Category: Portals

11 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade to Liferay 6.2

Posted by on May 28, 2014

A few months ago, Liferay released the latest version of their portal, version 6.2. This version delivers enhanced usability and provides a comprehensive platform for building intuitive, engaging digital experiences for both employee-facing and customer-facing applications. While previous versions of Liferay had primarily focused on backend enhancements, version 6.2 turns the spotlight on the user experience, a crucial capability that many organizations seek in today’s era of customer and employee engagement.

Liferay Portal 6.2’s feature enhancements can be broken into two categories: 1) Usability and Administration, and 2) Development. Usability and Administration enhancements would primarily benefit organizational employees and end users. Development enhancements, on the other hand, would provide extra flexibility for developers, enabling them to be more creative when it comes to customizations and new portlet development efforts, resulting in faster time to market and better efficiency for bug fixes. In short, Liferay 6.2’s wide variety of new features has many organizational benefits across the board.

With everything that Liferay 6.2 has to offer, we highly encourage an upgrade, and have compiled a list of the 11 most useful new features in a white paper. The most talked about and anticipated new feature in Liferay 6.2 is undoubtedly its enhancement for mobile support, which by itself is enough reason to upgrade. However, the rest of the features in this list will also positively impact organizational users, administrators, and developers in various ways, helping to make a stronger case for an upgrade.

To download the full white paper, click here.

Enabling Smarter Enterprise Collaboration Through Social Intranets

Posted by on November 19, 2013

Traditional intranets – while offering a variety of tools for improving internal communication, workforce productivity, collaboration, and more – are often seen as stuffy, boring systems that employees NEED to use, but not necessarily would WANT to use.

However, that’s all changing now. In an age where Customer Experience Management (CEM/CXM) and producing engaging digital experiences across various channels is at the top of every organization’s digital strategy list, some of that is crossing over to modern intranet solutions. Organizations are now beginning to see the importance of providing that same level of engagement to their employees that they do for their customers.

A new generation of social intranets have emerged that focus on building internal employee communities while incorporating social tools to facilitate knowledge sharing, employee interaction and feedback, and team-building and collective problem solving.

Over the last few months, we’ve presented on this hot topic at several events, including two webinars, two Liferay Roadshows, the Liferay North America Symposium, and KMWorld Conference. Let’s take a deeper look at how a social intranet solution can be used to facilitate smarter enterprise collaboration.

Social Communication is Critical – From Internet to Intranet

Looking at the history of social media in general is important in helping us understand why social features have become an essential part of today’s intranets. Most of us were around before social media and remember when it all first started. As with any new technology, there was some initial resistance. However, it was interesting to see how quickly people naturally gravitated towards using social media and embraced the openness that came with it.

Fast-forward to today and you see users worldwide that are socially active. This proves that the need for social interaction is not cultural, but rather it fulfills a natural human need – the need to share, to discover new things, and to be connected to one another. This is why social media has become an essential part of our internet experience today.

Naturally, companies have caught on to this, and Web applications and services that provide social features started sprouting up globally. In fact, it’s hard to find a successful Web application nowadays that doesn’t incorporate social features to some extent.

However, for a while, social interactions were kept out of the workplace, and employees would change their behaviors to fit within the constraints imposed by their employers. And those who were initially rejected for rallying for social interaction within the workplace were the same visionaries that saw the benefits – as a tool for providing constructive feedback, and to help employees be more efficient, hence improving productivity.

This initial resistance to social interaction within the workplace was no different from the resistance from internet users when social media was first conceived. Intranets are changing, and organizations leading that change are already reaping the benefits.

The Social Intranet

So what makes an intranet social? Unlike the public internet, intranets are trickier, since there are usually a lot of organizational rules to follow, many of which go against the essence of being social. Here we will cover some common features of a social intranet.

Intuitive

First and foremost, it has to be easy to use. Just like social applications on the internet, social intranets shouldn’t require user training. Nowadays, people learn how to use Web tools by talking to each other about it. While the availability of online help resources is always useful, discussion forums teach users a lot more.

