What is our primary use case?
Our primary use case for this product is as a portal. This includes B2B portals, B2C portals, and B2E portals. It is good for any of those use cases. We have some solutions which include all three of these portal types in one deployment. It has the capability of providing good functionality for these portal types in a variety of ways. If you just need a marketing website, I'm not sure that you need a solution like Liferay Digital. You can just use WordPress which will serve your purpose in most cases. But if you need a website that has user authentication and you want to have additional functionalities like document storage, processes, forms, and generally more sophistication, you need a solution like Liferay.
It is better to use a portal solution, and not only a content management system. That's my opinion.
What is most valuable?
I think that manageability is very good and probably the most valuable part of a tool of this type. You can manage pages and you can manage the layout of each webpage. You can create templates very easily — content templates or page templates — and you can manage these in one place. It is a page management area. You do not have to go into management areas separately, you do not have to go to secondary pages to manage the system. So it is very easy for the administrative user.
It is very scalable. On one deployment, you can create several solutions. It can be a website, it can be a portal, it can be an internal portal or intranet, and it can be a supplier portal. You can create all these various solutions and more on that one platform.
Customers like it because they do not have separate solutions for all their needs. It is not just for a website, for example. They have a platform that they can use for many use cases at the same time and learn one tool. It is very flexible in that way.
We have done things like putting two user directories in the portal which would allow us to work with several user groups, different user populations, and different kinds of users. One can be an internal user, one can be a supplier, or one can be a business partner. It gave us a good solution for that.
There is a little more of a learning curve than you have with a simple tool, but a business user can learn to manage the system as an administrator very easily. Deployment is not too hard. That is why I think the main advantage of this kind of system is manageability.
What needs improvement?
If you want to do something more lightweight, the effort you need to put in initially might be a bit high for your purposes. The learning curve is too steep if you want to do something simple. It may be better to take something that is more intuitive out-of-the-box like WordPress, or some other very simple content management system. To use Liferay Digital to its potential, you need some skills. For example, you need to know Java to do some more interesting things. I guess that is the main con or disadvantage of this kind of system. If you have those more advanced skills on your staff already, you are in a good position to work with Liferay. If you are a basic web developer or you have a very small organization, I don't think I would work with it. It may be nice if the product were a little easier for the beginner, but not if it is going to dumb-down the product.
I think the marketplace area could be better. Right now it has hundreds of extensions or other third-party solutions. I think if they had thousands of extensions that would be even better in providing more flexibility. I think they should turn more into the field of cognitive solutions. That would mean adding chatbots, adding extensions, adding integration with AI systems like Watson. I would like to see more expansion to make the solution more complete. It could have better built-in integration so users can search for and find things they might want like language analytics, chatbots solution, et cetera. I think they should work on making this possible. I don't see a lot of other platforms with that kind of solution yet. I think the future of content management is going that way. Chatbots is one of the preferred interfaces that customers want rather than web chat or mobile.
Integration might extend to things like Google Drive. We see people working with that a lot. Maybe even more integration with email systems, other Google apps and Office 365. As part of the workplace, we see that users want those systems very tightly integrated. I would also look at integrating with CRM systems like Salesforce or a feature pack that can create a CRM integrated portal. I would look at integrating with cognitive AI services in order to provide the next step of content management systems. That is the way I would expect Liferay to go to from here.
For how long have I used the solution?
I have been using this solution for about 10 years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
Liferay is not a young solution. It is a very mature product. It has been around since about 2007. Because it is mature it is very stable. From time-to-time, you may need to call support if something does not work as it should. But the company has good support.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
This solution is not really suitable for small businesses. Our clients usually are medium-sized and enterprise companies. The smallest company that we are working with that has this kind of solution is about 300 people, and I consider that medium-sized. If you have a company of 50 people who are internal users, I don't think that Liferay Digital is the best solution for you. It is not like taking on a freelancer temporarily so that he builds the website and that is it. You have to maintain the system and you have to know how to manage that.
