Tag: enterprise

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:

Rivet Logic and Liferay Talk Social Intranets at Boston Roadshow

Posted by on August 07, 2013

A Liferay Roadshow is making a stop in Boston on August 14, 2013, and Rivet Logic is hosting the event! This lunch seminar will teach attendees about Liferay Portal 6.1, its robust capabilities, and how it can be used to address a variety of business challenges — in particular, achieving smarter enterprise collaboration through a social intranet solution.

For today’s enterprises, building internal employee communities within the enterprise offers tremendous strategic advantages, including greater opportunities to share knowledge across departments, to encourage employee interaction and feedback, and to assist in meeting organizational challenges through team-building and collective problem solving.

This special lunch event will cover topics including:

  • Organizational benefits gained through collaboration
  • Why organizations are turning to social intranet solutions to facilitate community and collaboration
  • Implementation best practices for a successful implementation and optimal user adoption
  • How to quickly and easily get started with a free, fully functional HRPortal solution that’s available through the Liferay Marketplace

Attendees will also see a live demo of Rivet Logic’s HRPortal solution, which serves as the foundation for any social intranet implementation.

For more information and to register, visit http://discover.liferay.com/RivetLogic081413.

We hope to see you at the Roadshow!

Intranet Portal Usability, From a User Experience Perspective

Posted by on July 25, 2011

The Nielsen Norman Group recently published a report on intranet portal usability based on 67 real case studies from enterprises worldwide. In contrast to other reports that typically offer vendor solutions, this report is seen from the user experience perspective, providing insight on what portals mean to users and how to deliver a portal solution that organizations need.

Jakob Nielsen touches on some important points from the report in his column. The overall trend for enterprise portals seems to focus on ways of making the existing features more robust and better managed as portals have become more widely accepted. The early definitions of portals being gateway access points have evolved; today’s portals can be thought of as a dashboard integrating all enterprise information and applications that employees need to do their jobs through a unified interface.

Interestingly, but maybe not too surprising, the biggest finding is that portals aren’t adding mobile features at the expected rate, at least not when compared to consumer apps. Most of the companies studied saw true mobile portals as being at least a few years out. Research has found that good mobile usability requires a separate design with a reduced feature set for mobile use cases, focusing on time- and location-dependent tasks, so it’s not enough that an existing portal is made accessible through phones since the UI is optimized for desktop use.

Since this report focuses on the user experience, it comes as no surprise that personalization is a critical component of a well-designed portal. The ability to integrate information from multiple sources can have its own disadvantages as the information can be overwhelming for the users, especially when it’s irrelevant. The more the portal serves up to the users, the stronger the need to curate what each person sees. Allowing users to customize what they see through individual user profiles provides an effective way display content relevant to each user.

Portals have long been known for its social features, but now they have also evolved into collaboration platforms. While most companies didn’t see a sharp distinction between the two, an easier way to distinguish the two is informal vs. formal collaboration, where formal content is officially managed and informal content is left to emerge on its own. This contributes to the issue of governance, which many organizations already struggle with. While governance may be a greater issue for larger enterprises, a key lesson learned is that organizations should plan the governance structure before starting a portal project. While there is no general governance solution that fits all organizations, they can look at governance solutions that have worked for others and adapt them to their own specific corporate culture and circumstances.

So while the portal industry has matured over the years, the focus now shifts to the user experience to create a solution that can be easily adopted and optimized. The full report can be found here, http://www.nngroup.com/reports/intranet/portals.

On a similar note, in one of our own recent webcasts (and at the Liferay East Coast Symposium back in May), we spoke on the topic of building and deploying a global intranet with Liferay, which touched on some of the same challenges that enterprises face when starting this type of initiative – personalization, governance, employee search. Our presentation is available for download here, http://www.slideshare.net/rivetlogic/building-and-deploying-a-global-intranet-with-liferay-8459841, and the webcast is accessible on our website, http://rivetlogic.com/resources/webcasts.

Major Players in the Open Source Enterprise Collaboration Space

Posted by on March 10, 2011

CMSWire’s topic of focus for this month is enterprise collaboration. It touches on a variety of important topics that organizations should consider before implementing an enterprise collaboration tool.

One point that struck me as particularly interesting is that collaboration starts offline with the people and not with the technology platform. It seems like this is an important factor that can easily be overlooked by many organizations during the process of determining a collaboration solution. As the article indicates, it’s important for an organization to realize its own work place culture and select tools that build on what they already do. For example, a wiki solution may be a better fit for a small team of collaborators than a full enterprise collaboration platform, which may be overkill. In essence, “this existing culture should be thought of as a blueprint for a collaboration system”.

Along similar lines, it’s also important for an organization to determine what they want to achieve with enterprise collaboration before implementing a solution. Collaboration requirements for a departmental team may be different than enterprise-wide collaboration goals. The technology will always be readily available, but without the proper analysis, a solution may not be implemented in the most optimal way to achieve the desired results.

