Delivering a customized technical support experience

IBM creates an online portal for comprehensive support

Published on 16-Sep-2010

Validated on 10 Jan 2014

"With IBM WebSphere Portal, we gained all the functionality we need without having to rewrite code. We were able to install the software in our development environment in under a day so we could get right to work." - Jay Palat, Technical Lead, IBM

Customer:
IBM Corporation

Industry:
Computer Services

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Collaborative Lifecycle Management

Overview

Like other large technology companies, IBM faces the ongoing challenge of delivering robust online support services for a constantly expanding portfolio of systems, software and services. In the past, each business division at IBM was responsible for providing its own online presence for technical support. But maintaining distinct sites meant that many customers had to visit multiple locations to find information.

Business need:
Consolidate and standardize online technical support to help ensure a consistent user experience and improve user efficiency

Solution:
The IBM team used IBM® WebSphere® Portal software and IBM Rational® software to build the IBM Support Portal—a unified, customizable global support portal for all IBM systems, software and services

Benefits:
IBM improved the customer experience by consolidating support into a single portal, enabling tailored support while delivering millions in expected savings by reducing the number of technical support calls

Case Study

Like other large technology companies, IBM faces the ongoing challenge of delivering robust online support services for a constantly expanding portfolio of systems, software and services. In the past, each business division at IBM was responsible for providing its own online presence for technical support. But maintaining distinct sites meant that many customers had to visit multiple locations to find information.

The company wanted a way to consolidate these online sites to simplify support. “A customer who owned or was interested in IBM systems, software and services would need to go to three different support sites to find information,” says Jay Palat, technical lead at IBM. “We wanted to create a portal that would enable customers to find everything they need in a single place.”

Consolidating online support would also help deliver a consistent experience for customers. “Once they crossed over to a different brand or business unit, customers had a different experience, with different navigation,” says Paula Fulton, solution lead at IBM. “We needed to improve the consistency from one product area to the next. At the same time, we wanted to give customers the ability to tailor support to their particular needs.”

IBM also saw an opportunity to increase the efficiency of its support efforts. “The integration of support sites could help eliminate redundant tasks and refocus some staff on more innovative projects,” says Fulton. “We also wanted to reduce costs. By providing a better online experience and enabling customers to find information more easily, we could reduce the number of support calls and decrease our operating expenses.”

IBM WebSphere Portal provides foundation for support

After considering several approaches for building the new online support site, the IBM team decided to use IBM WebSphere Portal software. WebSphere Portal is a complete solution for providing online access to web content and applications, including a composite application or business mashup framework plus the advanced tools required for creating a flexible, scalable portal. The employees, partners or customers who use the portal can tailor the experience to their own needs.

Adopting WebSphere Portal greatly simplified the development of the new IBM Support Portal (ibm.com/supportportal), which was named one of the Top Ten Best Web Support Sites of 2010 by the Association of Support Professionals.1 “With IBM WebSphere Portal, we gained all the functionality we need without having to rewrite code. We were able to install the software in our development environment in under a day so we could get right to work,” says Palat. “We also knew that it was a reliable, tested product. We didn’t have to test the framework or support it in addition to all of our customers’ products and services.”

The IBM team runs WebSphere Portal on IBM WebSphere Application Server. “We run a number of servlets on WebSphere Application Server so we can do things like redirect old website addresses to the right portal pages,” says John Goodson, application architect at IBM. IBM DB2® software, which runs on an IBM AIX® operating system environment, provides the portal database and stores product reference information as well. “By placing reference information within the database, we can enhance responsiveness of searches.”

IBM Rational software facilitates development and testing

The IBM team integrated IBM Rational software into the development process to manage projects, create portal features and assess the health and performance of the site. “We use IBM Rational Software Architect to develop our portlets, data code, themes, skins, JavaScript and more,” says Goodson. “We integrated Rational Team Concert so we can plan tasks and manage source code, keeping the project on track.”

IBM Rational Functional Tester and Performance Tester also played key roles in producing the portal. “Rational Functional Tester provides a rudimentary health check and enables our quality assurance team to automate testing to enhance efficiency,” says Goodson. “With IBM Rational Performance Tester, we can put our server under load, get baselines to see how we’re doing and then make any adjustments necessary. Rational Performance Tester helps us make sure that we deliver outstanding portal performance even when thousands of customers are visiting the site.”

IBM Support Portal offers a single entry point for comprehensive support

With the new IBM Support Portal, customers now can access all the content and assistance they need for a full range of IBM systems, software and services. The centralized client support environment also improves productivity for IBM, increasing efficiency of the web support delivery model by an estimated eight percent.

“Customers no longer have to go from site to site collecting different types of information for various products,” says Fulton. “From a single location, they can search a knowledgebase, find documentation, participate in forums, read product news and alerts, download updates, open a service request and more. And they can do so for all of their IBM products. The IBM Support Portal is helping customers find information rapidly while also delivering a consistent experience no matter which IBM products and services they use. In fact, one customer estimated that the portal saved his team two hours a day.”

Customers access a tailored support experience

With the IBM Support Portal, customers can personalize the support experience, selecting the type of information they want to see and arranging that information in the most effective ways. “Customers start by simply identifying IBM products that they use or are interested in,” says Fulton. “Each time they log on, they will see relevant product news and alerts, service requests and all information that they choose to see.”

“Customers also can opt for proactive support notification, which provides them with information about critical fixes, useful updates or tips,” says Palat. “They can keep informed without having to log on repeatedly and check for new information.”

The IBM WebSphere Portal software used to develop the site also enables IBM to show different content to customers with different types of support contracts. “If you have an IBM Passport Advantage or Premium Support contract, you gain access to additional content or tools,” says Fulton. “For example, members of the IBM Software Accelerated Value Program might have access to collaborative spaces created by their account representatives where they can access specialized reports or other materials. The role-based functionality of WebSphere Portal lets us create any number of distinct user profiles, each with its own content and access privileges.”

IBM accelerates release deployment

For IBM, the project has also greatly simplified the process of rolling out portal updates. “Our development team and deployment team are two separate, autonomous units. In the past, it was difficult and time consuming for the development team to tell the deployment team exactly what updates were ready to go live,” says Goodson. “Now our development team can create a script that automatically generates all the pages and portlets required for the deployment team. That automation helps us accelerate rollouts, and it ultimately makes our team more efficient.”

New portal improves support efficiency at IBM

By making it easier for customers to find the information and receive the assistance they need online, the IBM Support Portal is helping to reduce the number of support calls. “We anticipate that we will reduce support calls by approximately five percent over the first year, which will translate into millions of dollars saved,” says Fulton. “Those savings are important for our bottom line, and they will enable us to invest more in the development of innovative customer services in the future.”

For more information

For more information on IBM WebSphere Portal, please contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit: ibm.com/software/genservers/portal/

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
AIX, DB2 Universal Database Enterprise Edition, Rational Functional Tester, WebSphere Portal, Rational Performance Tester, WebSphere Application Server, Rational Team Concert, Rational Software Architect

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2010 IBM Software Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America August 2010 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, Let’s build a smarter planet, smarter planet, the planet icons, AIX, DB2, Rational and WebSphere are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries or both. Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. References in this publication to IBM products or services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates.