This article describes an enterprise collaborative portal approach that plays an active role for company employees, partners and customers by managing business content, unifying work teams and providing one- stop access to essential documentation, functionality and services.

Portals – enterprise collaborative solutions

The raised issue is that of process coordination in large distributed business environments. A solution for this will be proposed based on a web-based software application that supports documents sharing, real-time communication solutions, decision-making processes or other collaborative practices.

Since the users were both internal employees and external customers and suppliers, a customizable, web-based portal with secure browser access was the only solution.

“A portal is your enterprise.”

“A portal is a single synergistic access to all your enterprise information, and only the appropriate information.”

“A portal is a Web-based application that commonly provides personalization, single sign-on, and content aggregation from different sources, and it hosts the presentation layer of information systems. Aggregation is the action of integrating content from different sources within a Web page. A portal may have sophisticated personalization features to provide customized content to users. Portal pages may have different sets of portlets creating content for different users.” [Java Community – JSR168].

At a closer look through portal features, such as:

  • Aggregation of content,
  • Customized views,
  • Personalized content,
  • Collaboration features,
  • Web services access,

and so on, we meet also our solution requirements.

For now the portal concept is the most appropriate to our idea. The next step was in finding some open-source portals or some already developed platforms for portal development.

We believe that the concept of the portal as a desktop replacement is still a bit far in future, because a Web browser is only one of the tools most people use on a daily basis. While centrally managing applications is good, and provides a number of benefits to the distributed office, significant functionality it is lost by putting your e-mail and instant messenger into a Web browser. While this is feasible, ultimately it reduces your effectiveness, resulting in a portal that is actually hurting the enterprise.

Furthermore, no one has seriously proposed running office automation tools in a Web browser. Ultimately, a portal can provide good value in presenting an organized view of the data, but it should not feel as if it is an all-encompassing and monolithic desktop replacement. Developers should instead consider user interfaces as appropriate, and leverage other client platforms to provide more sophisticated views, with the portal serving Web services to them.

Liferay Portal

As a portal open source implementation we choose the Liferay Enterprise Portal which provides a tremendous amount of value for very little hassle. It supports a wide variety of J2EE application servers and databases.

Essentially, quickly download, set an environment variable, run a shell script, and you have an enterprise portal. It is set up to quickly provide an easily configurable corporate portal, with such nice features as a Mapquest lookup of your company’s address, showing an overview map.

Extensive portlets come with it, including search, message board, Wiki, journal, news feeds, weather, calendar, stocks, general RSS, instant messaging, SMS messaging, unit conversion, translator, dictionary and user directory, and that is only about half of them! Many of these portlets are supported by the community – so are open-source and free. A real advantage for you business.

The whole framework is built upon Jakarta Struts, which provides a high likelihood that it would be easy to extend. However, extensive documentation is not available. Furthermore, while it seems likely that they will become compliant with the new standard, there is no indication of when this will occur.

Being built after the JSR-168 specifications first and for the newest version after JSR-268 other portlets, java-based, are easy to develop and install – at just almost three “click’s away” (upload the portlet web application and press the install button and all it is done, the portal deploys the application and automatically registers it within the specified category).

iPortal – an enterprise collaborative portal

After reviewing the Liferay portal wide range of provided portlets and reading all its documentation – for development and customization – we had decided that will be the best approach for our solution.

The iPortal is a customized version of Liferay Portal, offering only those portlets that are needed in our solution, portlets such as: calendar, message board, news and announcements, file and document management, custom company public and private space with the possibility for each registered user to create its custom space and so on.

For collaboration practices and in order to complete our solution we add certain portlets, below described:

The chat portlet was replaced by a custom and original developed portlet – a web-based Skype “clone” (the Skype portlet). Through this portlet we provided features such as:

  • skype-to-skype calls
  • chat
  • chat conferences
  • voice conferences
  • user profile ( name, position, company and e-mail address)
  • user skype status on the web (if this is made public)

The users are synchronized with those registered in iPortal and this portlet it is made available only for those logged in users and shown automatically in the company customized space.

