Tag: Integration

Creating Better Employee and Customer Experiences with Liferay and Crafter

Posted by on June 21, 2016

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The modern customer’s needs are ever increasing as they want information combined with the convenience of interacting with your brand whenever and wherever from various digital touchpoints and devices. Meanwhile, employees are demanding digital experiences that facilitate rapid information access, communication and enterprise collaboration.

To meet these demands, organizations are leveraging Web Content Management (WCM) solutions such as Crafter CMS to help deliver consistent and personalized experiences throughout the customer journey. And internally, portal solutions such as Liferay Portal are being used to address a variety of social business and collaboration needs.

But what happens when you want to share the same content across both internal and external sites? Is integration the key? While many organizations are realizing the business benefits of an integrated solution, it’s important to keep in mind that integration isn’t always the answer, and when it is, the approach taken can determine your implementation’s success.

Understanding Platform Differences

Gaining a clear understanding of how each technology can be used for addressing various business needs means recognizing what each technology is under the hood.

At a high level, Liferay Portal is a multi-tenant, site-based platform, allowing the creation of multiple sites — including websites, portals, social collaboration environments, e-commerce, big data solutions, and mobile apps. The sites are built with Liferay’s portlets, all of which sit under the Liferay umbrella, meaning these sites are being published to the web by Liferay.

Crafter CMS, on the other hand, is an enterprise WCM tool with robust content management features — including user-friendly content authoring, in-context preview, workflow, multi-channel publishing, versioning, and content delivery.

Architecturally, Crafter is very different from Liferay in the way content is delivered. Crafter employs a decoupled architecture, where content authoring and delivery occur separately. Crafter’s authoring component, Crafter Studio, is where all the authoring takes place, along with content being managed in an Alfresco repository.

Unlike Liferay, where publishing occurs within itself, Crafter publishes to a completely different environment through Crafter Engine, the delivery component. Crafter Engine is able to serve content to virtually any channel, whether it’s a website using any front-end framework (PHP, .NET, Java, etc.), mobile app, or other third party system. This is the fundamental difference between Crafter and Liferay, and understanding this is a vital part of knowing when to integrate or not.

Perspective Differences

Liferay and Crafter are both powerful platforms that can be used to address a variety of business needs, including many similar, overlapping use cases. This overlap creates confusion around when to use each of these tools and if they should be used together. We’ve seen organizations integrate these products for the wrong reasons, which result in a lot of wasted effort to correct those mistakes.

Determining if your business will benefit from using these two products together requires you to think about perspective. Based on your business needs, if you see a lot of overlap between the two products, then one platform should suffice and it’s probably not a good idea to integrate. However, if there isn’t much overlap, then integration makes much more sense as it allows you to leverage each solution’s strengths.

The amount of overlap really depends on your unique requirements and what you’re trying to accomplish with your website(s). Keep in mind that much of this is attributed to how websites and content management has evolved over the years and its affect on marketing’s needs. Today’s organizational websites have grown to become much more complex, often involving multiple sites that are then integrated with other enterprise systems, such as marketing automation, CRM’s, e-commerce, and analytics to provide a richer end user experience.

The key consideration here is the total number of web assets your organization has. Are you a small organization with just one website, or a large enterprise with a global presence with hundreds of web properties to maintain?

For smaller organizations with only one website, then either Liferay or Crafter on its own is fully capable of addressing most, if not all, content management needs. However, it becomes more complicated when it comes to larger organizations with more sophisticated digital experience needs that typically involve many different sites and touch points.

In the latter case, an example of an integration pattern that doesn’t work is when Crafter is being used solely for managing all web content, where the entire site is then published through Liferay as the front end. This pattern fails because Liferay controls its own look and feel, so trying to control it outside of Liferay breaks its architecture.

