Access and visualize your master data with IBM Initiate Composer

Learn how to use a web application toolkit that enables building master data management (MDM) powered applications. This article provides an overview of the JavaScript UI widgets, application templates, and configuration editor that is included with IBM® Initiate® Composer. You will see how the toolkit can help to put a face on master data, and accelerate master application development.

Karl Weinmeister (kweinmeister@us.ibm.com), Manager, MDM Development, IBM

Photo of author Karl WeinMeisterKarl Weinmeister is a development manager within Information Management R&D. Prior to this role, he was a product manager for the IBM Initiate Master Data Service, joining IBM through the acquisition of Initiate. He has over 10 years of enterprise software experience in data management, business intelligence, and application development. He holds a bachelors degree in computer science from Duke University, and an MBA from the University of Texas - Austin.


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28 April 2011

Introduction

In this introductory article, you will walk through the process of bringing master data to life in user interfaces. You will use template applications that are already configured to communicate with the IBM Initiate Master Data Service. The goal is to introduce you to configuring and using master-data UI widgets.

To create the MDM user interface, you will use a tool called IBM Initiate Composer using the following three-step process:

  • Configure the data model
  • Generate a sample application
  • Customize the UI widgets

MDM overview

Let's first review master data concepts. Master data is typically a subset of the most valuable enterprise data that is often stored in duplicate locations in different forms. Some typical examples of master data include customers, products, and accounts. Master data management, or MDM, is the discipline of managing a single trusted view of master data. MDM provides tools and processes to create, maintain, and distribute master data.

Master data is consumed in a variety of ways. Downstream systems, such as CRM applications, may receive batch updates or extracts from the master data hub. Other systems may communicate directly with the master data hub using its APIs.

There are some common patterns around how master data is consumed in a user interface. A simple use case is to simply display master data within a consuming application. Another use case is to search to see if a master data record exists before adding a new record to the consuming system. These use cases can be merged into an integrated business process that includes MDM and other tools. An example might be a customer on-boarding application that is used to process a new customer before they are approved and added to the master data repository. These applications, whether new or existing, can be considered MDM powered applications.

IBM Initiate Composer

IBM Initiate Composer is a component of the IBM Initiate Master Data Service. It accelerates building MDM-based user interfaces with the following capabilities.

  • JavaScript UI widgets that can be embedded into web applications. These widgets fulfill common MDM use cases such as searching and editing master data. Each widget is independent of other widgets in a web application, and can work with any data model.
  • Blueprints, or application templates, that provide working sample code that demonstrate the widgets working together. Quick view and multi-domain are the two example blueprints included with IBM Initiate Composer v9.7.
  • Configuration editor for managing how the data model will appear within the application user interface. The configuration editor manages metadata that allows Composer applications to adapt without regeneration or code changes. For example, administrators use the configuration editor to add new search fields to a page, or change which icon is displayed for a data type.

Configuring the user interface

The first step to building an application is configuring how you'd like the MDM data model to appear in your application.

IBM Initiate Composer allows you to import your IBM Initiate Workbench hub configuration. From there, you can define the following properties on the hub configuration.

  • Attribute sets: The attribute set editor enables you to select which attributes should be displayed on various widgets. For example, you might want to set a short set of attributes on some widgets such as a search results view, and a longer set on a record editing widget. You can also share attribute sets across multiple widgets.
  • Composite views: For each data type, you can use a composite view to select how you would like data to be rolled up from multiple data sources. When multiple sources contain different values for the same attribute, the composite view contains the rules that govern which value the end user will see.
  • Icons: You can set various UI related properties on data types. For example, you can select icon files to be displayed on the relationship graph for each data type.
  • Instance labels: These determine how specific instances of entities should be displayed in tabs or graphs. For example, when you open up a new tab in a multi-domain blueprint, the instance label is shown as the title of each tab. The instance label can be configured with a pattern such as “<Last Name>, <First Name>” that combines fields from the same attribute.

From the Composer menu on the IBM Initiate Workbench menu bar, you can start configuring your UI. This is where the hub configuration is managed. From there, you can generate an Initiate Composer Configuration file, which you can then edit, as shown in Figure 1, to configure your application UI in more detail.

