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Too Many Systems Collected During Growth: A Case Study

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Over a Canadian retailer’s 90-year history, they had built and inherited through acquisitions many one-off systems. The problems caused by the variety of disparate systems and data sources became larger and larger as the company grew and expanded. Now there is a need to consolidate all these systems and implement an agile system that can grow with the company. An additional problem with consolidation was the different use cases across the company both at the corporate and retail level. Several departments needed access to real-time information from a centralized access point to enable enhanced collaboration across geographies, business units, stores, distribution centers and corporate departments. The brand needed a solution that could help them achieve real-time collaboration while retaining brand identities from a single, centralized access point.

 

What We Did

To build a solution that met a Canadian retailer’s needs, Veriday built the platform using a Liferay portal.

Why Liferay?

With a modern architecture that’s deployable to the cloud, with its flexibility and agility to evolve with new technology and future growth, Liferay is the best foundation to build their required solution. The Liferay portal is accessible from any device, offers rich personalization, a Secure Single Sign-On (SSO), and is built with a history of excellent open-source fundamentals, providing a decade’s worth of innovation from thousands of developers with the flexibility to tailor the platform to meet development needs.

The portal solution focused on Supply Chain solutions with visibility into the entire flow of the supply chain. The portal allows for self-service solutions and real-time information, with detailed visibility into all orders, history, and status. This allows stores to be able to allocate and plan resources to receive new merchandise. The solution has achieved excellent adoption rates, with 90% of the retail stores using the platform on a day-to-day basis.

Results

The new portal solution that was built for the Canadian retailer was successful at solving the different problems faced by both the retail and corporate sides of the business. Some of the results include:

  • Increased agility for their in-house IT delivery team, who are now able to deliver new features quickly.
  • Increased internal satisfaction, by providing employees with the tools they need to do their job more effectively.
  • Made data more accessible, from any device, anytime.
  • Improved long-term value for the Canadian retailer’s portal technology, by providing a scalable foundation that can evolve and grow with them.

All of these results line up with the combined goals for their portal solution, improving overall productivity. We know that the portal solution we built will help one of Canada’s most iconic retail brand continue to grow today, and in the future.

Why Choose Liferay DXP as Your Employee Portal Platform

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Too often companies will buy into software for the sole reason of being the best overall and having brand recognition in the industry. This approach should strongly be avoided, especially when building an employee portal, as this does not equate to proper integration and optimizing its use. The promise of “Digital Engagement” is false. The world has been transformed by technology and the internet for decades, therefore employees and companies have been digitally engaged for a long time. The right platform should transform this digital engagement and provide a solution to the current method. Companies and the stakeholders responsible should examine the interactions at every level of the organization and where does the portal fit within that.

To begin, what are the engagements happening in an organization? For the employees, they are engaging with the company; using various systems to complete their tasks. Employees also engage with other employees, both in a social aspect and a collaborative aspect, using systems to communicate and work together. Companies also have their own set of engagements. To complete the tasks that are asked of the employee, the company must supply the tools and the information needed to the employees. Most of these engagements are happening digitally and across many different platforms, (Outlook, Gmail, Slack, and so on.). We know recognize that digital engagements are already happening.  The next step is really to unify everything so that there is a single point to allow for all these engagements, whether through augmentation or integration. Why Liferay works well and fits in many environments is because it allows for both augmentation (introducing Liferay out of box features) and integration (integrating with existing solutions).

An employee portal’s sole aim shouldn’t be to replace the legacy platforms currently in use.  It should allow for integration with best of breed solutions so that employees can perform their daily tasks in the most efficient way possible.   When properly designed and implemented, employee portals enable your employees to be more strategic, improve productivity, collaboration, and employee satisfaction.  In turn, reducing operating costs while allowing more time spent on revenue-generating activities.

“Liferay excels in the portal as common architecture use case, and it exceeds the requirements for leading-edge customers across our other three use cases.”

Why Liferay is a leader

Liferay DXP provides an architecture for companies to digitize business operations, deliver connected customer experiences, and gather actionable customer insight. It combines and coordinates applications, including content management, search and navigation, personalization, integration and aggregation, collaboration, workflow, analytics, mobile and multichannel support. For the 7th year in a row, Gartner ranks Liferay as a leading provider of portal solutions.  We encourage you to read over the Gartner report so you can set your own opinions on how it ranks with other Digital Experience Platforms and see if you come to the same conclusion that we did.