Light Community Management

One of the biggest obstacles that get in the way of social intranet adoption are an organization’s existing anti-social rules, such as policing all content. Imagine if every time you posted a forum question someone had to review and approve it before it gets posted. Chances are, you’d never ask anything. Instead of being policed, social intranets should be moderated, where users can post freely, and processes can be put in place to correctly handle improper posts. This also means that some organizations would need to change their company culture and rules prior to adopting a social intranet.

Content is Produced and Consumed

Another key difference between social internet and social intranet apps is that consumers of content are as important as producers of content. We tend to always praise producers and call consumers leeches. This isn’t the case in social intranets, however, since it’s the consumers who are the ones using this content to be more efficient and productive at work. Producers without consumers are useless.

Integrated Search

And last but not least, social intranets tend to be heavy on enterprise search. Discovery is an essential social feature, and search is one of the best tools for enabling discovery, so great social intranets typically put a lot of emphasis on integration with enterprise-wide search solutions.

The change is here, and early adopters are reaping the benefits. In fact, a recent research report published by Nielson Norman Group on social intranets has found that many companies see intranet information sharing and other social features offering true competitive advantages. And more interestingly, many executives recognize that social tools are an expected part of a knowledge worker’s standard toolkit.

Building a Social Intranet – Now What?

Building a successful social intranet means selecting the right tools for the job, and Liferay Portal is one of the best tools to take on this task. Liferay provides all the social intranet features discussed in two ways – through Liferay Social Office or as a tailored social intranet built on the Liferay platform.

Liferay Social Office

Liferay Social Office is a packaged social collaboration solution that successfully addresses many social intranet features.

  • Dashboard – A dashboard is an essential part of any social intranet and offers a great way to keep users informed of what’s going on.
  • Sites – Liferay has site-based architecture, allowing organizations to create sites that serve very different purposes – departmental sites, project and team sites, and even regular websites with editorial content.
  • Contact Center – A big part of social communication is to stay connected, so social intranets put a lot of emphasis on having an easy-to-use people directory. Liferay successfully addresses this through Contact Center, which even includes user profiles in search results.
  • Team Calendar – Liferay’s calendar feature can be used in any site to manage site-specific events.
  • Search – Liferay enables enterprise search through integrations with Apache Solr, Google Search Appliance, Endeca, and more, allowing you to make enterprise-wide information discoverable from within the social intranet.
  • Liferay Sync – Liferay addresses the growing need for ubiquitous file sharing through Liferay Sync, a feature similar to Dropbox/Google Drive. In addition, your enterprise security constraints are honored even when you’re outside of your company’s firewall.
  • Related Content – This feature allows content authors to associate content of different types, resulting in a very rich and dynamic information architecture. For example, reader of a blog post who then posts a relevant question in a forum can relate the blog and forum posts, exposing future blog post readers to the forum posts.

Even more, Liferay Social Office has additional social features such as micro-blogging, private messaging, announcements and alerts, full-featured document management, comments and ratings, and much more.

Custom Social Intranet Solution

Another approach to building a Liferay-based social intranet is to create a custom solution utilizing Liferay as a platform. One of the most popular Liferay use cases is actually a Human Resources (HR) Portal, which is often the first step towards building a social intranet. An HR Portal provides an efficient means of disseminating company information and news, and offers an ideal medium for employee outreach and engagement.

Over the past few years, Rivet Logic has built a variety of intranet solutions for customers with varying business models. Through working with these customers and understanding their requirements for these intranets, we’ve found certain features to be commonly sought across all intranet solutions. Based on these features, we’ve built an open source HR Portal that we’ve contributed back to the Liferay community, now available through the Liferay Marketplace. This easy-to-deploy portal solution comes with many useful features, including:

  • Corporate news authoring and publishing
  • Customizable news publishing channels
  • User-friendly people directory
  • Customizable portal-wide main navigation bar
  • Smart news carousel
  • Customizable quick links

Choosing the Right Approach

So how do organizations determine which approach to use for their social intranet? Liferay Social Office is Liferay’s equivalent to Sharepoint, so it may be better suited for organizations that like what they’re getting out of the box and aren’t looking for a tailored solution.