If they want something more than a simple solution, I think small companies should look something like solutions on the Cloud with built-in functionalities. But, on the other hand, let's say if you are a company of 50 people but you have 50,000 customers. Then you have a significant customer base and you may be able to use Liferay to your advantage. It depends on what you do. If you have extensive work engagement with your customers, that can be a good solution. It has the functionalities to handle more intensive customer relationships.
In any case, it is very scalable both in functionality and the ability to handle a large number of users. It is an enterprise solution.
How are customer service and technical support?
My experience with the technical support has been very good. I can say for one example we had an issue with the system and we ended up calling them because we were not solving it quickly. Liferay support actually built the same deployment we had in order to reproduce the problem to diagnose it. They actually went all that way in order to understand what the issue was. They managed to give us a solution. It took some time because they really had to do a lot of work around that problem to discover where the issue was. But I don't see that kind of support from other vendors. They went a long way in order to help us. It was a crucial problem and it was not anything standard. If they are willing to do that much they are delivering excellent support.
How was the initial setup?
If you compare Liferay Digital to other portal products, it is really quite simple to set up. Like if you compare it with WebSphere Portal if you compare it to SharePoint if you compare it to other enterprise systems you have in the market, in my experience the setup is fine. You need some skills. But the complexity of the setup comes when you want to build out the solution. Let's say if you are a business user, then it is very easy to work with the system. If you are the tech and you are the one who needs to build out the solution and develop, you need to have skills with Java, you need to understand the J2EE stack, you need to understand working with databases, and all the technical stuff like that. It's not very simple on the development side. But for the normal business user that has to manage the system and not do the development, it is quite easy to do and simple to manage the system.
It usually takes three or four months to deploy this product using three to five technical people on the deployment side. From the client, customer side, usually it would be one or two employees. It depends on the complexity of the solution you need. If the deployment is meant to be a marketing solution, you have to work with the marketing team. If it is going to be something for internal use, you have to work with the appropriate department, like with HR. But the complexity depends on the extent of the deployment, what kind of solution you are going to build. For example, one of the companies we did the deployment for wanted to do B2B, B2C, and B2E. So we had to involve several departments in the deployment. We were working with HR, we had IT, we had the marketing manager, and maybe some other people.
For maintenance after the development — just to maintain the system — if the company has a system administrator, it is really enough. The total amount of time would just be a few dozen hours a month, usually. That is not talking about the stability of the system or disasters and stuff like that. If it is well-built it is usually very stable. Actually some customers do not have to watch their system at all.
What other advice do I have?
The advice I would give to people considering this type of solution starts with the fact that we really like this platform and it has worked well for us. If you are a developer, you have a lot of options, services, APIs, and everything is open for your development because it is an open-source product. You can change what you need to. You can put in hooks and actually create the solution your customer would like, or your manager, or whatever the person or the organization you are working for. It provides a very easy way to work and very easy to maintain and manage solutions.
If you need something that is scalable, that needs broader functionality, and you need to develop your own services, then this is an excellent solution. If you just need some simple, dedicated solutions like email, document management, and some web templates, it may be better to use something simple. You should not start working on something like Liferay, or SharePoint, or WebSphere if you only need a dedicated solution. If you need to integrate multiple solutions, that is when something like Liferay is more important.
I think the biggest lesson we learned using Liferay would be not to hesitate to open a support ticket if you have issues. Even if it is not really a product problem and it is more like something in development, you should try contacting support because they can give you a lot of good information about how to really create the solution you need. They have development knowledge on the technical side and, of course, they know the product well.
Other than that, I think you should prepare your team when taking on this kind of project. You need them to have the skills, and they may even need training or something. But once they have the skills and some familiarity with the tool, you can go very fast, create a very good custom solution that fits your needs.
On a scale from one to ten where one is the worst and ten is the best, I would rate Liferay as an eight-and-a-half. Nine would be okay. I really like the product, probably because I am technical. I think this is the best portal and system you can work with.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
Which version of this solution are you currently using?