When there are multiple sites involved, it only makes sense to use both Liferay and Crafter when Liferay is just one of many delivery channels. An example would be an organization using Liferay for its employee intranet and Crafter to manage its global and regional websites. When the organization wants to publish content that needs to be delivered across all websites along with the intranet, that’s when it makes the most sense to integrate.

In this use case, Liferay manages its own intranet page. Within the page is an area that’s managed by Crafter that enables access to enterprise content while still adapting to the look and feel of the intranet.

 integration-patterns

This decoupled architecture, where content is separate from delivery, also makes it easy to expand and add additional delivery channels (mobile, social, etc.) for true multi-channel publishing. We’ve found this to be a great integration pattern for organizations that desire the flexibility to scale.

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To summarize, Liferay and Crafter are both very powerful at the platform level. If you’re thinking about integrating the two, it’s counter productive to perform a feature by feature comparison. Instead, design your solution based on your use case and not by focusing on features, as many different technologies will have the same features, but address each use case differently. And remember that integration isn’t always the answer, so do your research to understand the pros and cons. When done right, integrations can yield tremendous long-term benefits.

 

Utilizing the Employee Experience Maturity Model to Optimize Your Enterprise Collaboration

Posted by on February 19, 2015

What comes to mind when you think of an intranet? In theory, intranets should deliver results in real time. HR should be able to easily publish new policies and other documents, marketing should be able to easily find an inside expert when researching a new technology, and sales should be able to quickly get help on a new presentation. But in reality, this usually isn’t the case.

Legacy intranets are plagued with information that can’t be optimally leveraged –1) outdated old documents, 2) static content instead of useful conversations that draw out important ideas, 3) half-baked people directories instead of rich user profiles, 4) irrelevant company news that doesn’t help get our job done, and 5) lack of mobile access.

Unfortunately, due to these issues, many organizations consider their intranet the place where information goes to die. In fact, a recent survey showed that while a vast majority of organizations have had an intranet for over five years, and over 70% also utilize social business tools (e.g. wikis, forums, messaging, etc.), almost 3 out of 4 would rate their tools as BAD.

Part of this can be attributed to the strategy and approach. Just because you have an intranet and social tools, doesn’t mean it’s a social intranet solution. Organizations need a fresh approach to this problem.

Social Intranet Strategy & Tools

First, a social intranet is multi-faceted. In addition to supporting social collaboration, it needs to support the people and their profiles, user groups, tasks, files and documents, departments, projects, and communities with an organization. An intranet must also integrate easily with other enterprise systems – ERP, CRM, WCM, cloud services, and even outside social networks. In addition, a social intranet should also support the development of custom apps as necessary.

In determining a social intranet strategy, we’ve developed the employee experience maturity model to help organizations assess their current state based on employee behaviors, and establish new targets based on corporate strategy.

Employee Experience Maturity Model

The Employee Experience Maturity Model is comprised of four dimensions – Process, Collaboration, Integration, and Content. Each can be ranked along its level of maturity, from Low to High. Based on actual behaviors and not tool features, you can measure each dimension and plot your current overall maturity level.

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Together, these four measurements can provide an overview of how mature an organization is at delivering effective and productive digital experiences for its employees.

Content Maturity

Organizations that are high in Content Maturity typically allow their employees to own all content, making them both content producers and consumers. They also support all media types (documents, images, video, audio, etc.), and content is easily accessible by search and faceted navigation. In addition, content is published across multiple channels, with the ability for social commentary, and personalized to individual users, teams, and departments.

On the other hand, those low in Content Maturity tend to have top-down, one way communication, where documents and textual information predominates, with the use of ad-hoc repositories and no way of indexing, tracking or searching content.

Collaboration Maturity

On the Collaboration Maturity scale, companies that rank high tend to easily support collaboration both inside and outside the organization. In addition, a variety of social and collaboration tools are used, including collaborative work spaces, comprehensive user profiles, all with social content weaved throughout and the ability to easily share and subscribe.