Figure 1. Configuration editor
IBM Initiate Composer - Configuration Editor

Generating a blueprint

IBM Initiate Composer can accelerate a development effort with sample application code called a blueprint. The blueprint provides a reusable starting point to build data-centric applications, regardless of the data model. A blueprint does not require any coding to use, and can be quickly generated off a hub to view and edit master data.

Each blueprint contains web page(s) that embed MDM widgets from the Composer library. The blueprints also contain logic for authentication and authorization. The following blueprints are provided with Composer:

  • Quick view is a search application that can find either master entities that link source system records together, or individual source system records.
  • Multi-domain is a multi-purpose application that can search and edit multiple data types. The multi-domain blueprint also includes relationship navigation and visualization.

The IBM Initiate Composer configuration editor allows you to set standard configuration options on the blueprints. You can select which entity types you would like to see in the blueprint, for example, whether you are going to manage customer data, product data, or both. You can also define which attributes show up in the blueprints by binding the widgets to attribute sets.

Figure 2. Blueprint configuration
Blueprint configuration

You can now generate the blueprint. From the Composer menu, select the menu item to generate blueprints. The Composer configuration editor will then package the blueprint code into a /WebContent folder along with the Composer configuration file.

You can skip using the blueprints and work directly with the UI widgets in your own HTML or JSP application, but you should still go through the blueprint generation process even if you don't plan to use the blueprint. When you generate blueprints, the process bundles together various project files such as CSS, icon images, security configuration, and others that are useful in building your own custom application.

Deploying your application

IBM Rational Application Developer is the integrated development environment that complements the IBM Initiate Composer toolkit. With IBM Rational Application Developer, you can test, deploy, and customize the application based on the IBM Initiate Composer toolkit.

IBM Initiate Composer includes a starter web archive called composer.war that you can import into IBM Rational Application Developer. This archive contains reusable artifacts and project configuration. You can then copy any generated blueprint code from the Composer /WebContent directory into the IBM Rational Application Developer project based on composer.war.

Customizing applications

While application customization is not covered in detail in this article, it is important to point out that you can customize an application to your liking with IBM Rational Application Developer.

The blueprint application code contains references to widgets in the Composer Library, and developers can change the web page layout, or add widgets manually to web pages. It is also possible to change parameters on the widget. For example, you can enable the advanced search settings such as the minimum search threshold and maximum number of results with the showAdvanced attribute.

Test and deployment

IBM Rational Application Developer contains an embedded application server called the AJAX Test Server, so you can deploy your Composer application and test it out from the IBM Rational Application Developer environment without installing an application server. When it is ready for deployment, you can easily deploy the Composer application as a web archive to IBM WebSphere Application Server or other supported application servers.

Using the application

So far you have done the following:

  • Configured the UI model, including the desired data attributes and UI settings.
  • Generated the blueprint code.
  • Deployed the code to a test server within IBM Rational Application Developer.

Now let's look at quick view and multi-domain blueprints, which are two examples of sample applications that are easily constructed with IBM Initiate Composer.

Quick view blueprint

The quick view blueprint provides a basic record lookup tool. In the blueprint configuration, administrators can select which data type they would like to search on, and whether they would like to see source system records or the entities that link together similar source system records. As shown in Figure 3, the quick view blueprint is self-contained on one page and includes Search Form, Search Results, and Details View widgets.

Figure 3. Quick view blueprint
QuickView Blueprint

Multi-domain blueprint

The multi-domain blueprint also offers add, edit, and relationship capabilities, and supports multiple entity types in the same application. Administrators can select which entity types they would like to see in the application, as well as which source system will receive updates when performing add or edit operations. As shown in Figure 4, the multi-domain blueprint will also open up new tabs for each entity selected, allowing you to manage multiple data elements simultaneously.

Figure 4. Multi-domain blueprint
Multi-Domain Blueprint

Conclusion

With IBM Initiate Composer, MDM customers now have a UI toolkit available to integrate master data widgets in their web applications. In this article, we described the key components of the toolkit, and the process to generate a sample application using the toolkit.

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