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Build a Platform, Not a Site Part II: The Factory Automation

ACSF Automation

To build and deliver digital experience content and applications across multiple brands, products or regions at scale, companies must focus on building a platform, not a site.

Building a digital factory platform that manufactures, delivers, and runs all of your company’s digital sites and governs content delivery will provide IT with a central view of your organization's digital experiences globally; this also enables digital marketers to roll out new experiences and site updates faster and more efficiently than before.

In part one of this series, I explained what a digital factory platform is, and the approach organizations should follow in preparing for a successful digital transformation to become factory-ready. Transformation requires two parts: the factory approach and the automation approach. The factory approach is the foundational framework, behavior, and culture both technically and organizationally. It encompasses adoption and the organizational requirements within your IT digital team to keep your factory operating smoothly; this entails the roles and responsibilities of the digital factory team including assembly, delivery, operations, and governance.

The second part of the transformation, the automation approach, is the platform technology and automation of the digital factory, which we call the ‘Site Factory’. This is made up of all the non-human components of the factory including the shared Drupal CMS distribution, the management console, the management application, the Cloud PaaS, and Stacks for enabling groups of sites to be spun off from multiple codebases.

It’s important to note that unlike the factory approach, there is less flexibility on the automation approach as there are few substitutes for many of the required technology components of the digital factory as described below.

5 Components of the Digital Factory

Acquia Cloud Site Factory (Site Factory) provides the fastest way to deliver and govern digital sites at global scale. Site Factory is the digital factory automation for you to create your own digital site factory. The Site Factory contains:

1. Site Factory Shared Drupal CMS Distribution: A Drupal CMS distribution is a configured Drupal CMS containing a core platform, selected integration modules, and deployment of specific configurations. Acquia Lightning is an Acquia provided Drupal distribution for customers to use as a starting digital platform. The Digital Factory governance and assembly teams can start with Lightning as a baseline and add their company specific components, configurations, and requirements, to assemble their standard company CMS Distribution. This is “building a platform and not a site,” and is a key transformation in becoming a hyper-efficient digital site manufacturer for your organization. The shared CMS distribution is the strategic, factory asset. Each Site Factory customer creates digital sites based on a shared CMS distribution.

2. Site Factory Management Console: The Site Factory management console is the user-friendly interface and front-end application to the Digital Factory. The console user interface provides a Factory dashboard for working with sites, users, and administration. The management console is a centralized, browser application that provides a unified view of all digital sites, who in the organization has access to these sites, and reports on sites, users, and digital applications. From the management console, you can also execute all site provisioning and management functions. No longer does the IT or web teams need to build sites. The Site Factory management console and application automatically “builds the sites” just like a Factory rapidly assembles and delivers products. Sites are the products of the Site Factory. No complexities and much lower learning curve when the Factory builds the sites. For example, using the management console you can assign role-based profiles for controlling how your digital experience team works with sites. The standard roles are:

  • Platform admin: Provides overall responsibility for deployment within Acquia Cloud Site Factory, including management of websites and OpenID accounts
  • Site builder: Allows for website and content creation and management
  • Developer: Enables updating for PaaS development and staging environments with new and updated code
  • Release engineer: Grants access to the PaaS production environment for code pushes and updates for status monitoring

ACSF Management Console

3. Site Factory Management Application: Together with the management console, the management application provides the orchestration services for automating creating, copying, cloning, backing up, changing, and securing digital sites. The delivery and operations teams use the Site Factory management console and application as their interface to all the digital experience teams internally and their partners externally. For example, the management application is pre-built with all of the required delivery and management functions so that even non-technical users can deliver and manage sites. Here are some of the functions available from the management console:
  • Establish site actions and organization
  • Organize your websites, collections, and groups
  • Create sites and site groups
  • Manage site groups
  • Create site collections
  • Manage site group users
  • Find sites with filters
  • Manage sites on a cluster
  • Duplicate a site
  • Delete a site
  • Back up sites
  • Restore a site from a backup
  • Transfer site ownership
  • Refresh website thumbnail images
  • Set the terms of service statement

ACSF Management application

4. Site Factory Cloud Service Management: The operations team becomes a trusted and automated site service provider using the built-in cloud service management automation based on the Acquia Cloud Platform-as-a-Service. The Digital operations team does not need to configure infrastructure to power their site and digital experience deployments. Site Factory runs based on capacity needs across the number of sites and is easily optimized for specific digital deployments. This is the power system of the factory. Acquia provides the entire service. For example, the service management provides each Factory:
  • Automated cloud monitoring: Provides high-availability hosting and monitoring infrastructure across multiple web servers, with Varnish caching and replicated database servers.
  • Provisioning environments: Automates development, staging, and production Site Factory platform deployments.
  • SLA-driven, managed services: Operations team on call 24/7 to test your website and keep it up-to-date with relevant updates and security patches.

5. Site Factory Stacks: A Site Factory Stack contains a complete Factory including the Site Factory-ready Drupal CMS Distribution, the Acquia Cloud PaaS, and dedicated Cloud infrastructure resources. The delivery and operations team needs flexibility and control when:

  • Supporting the digital needs of global organizations
  • Ensuring IT compliance and security
  • Optimizing the CMS distribution for specific digital experiences and applications such as: branding, commerce, and customer service

The Site Factory management console makes it easy for delivery and operations teams to centrally provision and manage all sites across multiple Site Factory Stacks, even when deployed in different cloud regions.

Content Syndication, Governance, and Sites

For organizations that want to extend site governance into content governance, they can use Acquia Lift’s content syndication functionality together with Site Factory automation. Acquia Lift gives organizations the ability to manage and update all content within their network, and distribute content out to relevant sites across the network. This enables the IT digital platform team to control content consistency and maintain governance with automation.

Pairing Acquia Lift content syndication with Site Factory increases efficiencies for building, deploying and updating digital experiences within your organization and across your network, so you can mitigate risk, maintain brand consistency, and easily manage multilingual and/or global sites. Check out our eBook to learn best practices around how to prepare and automate content and site governance.

Site Factory provides digital experience teams with an adoption process and the platform automation to transition from continuing to build ad hoc, unmanaged websites to delivering managed, digital sites as a service to the digital business and marketing teams. As a result, the IT digital platform team transitions to becoming an IT-managed digital site service provider measured on speed to delivery and overall service level availability. While the digital marketing team becomes site consumers focused on content creation and digital programs that drive business goals. Together, both teams become experts in controlling the platform and innovating the digital experience. This is the roadmap for hyper efficiency and the foundation for accelerating digital business success.

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