On the low end of the scale, email and shared drives are the dominant tools used, along with other ad-hoc tools. The people directory is incomplete, and there are no social features, such as the ability to follow people and teams or comment and rate content.

Integration Maturity

On the Integration Maturity scale, those that rank high generally use standards-based, open architecture platforms that can easily be integrated with. In addition, enterprise applications are used in intranet/portal solutions, where capabilities and interactions are exposed as services. These organizations also utilize Single Sign-On (SSO) across all applications used, along with comprehensive user profiles.

Conversely, businesses on the low end use standalone apps with separate logins, often on proprietary closed systems, resulting in silo’d repositories of content, data, and people. There’s also no employees access to customized dashboards to meet their specific needs.

Process Maturity

Businesses than are high in Process Maturity have processes embedded in their intranet and other applications, which are monitored and managed by workflows that work seamlessly across applications. In addition, analytics are used for process optimization.

Those on the low end of the scale employ ad-hoc manual processes that are only available through desktop access and often not fully documented.

Strategizing With the Maturity Model

While the Employee Experience Maturity Model provides a way to assess where your organization stands, it’s important to keep in mind that a “high” rating on every dimension isn’t required, or even desired. Organizations need to choose their targets based on individual corporate strategies.

For example, companies that focus on innovation, such as startups, may be high on Collaboration and Content, but rank lower on Process. On the other hand, a cost leader may rank high on Integration and Process, but lower on Collaboration. Even more, organizations that want to maintain a singular voice would likely rank high on Collaboration and Process, but lower on Content. Determining your organization’s priorities and choosing your targets is an important part of your overall strategy.

Click here to learn more about the Employee Experience Maturity Model.

What’s in Store for Digital Experience Management in 2014

Posted by on January 13, 2014

2014 is here in full swing, and promises to be an exciting year as the web continues to evolve and new products and trends continue to disrupt the industry.

In 2013, we saw the continued rise of mobile and the age of the customer, where enterprises worldwide re-evaluated strategies to optimally engage with their customers in this digital era. As mobile devices continue to proliferate and have become the new norm, consumers have increasingly higher expectations of the right content delivered to them when and how they want it, resulting in customer experience management skyrocketing to the top of every organization’s priority list.

However, experience management doesn’t just apply to customers, but instead extends to include all organizational stakeholders – customers, employees, partners, etc. We also saw organizations take a closer look internally and focus their efforts on employee community building. Realizing that workplace environments are changing, with a greater need for enterprise collaboration now than ever before, companies are implementing social intranet solutions that offer dynamic and social environments to facilitate community and collaboration.

In addition, many organizations are also building web-based social communities for their external stakeholders for further engagement to improve customer relations and build brand loyalty.

Tackling these daunting digital experience management tasks require careful planning and execution. Organizations need to first determine their business strategies and goals and take the time to really understand their audience to formulate the right messaging. A well thought out strategy sets the right foundation to build your systems – customer experience management, social intranet, customer portal, etc. – upon. The technology should be an enabler of your goals and facilitate your business users to effectively carry out your business objectives.

At Rivet Logic, we believe that software should be agile systems that can easily be customized to fit each organization’s unique needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all tool, and your underlying system must be flexible and developer friendly to allow various customizations and integrations with other existing enterprise applications. In addition, your system must be user friendly for business users. As we’ve seen over the past few years, there’s been a shift from IT to Marketing as Marketing’s responsibilities have expanded to include multi-channel web content management, customer experience management, and more. The tools we employ must be easy to use for non-technical business users.

In 2014 we’ll continue to see these trends evolve. Organizations will continue to put a large emphasis on customer experience management and creating a seamless omni-channel experience as mobile continues to grow. Businesses will also focus more on big data. The explosive growth of social media and mobile devices has generated an enormous amount of user behavioral data that can be harnessed to provide organizations with valuable insight on how to better address the needs of their customers and employees.

 

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

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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