 

How to Turn Your Employee Portal Into a Digital Experience Platform

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Historically, employee portal technology supported a basic employee use case in providing a platform for communication with employees using basic content management capability with some systems integration capability and a few other things. These legacy platforms were suitable for the time but did not anticipate the changing nature of the employee interaction model, the social trend dynamics, the proliferation and the corresponding to search for data and documents and were constructed with the notion of being built once with minimal further investment. These platforms did not have the capability to meet or keep up with future needs and were not designed for maximum employee digital experience.

To truly transform an employee portal into a digital experience platform, companies must first think about their foundation. Do they have the proper foundational software to deliver the desired employee experience? Do they have the proper foundational software to deliver the capabilities required to enhance employee capability and productivity?  Do they have the proper foundational software to transform? The new software foundation must allow for:

  1. The enablement of a best in class digital experience
  2. Desktop, mobile, in office and remote access capabilities
  3. Personalization and social enablement
  4. More complex system integration
  5. Enhanced and dynamic search capabilities
  6. Advanced analytics
  7. Ability to leverage, enhance and protect a company’s employee investment.

What is a digital experience?

Digital experiences allow companies to go beyond digitizing paper processes in order to create services that are possible only because of the internet and other modern technologies.

They have two key components: they use digital technologies and they provide some kind of interaction between a single user and an organization. Mobile apps, websites and smart devices all provide digital experiences to the customers, partners or employees that are using them to interact with companies.

Device Accessibility

Employees are no longer confined to the traditional office setting. Some may work on a desktop with a keyboard, mouse, and multiple monitors. Others may be remote access on laptops, and other may do most of their work on a mobile device. Each device may have limitations on what can be accomplished, however, an organization’s objective is to provide best possible user-experience when working cross-device and ensure required capabilities are optimized for each device. Optimizing for a device should not only mean screen-size but also navigation and operation on the platform.

Personalize and Socialization

Traditional portals have been modeled and built in one configuration, for one device-type. However, consumers are expecting, if not demanding, highly personalized experiences. Employees are consumers as well; consumers of other companies products and searching, and consumers their employer’s information. A study found that the preference for personalization is caused by two factors: a desire for control and navigating through an information overload. It may not be overly evident for a company that their employees are feeling a lack of control and overloaded with information until there is an examination is the processes and looking ways to personalize the experience for different users.

Furthermore, organizations should also enable employee socialization. In the age of social media, each platform allows users to communicate and engage with people in a variety of ways. Using a social media platform brings great advantage for an organization. Employees will feel they have more of a voice and seek to engage more than with regular e-mail. Social media promotes the desire to share and interact and will result in greater knowledge sharing and collaboration among employees. Opening the ways of communication between employees creates the freedom to use the platform best suited for specific needs.

System Integration

A company’s employees may be required to use many different tools to complete their tasks. This forces the employee to have to log into may different platform, with different experiences. These many softwares will have different update cycles, requiring the user to constantly change how their workflow is executed. Using one central platform can integrate all these tools, removing the multiple logins, and the workflow hiccups. A successful platform will knock down walls.

Information(search)

A primary objective of an employee portal, new or old, is the access to information. At the core of every business are the crown jewels of information that are critical for the company and are required by employees. If the access to this data is not available or is difficult to find, it reduces the value of the information and limits potential. On traditional platforms, finding information was lengthy and costly. In a modern portal, information should be easy to search for and find.

Information should not only be easily accessible on desktop but should be accessible for all users in various work environments. For example, a retail company may have a desktop with the portal in the back, but the employees who are only on mobile devices cannot access that information. Therefore, ensuring agility in how information is searched for will give access to everyone.

Another way of providing information to end users is through notifications. Traditional portals would require users to log in, to find the receive any communications or updates. This was not a very effective method as what could be important information could be missed or forgotten days later. With notification, this allows for employees to not have to take time out of their work and to get the information where they are (pop up, email, SMS, etc.) at the right time.

