simple processes for contributing, develop reward systems, build relationships with users, and recognize people’s strengths to maximize contributions from a wider community.
  • Release documentation at each milestone to encourage timely and ongoing feedback.

When your content is ready for distribution, there is a range of platforms you can use. We primarily use Confluence and GitHub at WSO2, but some other platforms we’ve been researching are ReadtheDocs.org, Mkdocs, and Asciidoc.

To learn more about these platforms, best practices, open source content licensing, and detailed advantages of open content, check out my webinar on creating and managing content for open source products.