This portlet interact with the Skype installation from the user/customer computer. If the skype is not installed a popup containing the official Skype page is automatically shown.

Other original and custom develop portlet is the Notes portlet. This is made available also just for the logged in users and is personal for each user.

The Notes portlets offers the possibility to create, edit, delete and visualize personal notes.

In order to integrate the company projects and to have full interactivity with our customers and employees we integrate also an original portlet, the Project Repository and for offering online documentation to our products we integrate the XWiki as replacement to the provided Wiki.

The Project Repository it is a portlet that let the project managers to create, edit and delete projects and assign resources (human resources) to them.

At project creation, the application propagates this event to all registered applications. When a project it is created its corresponding project (xwiki space) it is automatically created in xwiki. After creation the xwiki space contains only those documents inherited from previously defined template.

For a certain product to be well build the relation between customer and company must be very thigh and things such real-time suggestions, specifications and modifications are vital in building process. In the second plan, developers, possible from different geographical areas, must have online access to project specifications and documentations.

These features provided by Project Repository sustain the globalization and extreme development and creates a stronger connection between customers, suppliers and employees of a certain company.

As a replacement for mail portlet, we integrate the Domino Lotus mail system.

Other great challenge in this project was to provide a decision-making solution full integrated with iPortal. Having an already developed solution that supports decision-making, the iGDSS (Group Decision Support System) the next step was the integration with iPortal.

iGDSS is a web-based application that provides a wide range of tools that supports decision-making practices.

The biggest challenge in this project was the applications integration with iPortal, providing SSO, projects synchronization, identities management and a secure environment.

This challenge was solved by developing an original framework, iSecurity, which offers SSO and identity management – users, groups, role, permissions management.

iSecurity – is a mature, original java-based framework build upon server-client architecture offering management services, SSO capabilities that replaces the ones provided by Liferay Portal, custom directory connectors and a secure environment.

Through webservices all the provided services are made available, fact that allows different client implementations to be accepted. So the iSecurity server can very well communicate with a .Net, PhP or Java clients – feature that gives great development flexibility.

Having the iSecurity framework developed the iPortal and additional developed portlets/applications are full integrated with it creating a mature, enterprise collaborative solution for customers, suppliers and employees.


The iPortal concept and technology has reduced the time and expense of new product development as well as provided the ability to have 24×7 communications with customers on new product features and status. Being an enterprise solution and integrated with iSecurity the portal also provides highly secure environment so confidentiality and privacy can be maintained.

The goal for this project, therefore, was to find and deliver as much information as possible to those who needed to make the daily decisions that are part of running any business. We had to provide that information in a collaborative environment that would provide real-time customer, supplier or employee metrics and other information to desk tops, laptops, and PDA’s so decisions could be made with the greatest amount of knowledge and wisdom.

Through iPortal both the manufacturer and their customers now have better visibility into what and how their businesses are doing. They can check at any time to determine the state of their products.

Manufacturers can keep track of equipment quality and earmark those models that are performing well and those that are not. The equipment users can monitor the production; make marketing or pricing adjustments to meet consumer demand, and plan replenishment.


[1] Rezayat M. The Enterprise Web Portal for life-cycle support,

CAD, 32 (2), 2000, pp. 85-96

[2] Pham DT, Dimov SS and Tsaneva DK. Enterprise Collaborative Portal for Business Process Modelling. Proc. of Int. Conf. on Perf. Meas., Benchm. and Best Pract. in New Economy, Univ. of Minho, Braga, Portugal, 2003, pp. 517 – 523

[3] Liferay Enterprise Portal, www.liferay.com/home/index.jsp ( accessed on August 1, 2008, at 10 PM).

[4] Wiley – Professional Portal Development with Open Source Tools (Java Portlet API, Lucene, James, Slide), W. Clay Richardson, Donald Avondolio, Joe Vitale, Peter Len and Kevin T. Smith, 2004

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