Analytics

Historically, if a company wanted to understand how an employee portal was being used or what parts were successful and which needed improvement, the stakeholders would either guess, run focus groups, or take a survey. However, these methods could provide flawed or inaccurate data. With a modern platform, analytics will allow you to test and learn. If a page is being used a lot, should it be more readily available or made a quick link. If a page is used less, why is that? Is the information not valuable?

The objective of an employee portal is to knock down walls. To truly achieve this result, the old foundation must be replaced with an agile platform that can grow and pivot with a company and its people. This new platform should go beyond being a band-aid solution for one problem. Instead should seek to improve the experience of the users across all engagements within a company.  If done properly, the platform will amplify productivity inside of getting in the way. This is how companies can transform the digital experience with their portal.

 

4 Platform Leaders To Consider When Choosing a DXP Platform

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Digital Experience Platform, DXP, is an emerging category of enterprise software seeking to meet the needs of companies undergoing digital transformation, with the ultimate goal of providing better customer experiences. DXPs provide an architecture for companies to digitize business operations, deliver connected customer experiences, and gather actionable customer insight. Organizations are looking to use DXPs as they move from web-centric to more pervasive, multichannel digital experiences. DXPs manage the presentation layer based on the role, security privileges and preferences of an individual. They combine and coordinate applications, including content management, search and navigation, personalization, integration and aggregation, collaboration, workflow, analytics, mobile and multichannel support. Using Gartner’s Magic Quadrant can help find the most suitable vendor for their needs.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is organized in 4 quadrants: Niche players, Challengers, Visionaries, Leaders. These groupings are created based on the two platform characteristic axes: ability to execute, and completeness of vision. Let’s examine a vendor from each quadrant to highlight some of their strength and weaknesses

Kentico Software

  • Strengths
    • Growth: Kentico is an emerging European vendor and have expanded rapidly.
    • Midmarket focus: Its appeal is to midsize business looking for packaged capabilities.
    • Price: Offers a clear and predictable licensing model at a low starting cost.
  • Cautions
    • Interoperability: while advertised for out-of-the-box solutions, it is difficult to integrate with third-party offerings.
    • Limited support: Customers report relatively low satisfaction with the quality, effectiveness and availability of professional services in the Kentico ecosystem.

Oracle

  • Strengths
    • Functional breadth: Offering a broad array of digital experience functionality, and a wealth of complementary technologies.
    • Industry expertise: Differentiated vertical solutions with off-the-shelf data models, processes, policies, user experience, analytics, integration and partners, for over 20 industries.
    • B2C use cases: Oracle’s CX Cloud Suite represents an appealing vision for organizations looking for comprehensive, preintegrated solutions that serve the entire customer journey.
  • Cautions
    • Product strategy: Oracle’s product strategy for the digital experience is somewhat misaligned with customer demand.
    • Deployment complexity: Customers report that deployment is an unexpectedly complex task, with a steep learning curve and longer-than-average implementation times.
    • Ease of doing business: Oracle is difficult to do business with, and that its DXP offerings are hard to find and try out without a significant commitment.

Liferay

  • Strengths
    • Flexibility and agility: Liferay shines when its technology is used to build highly customized experiences that incorporate external business applications.
    • Market responsiveness: Customers value Liferay’s organic innovation, which contrasts with the “innovation through acquisition” approach taken by many competitors.
    • Service and support: Customers report that they receive excellent customer support and an excellent overall customer experience.
  • Cautions
    • Lack of own SaaS or PaaS: Some Liferay customers regret the absence of a provided SaaS or PaaS offering to reduce the requirement for internal or third-party technical skills.
    • WCM capability:  Organizations with experience of best-of-breed WCM applications expect functionality that is easier to use and designed for business users.
    • Analytics: Customers scored Liferay’s analytics capability relatively low.

Bloomreach

  • Strengths
    • Machine learning: Has AI-powered personalization and content-marketing capabilities for midmarket and large organizations.
    • Flexibility: Provides a good balance of content management, portal and personalization functionality.
    • Architecture: Demonstrates architectural discipline with loose coupling of content, logic and presentation.
  • Cautions
    • Product integration: Integration of Personalization with Experience is a work in progress. Some customers report unmet expectations regarding combined features and functions.
    • Scalability: Customers report limitations with complex security and authentication scenarios when its platform is used in intranet and extranet scenarios.
    • Access to expertise: Customers have reported a steep learning curve and difficulty finding expertise for implementation.