With that being said, there are a multitude of collaboration solutions available. CMSWire names a few major players in the open source enterprise collaboration space that are worth considering. Not surprisingly, Alfresco Share and Liferay Social Office were both on that list. While Alfresco Share is highlighted as a SharePoint agitator that appeals to both users and IT administrators, Liferay Social Office is commended for its product maturity and robust collaboration features.

Confluence Alfresco Integration for the Enterprise

Posted by on October 05, 2010

Today organizations of all sizes are adopting wiki solutions as a way to facilitate communication and collaboration around planning, projects and departmental matters. Wiki solutions allow users to attach documents to pages and to hyperlink to those documents from other pages. This is extremely useful, however documents, which have traditionally been stored and secured on corporate shared drives are now living in separate places. Some now live within the wiki, while others continue to live on file servers. This is an example of an age-old issue in technology; as we bring in new tools that provide us with more options and better ways to work we are faced managing the side effects of a growing technology footprint.

This issue is not new technology, but instead, one of architecture. As our needs grow we need to adjust our architecture to accommodate new demands. In this case, what we need to do to solve the problem is to separate a few concerns. Some users want to access the document through a file server (shared drive) while others want to access it via the wiki. Traditional shared drive technology doesn’t do a great deal to help us accommodate this. Traditional shared drives provide file system access to documents but lack APIs that allow us to get to our content by more sophisticated means. Further, most wiki technology is one sided as well; while a wiki solution may provide web based access via pages and services they tend to lack file system access. Finally, even if the wiki could “project” its store as a shared drive it’s not likely to be the proper system of record for your documents. By separating the issues of storage, management and delivery we can articulate a solution that allows us to serve documents through a traditional shared drive interface via a proper system of record while at the same time, providing APIs that allow us to get to that content as a service so we can incorporate better ways of working with the document through new technologies as they emerge.

Enter Alfresco. Alfresco is architected from the ground up to be a system of record. It’s designed to provide API / service based access to your documents and content, as well as traditional shared drive access. Alfresco supports three different remote programming APIs including SOAP, webscripts and CMIS. And in addition to presenting itself as a file server so users can connect to it as a file share, Alfresco also mimics an FTP server, a WEBDAV server and even a Microsoft Share Point server. Alfresco is designed to store, secure and manage your documents and to provide access to those documents in the way that best suits your users.

If we use Alfresco to store our documents and integrate our wiki solution to read and write documents though Alfresco’s APIs rather to the wiki itself we satisfy our objectives:

  • Store documents in a proper system of record
  • Allow file-share access to the documents
  • Allow API level access to client applications like wiki

confluence attachments integrated with alfresco

hlgh architecture

Alfresco’s capabilities go far beyond security and content retrieval. Once your documents are in Alfresco they can be searched, workflowed, transformed, translated, versioned and so on and so on, no matter how they are accessed; all through stock capabilities provided by Alfresco out of the box.

At Rivet Logic we see real value in allowing knowledge workers to interact with their content though tools and in whatever process that fits their needs best. At the same time, it’s important to manage content or the same efficiencies that are gained through productive tools and well-designed process are lost due to stove-piped information. The need is real, and given that, we set out to create an open source project that demonstrates a more appropriate architecture and provides a stepping-stone for much greater integration going forward. Najy Nicolas, a “Riveter” from our Boston office has integrated one of the most popular wikis, Confluence, with the management capabilities of Alfresco, the leading open source document repository. We’re calling this project the Confluence Alfresco Integration rivet or CAIr for short. CAIr is open source. You can find downloads, source code and documentation here: http://wiki.rivetlogic.com/display/CAIR/Home

Enterprise Social Networking: The Next Big Thing

Posted by on September 05, 2008

When people think about social networking, websites like Facebook and MySpace immediately pops to mind. It’s a way for Gen Y’ers to connect with each other for pure entertainment purposes, right? Or is it?

With Web 2.0 already a staple in the consumer web world, Enterprise 2.0 is quickly gaining momentum within businesses and enterprises. Social networking is going beyond teens connecting in cyberspace. It’s about enabling businesses to collaborate and work together as a community, both internally amongst employees and externally with customers and partners. Instant messaging, wikis and blogs are being used as tools to encourage communication, knowledge sharing and collaboration.

Facebook is venturing into enterprise applications with the help of Ringside Networks, an application server company, which offers an open source “social application server”. “Ringside Social Application Server is the first open-source platform that enables Web site owners to build and deploy social applications that operate with existing Web site content and business applications while seamlessly integrating with social networks such as Facebook.”

“It has a range of cool features like the ability to gather ‘social intelligence’. In other words, the Ringside platform allows business owners to gain insight into the social graph of users, relationships, groups, interactions, and sharing that is occurring on their Web site. Suddenly, socializing becomes smart business.”

In fact, investors see so much potential in the future of social networking that a couple of Facebook investors, Accel Capital and The Founders Fund, created the Facebook Fund for start-ups, which “offers grants to new ventures that specifically develop applications using the Facebook Platform.”

How’s that for enterprise social networking??