Those looking for a more tailored solution can either use the HR Portal as a starting point and build an intranet on top of it, or use Liferay as a platform and build an intranet from scratch. The bottom line is, there is no right or wrong approach, but rather determining what each organization needs and finding the approach that best fits with those requirements.

Learn More!

If you’d like to learn more about social intranets, we have several resources to help you gain a better understanding:

Building Enterprise Customer Portals with Liferay

Posted by on April 04, 2013

Remaining competitive in today’s market means customer-driven companies must continue to provide their clients with added value, and one of the most effective ways of achieving this is through a customer portal that enables a holistic view of the information customers care about the most. Customer portals also present an opportunity for organizations to generate revenue through strategic discovery features that expose clients to products they might be interested in.

Liferay for Customer Portals

Liferay Portal provides a versatile platform for solving a variety of business needs, including intranets and extranets, collaboration sites with blogs, wikis, and forums, consumer facing websites, and social community sites with built-in social networking features. And one of the most common use cases we’ve seen is customer and self-service portals.

Liferay’s site-based architecture makes it ideal for customer portals. A key capability of these portals is to provide separate sites, pages, and content for each customer. And since Liferay allows you to easily create individual customer sites with very little work, the scoping of the content and digital assets within those sites is supported natively.

LIferay easily supports the two most important features of customer portals – personalization and site-based security.

  • Personalization – Liferay allows for creation of personalized pages for each customer. The information collected within each customer site can then be utilized in creative ways to further enhance personalization and increase user engagement. Liferay roles and teams are often used as an elegant way to differentiate between user types within a single customer site, which in turn opens the door for further fine-grained personalization.
  • Site-based Security – Liferay’s architecture facilitates security by enabling straightforward management of site members and their permissions within the site. Moreover, end users can be appointed as site administrators to help decrease help desk load while providing customers with much needed content ownership and management capabilities.

Challenges and Solutions

Every project has its challenges, and it’s important to follow best practices and address them in the beginning to ensure a smooth implementation. From our experience in implementing customer portals of varying sizes, we’ve seen a number of common challenges and have found successful ways of addressing these with Liferay’s flexible platform.

Information Architecture

The quality of the information architecture will have a large impact on the success of the portal. The information architecture defines the types of content your customers will see inside the portal and the navigation within the portal to get to the right content, so it’s critical to define and categorize the content and display it in a way that’s easy for the customer to understand. A customer portal that makes finding important content difficult is destined for failure.

To resolve this in Liferay, you need to gain a clear understanding of Liferay’s architecture along with best practices. It’s important to involve a customer sample when defining and categorizing your content to determine which content is important for each customer.

Integration

Integration is a critical part of every customer portal because, more often than not, the content that customers typically care about usually resides in external third-party enterprise systems, some of which may change over time. Therefore, the best way to approach integration is with a reusable integration layer.

Liferay supports this with their service builder library, which allows developers to create a standard service layer abstracting all integration logic. With this, technical architects can easily provide their developers with a standard API to use for systems integration, resulting in increased developer efficiency and better overall solution maintainability.

Flexibility

Many customer portal solutions in the market were built to satisfy the immediate needs of those customers. This often leads to the solutions becoming inflexible, so when new technology or new use cases are required, these solutions simply can’t keep up. In addition, today’s users expect Web-based solutions to constantly evolve and get better, making the portal solution framework’s flexibility a key factor in determining both short- and long-term success.

Liferay addresses this challenge with its native support for the implementation and deployment of custom plug-ins to address any future customer needs. Additionally, Liferay was built with customization in mind – almost every aspect of the portal can be customized or overridden without sacrificing the ability to maintain a clear and supported upgrade path.