 

Analysing the strengths and weaknesses are very important in the research of new employee portal. Organizations must examine how they fit into objectives of a platform transformation. There are other criteria an organization should consider, such as: understanding the employee needs, involving all departments, testing and more. To read more about what should be considered read our last article: Why Your Old Employee Portal Is a Problem?

 

How to Create Value for Your Employees

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It takes more than just paying competitive wages or bean bag chairs for employees to feel valued. Companies that can create value for their employees will see a more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled workforce. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability. It is important to understand where value can be created. To provide a better frame of where to look, there are two areas of focus: Everything that concerns the employment, and everything that relates to the employment. When understanding everything that concerns employment research what tools employees are using and how can you improve productivity. Examine how employees get information, forms, vacations time, pay stubs, and other HR functions. With this framework in mind, what are some things an organization can do to provide value and increase engagement?

Reduce Friction

At the core of employee productivity is information. It is important that employees have access to the information they need to complete a task. Reducing friction in how the employees access the information will create value. However, most organizations take the approach of providing total access to complex systems and believe this reduces friction because employees have access to everything. This assumption is incorrect since not all information needs across an organization are the same. Now will require digging through all the information to find what is needed. A more effective way to reduce friction in information access is to take an “insight without access” approach to fill an information request.  Alternatively, a robust search function will also allow users to find the information they need faster with much less friction.

Communication

The way employees communicate with each other and with the company can be improved and will result in value added. Begin by providing employees with a voice. As much value, an organization may try to provide if they are not listening to their employees or their employees do not feel heard, no value will be added. Whether it be a forum, survey, anonymous submission, or other means; providing a means of 2-way communication between the employee and the company is important.

Another way to add value through communication is to look at how employees communicate with each other. Email is likely to be the most used platform for communication. This can create friction because the valuable information may get lost and not easily found. Furthermore, it lacks the sophistication for the company to measure and understand how email is being used and how they can add value. If a portal with a communication feature were to be implemented, it could amplify how employees communicate and turn the email inbox into a space for notifications not discussions.

Creating Organic Adoption

After implementing a new portal, some may be tempted to incentivize the employees to use the system. This is not wise. Not only does it not provide true value, it skews measurement of engagement and turns the portal into the equivalent of a “fast food” meal, satisfying in the short term without long-term benefits. A portal is best viewed as a perpetual investment and to get true adoption it must provide true value. There are multiple ways ensure adoption. For example, find out what is the #1 request/problem faced by the employees in each department. Funneling information access through the portal simplifies access adoption. Of course, changing the way employees operate may cause short-term disruption, but if the solution provides more value than the previous method, that disruption will be short.

Measuring Engagement

Finally, when looking to create value for employees through the implementation of an employee portal, it is important that its usage is measured. Most companies build a portal and leave it alone. This platform is a vibrant ecosystem and should be tracked and changed to ensure it’s delivering the best value possible. Metrics that stakeholders may want to consider are the percentage of employee activity daily, weekly, and monthly; time on page – finding out which pages are most used and may need to be more accessible, and which pages are less used either because they are organized in the wrong place or should be removed. A platform requires regular maintenance and should be kept fresh. This will ensure it provides value to the employees and is used for the long term.

 

Employee portals are a great tool for companies to provide value to their employees. Simply implementing a portal will not always provide value. It is important that companies understand how its employees operate and communicate. With this understanding, organizations must reduce friction, improve communication, promote platform adopt, and measure the usage. These portals cannot remain static and must continue to evolve with the organization to ensure it is always benefiting the employee.

Why Your Old Employee Portal Is a Problem?

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The leading organizations of any industry are looking to pull ahead of the competition with digital-driven models. A key to success here is not only improving interactions with customers but also with employees. The value creation that a proper internal digital strategy and renewed intranet portal related capabilities can deliver are: end-to-end agile operating models, gains to internal productivity, reduction in the times to market for new products, and enhanced employee experience. To achieve these benefits, organizations need to invest in delivering the next generation of digital experience platforms that deliver on key employee journeys that promote employee engagement as well as customer facing journeys and engagement.

