Alfresco + Liferay Project Helps Publishing Firm Immediately Dominate Document Processing Market

Algoworks helped build a unique portal using Alfresco and Liferay for a media, publishing, and information services firm as the client planned to become the leading provider of iXBRL Document Conversion Services

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About Client

The Client is the world's leading media, publishing, and information services firm. They have expertise in providing services related to content creation and management, and are globally known for their efficient and economical process. In 2010, all government offices in US, UK, and some other countries adopted a new document standard for all financial and costing documents. The standard known as eXtensible Business Reporting Language format, or iXBRL in short, was meant to standardize and ease the process of financial reporting, and take the whole system online by giving companies facilities to submit their documents online. This opened up an XBRL document conversion market which our client wanted to capitalize on. The actual conversion of documents was done manually by hand, however the overall conversion process was very complex. Each document passes through hands of many actors including customer, project manager, three different verifiers, and a conversion specialist. XBRL is an XML based, open, market-driven, global standard for encoding semantic information, like those found in financial statements of organizations. iXBRL (Inline XBRL) is a development of XBRL, where the main enhancement is centered around the electronic rendering of financial information encoded in an XBRL document. If the focus of XBRL is on automated machine readability of data, iXBRL focuses on rendering such data. Technically, iXBRL documents are generated from well-formed XML documents. While XBRL documents can be viewed only with specialized XBRL viewers, iXBRL documents can be viewed on standard browsers. The client needed a way to manage this process efficiently and track the performance of different actors. They also needed an efficient channel for communication between the customer and the client’s project manager. Based on the client’s requirements, we suggested them to go with a Software-as-a-Service model to cater to their iXBRL conversion service. We developed for them a multi-tenant portal based web service that the client can use to manage the process as well as provide communication between manager and customer. We used and integrated Liferay and Alfresco solution to create the portal and save documents.

How We Did It?

Managing The Workflow

Challenge: To manage a complex workflow

The document conversion itself was simple, but the whole process was complex. Every document went through the eyes of at least eight different actors including a project manager in charge of everything. And that’s not counting managers above project managers. The new system should help facilitate the complex workflow and make the process as user-friendly as possible.

Solution: A Liferay Alfresco and JBPM system to manage the workflow

We used an Alfresco system for document management, a Liferay system for portal, and a JBPM based system to manage and enforce the whole business process. We implemented a multi-tenant architecture therefore the same solution can be used to cater services to all the customers. However we implemented strict authentication and content access protocols because of which no customer had access to another customer’s data. We created different dashboards for different actors and created features like custom dashboard that can help entry of any new role in the workflow. Each actor’s dashboard was customizable and by default included features that help them in their respective tasks. Role management was strictly enforced and we provided a system that allows each actor to be in constant communication with project manager, end client, and other actors, with role specific restriction of course. The whole workflow process including the steps of document submission with customer, passing on the document to verifier, converter, and QA specialist by PM, and final delivery of document to customer, was enforced using jBPM Workflow Engine.

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Multi-Tenant Architecture

Challenge: A single platform to manage multiple clients

Our client had multiple customers that have required,XBRL document conversion services. Their original solution was a modified version of a basic cloud based Software-as-a-Service model and involved installing different instances of the same solution for different clients, i.e. different Alfresco installation for different clients and different Liferay installation on different sub-domains for each client. However as each of the client’s project manager handled works for multiple clients that means to track their overall performance a new module was needed to integrate all instances.

Solution: A multi-tenant architecture

Instead of creating a module to connect multiple instances, we proposed creating a single solution that supported multiple tenants. Our solution allowed the client to create different sub-domains for each client from the same portal. All clients share a same Alfresco backend and a same Liferay frontend, but the security was so tight that no end-client can access the documents of another end-client and no project manager can access documents belonging to end-client he/she doesn’t manage. We customized our Liferay portal to facilitate the creation of New Clients so that every new client has a new unique sub-domain URL instead of a dynamic URL.

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Document Management and Viewing

Challenge: To manage massive amount of documents and their views

The overall business of XBRL conversion was immense. Each end-client had millions of document to be converted manually. At the same time each document had to be properly stored and versioned. The client needed a system to save all the document in a user-friendly solution which is also secure and only provide role specific access to documents.

Solution: An Alfresco solution to manage documents

We developed an Alfresco based solution to manage documents. To make sure that the user don’t have to access two systems every time, we provided features in our Liferay portal itself that allowed used to view and edit documents in the web based portal. The integration was so seamless that except the first folder creation process involved in client initiation, and some regular checks, no-one ever needed to open the Alfresco backend. To store the versions and status history of each document we developed a complex system of document meta-data. The meta-data assigned with each document reflected all information related to the document including its health, its Service Level Agreement (SLA), its status, and even its history. Each document is also associated with active comments features that can help the various actors involved in communicating with other and give or receive any specific directions for the document.

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Service Level Agreement Management

Challenge: To manage different Service Level Agreements

One of the biggest challenge of the project was to manage complex service level agreements involved with each document. The priority and conversion response time of each document was defined by SLAs. Managers and other actors needed features which could help them in prioritizing the conversion process of each document. The management of SLAs should be user-friendly, fool-proof, secure, and should have proper documentation of each action performed on document.

Solution: Secure architecture to manage SLA

To make sure that project manager knows the priority of each document, we created document SLA indication features that would be associated with each document. Every notification dispatched to any actor will highlight this SLA and will indicate the expected delivery date. This indicator will also define the health of the document and all actors can view the overall health of all documents assigned to them in their dashboard itself. The overall process can be actively tracked by the customer and the PM. Also since every PM managed multiple clients, we enforced strict security rules in the system itself to ensure that no document is sent to the wrong end-client of course.

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Analysis And Reports

Challenge: Needed visual reports to analyze the process

Analysis was an important part of the project. The client and end-client both needed features to help them keep track of the whole conversion project with specific features to track document life cycles, document health, performance of each actor, and overall performance of the team in a given time set.

Solution: Jasper Reports and Google Charts based analysis and reporting solution

We used Jasper Reports to generate automated and user-triggered performance reports. Project managers and end-clients can use the reporting tool to view reports and receive automate performance reports. In addition we used Google Charts to create in-portal visual graphs and pie-charts to visually represent data. Project managers can analyze performance of every actor, all documents, and every sub-process in the whole conversion process.

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Results

Conversion Time Reduced By 6 Hours

Implemented a complex workflow that reduced document conversion time per document per process in excess of 360 minutes.

1.5+ Million Records Documented

The system stored and managed 1.5+ million documents and their different versions

8 Different Actors Working Smoothly

Created a solution that managed roles of at least 8 different actors

Client's Productivity Increased By 25%

The client now had a 25% faster turn around time for each document conversion. They now generate more business per month than ever before.

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