Branding

The ability for a customer portal to support different branding aesthetics for each customer provides a much appreciated, tailored experience to the users of the portal. The challenge here is that the majority of portal frameworks in the market today don’t easily support site branding, which usually forces adopters of those technologies to stick with one look and feel for all customers. Support for interchangeable skins or themes in a portal, though challenging for the portal vendor, enables more personalized user experiences.

Liferay’s Themes, Layouts, Mobile Support, and Custom Site Metadata allow developers to create unique look and feel options for each customer. The technical knowledge required to implement different skins is standard user interface technology such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This doesn’t just make branding easy, but also quite flexible.

Innovation

Interaction within a customer portal is typically thought to be business-to-customer. However, customer interactions don’t have to be unidirectional, and a new market trend is introducing social customer-to-customer interaction within portals. This social interaction can be particularly beneficial to companies whose revenue depends on successful ongoing transactionality between customers.

Liferay’s flexible platform and robust feature set also allows it to support innovative new features as market trends change. Rivet Logic is proud to be one of the few, if not the only, Liferay partners to have implemented such a portal with a fully integrated marketplace experience for buyers and sellers of services to collaborate and transact within the portal. With features like Google Maps-based discovery, quote management, private messaging, customer service, and more, we were able to build an extremely successful customer portal with the help of Liferay’s flexible framework.

Liferay’s robust portal platform provides a versatile solution for satisfying a variety of enterprise needs, including building consumer-facing websites. Implemented correctly, these customer portals can bring great value to your customers, resulting in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Building an HR Portal With Liferay

Posted by on March 04, 2013

Leading enterprises are constantly looking to improve employee productivity by enabling efficient communications throughout the enterprise. This usually starts with an effective portal for human resources – an enterprise HR Portal – which enables organizations to disseminate corporate information to the work force in an engaging, efficient and intuitive manner.

Over the years, Liferay has evolved into a platform that can satisfy most Web-based enterprise needs, from corporate intranets to customer portals and enterprise websites. And one of the most popular Liferay use cases is the HR Portal, which is often the first step towards building an intranet. An HR Portal provides an efficient means of disseminating various company news and offers an ideal medium for employee outreach.

In a recent webinar, we demonstrated how to build an enterprise HR portal with Liferay in just 30 minutes. The demo showcased our latest open source Liferay community contribution that allows developers to easily create a fully functional HR Portal. This easy-to-deploy portal solution comes with many useful features, including:

  • Corporate news authoring and publishing
  • Customizable news publishing channels
  • User-friendly people directory
  • Customizable portal-wide main navigation bar
  • Smart news carousel
  • Customizable quick links

This HR Portal solution will soon be available in Liferay Marketplace – with the Community Edition available in a matter of weeks and the Enterprise Edition under development. Both versions will be available for free download.

Watch our recorded webinar to see a demo of the HR Portal in action!

New Case Study: Liferay and Alfresco enables collaboration in education sector

Posted by on August 17, 2008

We just published a new case study on one of our projects in the public education sector. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) does great work for advancing public education goals at the US Federal and State levels, and open source portals and content management from Liferay and Alfresco help them collaborate, find, and share critical information in support of many of their projects.

Learn more from our new Case Study: CCSSO Increases Project Efficiency Through Open Source Content Management and Collaboration.

New White Paper on Open Source Document Management

Posted by on April 11, 2007

Our latest white paper on Open Source Document Management is now available.

Register for it here.

In it, we talk about how open source ECM and portal software can help with fundamental document management requirements including:

  • Rules based repository that can replace shared network drives
  • Effective search and retrieval
  • Standards based interfaces, including WebDAV, FTP, CIFS
  • Library services
  • Forums and other ways to facilitate team collaboration beyond email
  • Workflow
  • Scanning and document imaging support
  • Records management
  • Security