CCLA – WebCenter Portal Spaces Case Study
CCLA is a fund manager based in the City of London, providing specialist investment management to charities, local authorities and faith-based organisations. They invest money for more charities than any other UK fund manager.
As part of the IT strategy CCLA wanted to implement a best of breed Portal which would enable their employees to collaborate on project, departmental and personal levels. Some of the challenges CCLA faced were:
- Employees did not have a single point of reference – the existing intranet was underused and hard to update.
- Management of internal Projects – the process of creating and maintaining an internal Project relied on multiple systems including email, tracking spreadsheets and folders.
- Lack of collaboration – collaboration within projects and engagement with the wider company was limited to meetings, emails and conference calls.
- Project documentation – documents were stored on a file system involving a complicated file naming convention which was prone to error.
Oracle WebCenter Portal Spaces (or Spaces as it’s widely known) was recommended to meet CCLA’s requirements. Spaces is a collaborative out of the box Portal which is built on top of Oracle’s ADF (Application Development Framework) and WebCenter stack. It provides many integration points with existing Oracle technologies and other disparate business systems. Some of the reasons why WebCenter Portal Spaces was recommended are:
- Ease of setup and implementation – Spaces is easily configured and can be up and running within a few days.
- Web 2.0 Features – Spaces is integrated with over fifteen Web 2.0 features such as wikis, forums, blogs, likes, comments, tags and announcements out of the box. As Web 2.0 features were high on the priority list this provided a quick win.
- Customisations – CCLA wanted the Portal to have the same look and feel as their existing systems. The Spaces Resources feature enabled us to easily change the look and feel of the Portal using CSS.
- Security – Spaces has a strong security model which can be administered from an Application to a Task Flow (widget) Level. In the case of CCLA we leveraged their existing LDAP repository; so all users and groups were immediately available in Spaces and could then be assigned the appropriate rights to the different Group Spaces.
- Extensibility – Spaces allows deployment of extra features in the form of ADF task flows. Task Flows are packaged functionality (or Widgets) for example a Stock Ticker or Weather Update. They can be easily dropped onto any page in the Portal and adopt the same security model as the Group Space or Page in which they are embedded.
- Future proof – Spaces is built on top of ADF (Application Development Framework) and provides many different integration points with Oracle products and other technologies through web services, Portlets and Task Flows. The ADF layer will allow the environment to be extended to support different uses and integrations.
At the outset of the project we decided to separate the project implementation/delivery into two main phases. These were Customisation of the Spaces environment followed by Extension of the platform.
The first step in the customisation phase was to take a standard Group Space Template and customize it as the Intranet homepage. The Intranet Group Space acts as a main point of reference and contains all the information about what’s happening within the company. Some of the features implemented for the Intranet Group Space include announcements, polls, forums, blogs, events and documents.
The second step in the Customisation phase was to implement a Project Template known as a Hot Topics template. CCLA had a requirement to improve the way internal projects (Hot Topics) were created and maintained. Before the Spaces Portal implementation Project Managers had to update a central Spreadsheet with details of the each project. The spreadsheet contained information such as project owners, due dates and priority. Though this process worked it was cumbersome and required a lot of care and attention from the project Manager and Team members to keep the spreadsheet updated and accurate. The Group Space feature in Spaces was used to create a custom Hot Topic Template. CCLA project Managers could then use this whenever they needed to create a Project. Information was stored in a backend database which allowed reporting and notifications. Some of the features included in the Hot Topics Template are Topic Overview, Documents, Tasks, Discussions, Members and Security. A screenshot is shown below followed by a brief explanation:
- Status Fields – The key information relating to the Project is always visible at the top of the page. This provides an overview of the project and its status.
- Topic Overview – This tab displays an editable wiki document which is automatically created. The Project Manager can update this with the project escription and objectives as the project runs.
- Topic Documents – The Documents tab allows Team members involved in a particular project to upload relevant documents to the project. They can also create documents on the fly by using the create wiki functionality provided by Spaces.
- Topic Tasks – The Tasks tab displays a Task Flow which contains all tasks related to this Hot Topic. This is custom functionality which was built for CCLA to be able to manage tasks within a Hot Topic.(see Extending Spaces section below)
- Topic Discussions – This tab enables the Project Manager and Team members to collaborate and discuss on Project issues and objectives using forums.
- Topic Members – The Member’s tab lists all employees who are involved in the Project. The Project Manager and other Team Members can use this tab to easily find other team members. The Project Manager can also bulk email and manage all team members.
- Security – Each Hot Topic created using the custom Template has its own security model which the Project Manager can easily manage. This means that only employees with the correct rights are able to access the Hot Topic, so any sensitive Hot Topics are secure from the rest of the company.
In the Spaces Extensibility phase we extended the basic Spaces functionality and built custom ADF Task Flows (widgets) specific to CCLA. These Task Flows were integrated into the Hot Topics template. The three custom Task Flows are listed below:
- Tasks Overview – The Tasks Overview displays a summary of all Tasks across all Hot Topics (Projects). This is mainly used by the CIO to analyse statuses of tasks i.e. how many tasks are completed, open or on hold for the company weekly report.
- User Tasks –This Task Flow displays all the tasks assigned to the logged in user from all the Hot Topics they are working on. This Task Flow is enabled on all pages so it can be quickly accessed by all users.
- Hot Topic Tasks – This Task Flow displays all Tasks related to a Hot Topic. It enables the Project Manager to manage the tasks for that Hot Topic for example creating, assigning, updating and closing tasks.
Several other custom Task Flows were created; such as a Twitter feed and Hot Topic creation wizard. WebCenter Portal Spaces was also integrated with CCLA’s Oracle WebCenter based Content Management System (CMS). This enables all documents uploaded and created in the Portal to be stored and versioned within the CMS. It also allows CCLA user’s access to client and corporate documents via the Portal. This means that they can work through a single interface and this will support initiatives such as Remote Working in the future.
As a result of the WebCenter Portal Spaces implementation the following benefits are available to CCLA:
- Single point of reference - Employees are able to use the Intranet Group Space as a single point of reference to find out what’s happening in the company, to keep up to date with news and participate in polls.
- Increased collaboration – Employees are able to participate in company-wide discussions through blogs, forums and polls. They also have the ability to collaborate on project or personal levels.
- Standardized Project Creation and Management – CCLA now has a standardized one click project framework creation process which allows Project Managers to create Hot Topics quickly and easily. The Hot Topic is initiated with all the relevant Web 2.0 features pre-configured; this will allow Project Managers to refocus their efforts on the project rather than the setting up of Excel documents and distributions.
- Staff discovery – Employees can easily search and find people they need to be in contact with within the company.
- Extensibility and Future proof – From an IT Strategy point of view, CCLA can now quickly develop, deploy and integrate Task Flows to the Portal without needing to extend the underlying platform.