What Organizations Should Be Doing

While customers are the lifeblood of any organization, ignoring the employees and their journey is foolish as they are the providers of the product or service. Investing in the employee experience and platforms they use can have a great impact on the overall service to those customers. Firstly, aim to solve real employee problems that impede the customer and employee experience and look at how to provide those powerful employee experiences. Secondly, be open and allow for new ways of working in a more agile fashion and work across silos. Thirdly, organizations need to provide a more modular flexible architecture for a faster time to market and more business agility. Finally, organizations need to capture benefits and results on different KPI at all levels.

Legacy Portals Aren’t Working Anymore

While organizations may speak about being agile in the digital age, legacy employee portal solutions and their corresponding business cases and funding models were not designed for the type of digital enablement being delivered in the most progressive organizations. Here are some of the symptoms of your portal not working:

  • Current portal solutions that only provide individual features and not the entire end-to-end employee journeys.
  • A portal that was a one-time project funded vs. ongoing funding.
  • A monolithic architecture that was hard to change with limited ability to personalize.

Don’t stay static

Organizations that refuse to let go of their legacy technologies are preventing themselves from moving forward and getting to where they want to be. Stakeholders must first recognize that elevating the digital journey of the employees is just as important as elevating the digital customer journey. The organization must be committed to changing how they work, driving simplification and fostering a new culture of digital employee engagement.

Top Challenges That Companies Face Internally

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Top view of creative business team sitting at the table at loft office and working. Woman manager brings the document to mixed race group of people. Colleagues discussing the project.

An employee portal can be very beneficial for an organization. Portals continually prove to increase employee and business productivity, as well as improve communications, collaboration, and knowledge management. However, in discussions with different organizations, they face common challenges as to why their existing portals aren’t working. 40% of portal initiatives fail to garner adequate adoption to achieve ROI and 10% to 15% of portal initiatives are scrapped altogether.(Gartner Summit 2012) So why are existing portal not working?

Poor User Adoption

While the enterprise stakeholders have seen the value in a new portal. The employees may have a different perspective. They may see little value in the portal and see it as an inconvenience in their established processes and routines. This creates an inconvenience to the employees to get that data that can be easily found somewhere else.

 

Unable to Easily Search for Information

The implementation of a new portal should make processes simpler. There can exist a disconnect between what stakeholders were described when sold the portal, and the employees who must use it for a specific reason. These reasons may conflict with the abilities of the portal. Regardless of the application, the goal is to effectively find the information needed. The specific information may take too long to find what they’re looking for, unable to do a keyword search, or searches get too many results that then require sifting through.

 

Inability to Collaborate

These portals are designed to try to enhance the overall productivity of an organization. It should become easier for any employee in an organization to work with others across departments and access an online workplace, despite their physical location. New portals may make collaboration difficult or altogether impossible. Employees can’t share documents, cannot work on the documents on it together, and there is no control over with document versions.

Ineffective Communication

Finally, another common problem faced with the adoption of new portals is the breakdown of communications. Their portal has no streamlined process, no ability to communicate or a lack of knowledge of where to post information.

 

The challenges mentioned above are symptoms that stem from three problems that are present in all ineffective employee portals: Information, Ownership, and Customer Experience:

  • Information
    • Is the information outdated? As time goes on information may not be kept up to date or have little to no metadata tagging to help search information.
  • Ownership:
    • Who is supposed to be updating content, when, and how often?  What information should be posted?
  • Customer Experience:
    • Portals may lack a focus on the end user. It may not be intuitive to navigate or lack analytics on how they are interacting with the portal. Having KPIs for portal software is important to track the value to the organization.

A lot needs to be considered and understood when designing a successful solution.  Its simply not enough to say “we want to increase collaboration”, organizations should also ask what collaboration means to the users and how it it involves their daily activities.  Other questions include: What does a successful implementation look like? What are the plans to maintain adoption? Overall, we need to account for how people work and why they would want to change it to a new portal.