For some enterprises, particularly those that are organized in a hierarchical structure, using organizations as a user management tool can make a lot of sense, and can make the delegation of user management responsibilities much easier than it would be otherwise. To understand what a hierarchical structure looks like, consider Major League Baseball (MLB). There’s the main MLB organization, The American and National Leagues, and each League’s Divisions (for example, the American League’s East Division). Finally, the Individual Teams are under the Divisions. This structure could be matched in the MLB portal using organizations.
As with users, organizations are managed in the Control Panel. The steps for creating and managing organizations can be found after the next section, but if you’re not sure what an organization really is or whether you need organizations in your portal, read this next section to help you wrap your head around it.
What are Organizations?
An Organization is a way to group Liferay Users hierarchically. For example, your company’s departments (Human Resources, for example) could be an organization in Liferay. Often times, organizations have their own site.
Many simple portal designs don’t use organizations at all; they only use sites (see the sections on Web content Management and Advanced Web Content Management for more information on sites). The main purpose of organizations is to allow for distributed user management. Using organizations, portal administrators can delegate some user management responsibilities to organization administrators. If you don’t anticipate needing to delegate user management responsibilities, your portal design probably doesn’t need to include organizations. In order to decide whether or not your portal design should include organization, think about your portal’s function. A simple photo-sharing web site could be powered by sites only. On the other hand, organizations are useful for corporations or educational institutions since their users can easily be placed into a hierarchical structure. Don’t think that organizations are only for large enterprises, though. Any group hierarchy, from large government agencies all the way down to small clubs, can be modeled with organizations. Also, don’t think that you must decide between an organization based structure or a site based structure for assembling your portal’s users. Users can belong both to organizations and to independent sites. For example, a corporation or educational institution could create a social networking site open to all portal users, even ones from separate organizations.
To illustrate what an Organization is, consider a potential organization of the Lunar Resort’s intranet. The company hierarchy has three tiers: The Lunar Resort, its Departments, and divisions within each department.
- Lunar Resort–The top-level Organization.
- Physical Plant Department–Department of users that keep the place running.
- Grounds Crew–Users that maintain the grounds.
- Janitorial Crew–Users who keep the resort clean.
- Mechanical Crew–Users who fix stuff, like Lunar rovers.
- Recreation Department–A department that makes sure much fun is had by guests of the Lunar Resort.
- Golf Instructors–Teach guests how to golf on the moon.
- Rover Race Instructors–Teach guests how to drive the Lunar Rovers.
- Lunar Sherpas–Lead guests on moon hikes.
- Sales Department–A department of users who sell things to Lunar Resort Guests.
- Up-sale Group–Make sure Guests know how easy it is to improve their stay by spending more money.
- Souvenir and Memorabilia Group–Peddle souvenirs to Lunar Resort Guests.
- Retail Group–Maintain the Lunar Resort store, which contains basic necessities, since guests are coming all the way from Earth.
- Physical Plant Department–Department of users that keep the place running.
Each department is a sub-organization of the resort, and each further division is a sub-organization of the department.
Whenever you have a collection of users that fit into a hierarchical structure, you can use organizations to model those users. Organization administrators can manage all the users in their organization and in any sub-organization. Referring to the hierarchy above, for example, an organization administrator of the Lunar Resort could manage any users belonging to the resort itself, to any of the departments, or to any of a department’s subdivisions. An Organization Administrator of the Physical Plant Department can manage any users belonging to the Physical Plant Department itself, or to the Grounds Crew, the Janitorial Crew, or the Mechanical Crew. However, an administrator of the Physical Plant Department can’t manage users belonging to the Recreation Department or users in the Retail Group organization.
Organizations and suborganization hierarchies can be created to unlimited levels. Users can be members of one or many organizations. The rights of an Organization Administrator apply both to his/her organization and to any child organizations. Members of child organizations are implicit members of their parent organizations. This means, for example, that members of child organizations can access the private pages of their parent organizations. This behavior can be customized in your portal’s
portal-ext.properties configuration file. There’s an
Organizations section of the portal.properties file where the properties specific to organizations are listed.
Since organizations are designed for distributed user administration, Organization Administrators have an entirely different set of privileges than Site Administrators. Site Administrators are responsible for the pages, portlets, and content of their site. They are also responsible for managing the membership of their site. To this end, they can set the membership type to Open, Restricted, or Private. They can also add users to or remove users from their site but cannot manage the users themselves. If an organization has a site attached to it, the Organization Administrator has the same administrative ability as a Site Administrator when it comes to managing the site’s content, but the site membership management is different. An organization site’s members will simply be the members of the organization. Organization Administrators have more user management permissions than Site Administrators; they can edit users belonging to their organization or any sub-organization. They cannot add existing portal users to their organization, but they can create new users within their organization. Only portal administrators can add existing users to an organization.
Organization Administrators can’t access the Control Panel by default, but they don’t need to. In their personal site, organization administrators can click on the My Organizations link to gain access to any organizations they manage.
A huge time-saving benefit of including organizations into your portal design is that organization administrators can assign organization-scoped roles to members of the organization. For example, consider an IT Security group in a corporate setting. You could have a suborganizaton of your IT organization that handles security for all of the applications company-wide. If you grant the IT Security organization the portal administrator role, all the members of the organization would have administrative access to the entire portal. Suppose further that a user in this organization was later hired by the Human Resources department. The simple act of removing the user from the IT Security organization also removes the user’s administrative privileges, since the privilege came from the IT Security organization’s role. By adding the user to the HR organization, any roles the HR organization has (such as access to a benefits system in the portal) are transferred to the user. In this manner, you can design your portal to correspond with your existing organization chart and users’ permissions are granted according to their positions in the chart.
Of course, this is only one way to set up your portal. If you have more complex requirements for permissions within an organization, you can create custom organization-scoped roles to assemble the permissions you wish to grant to particular users. Alternatively, you could consider attaching a site to your organization and using site teams to assemble the sets of permissions (see below). See the Roles and Permissions article for more detail.
Does your organization need to have its own site? Many organizations don’t, but since some do, Liferay allows sites to be attached to organizations. If an organization has an attached site, the organization’s administrators are treated as the site administrators of the attached site. This means that they can manage the pages, portlets, and content of the site as well as the users of the organization. Members of an organization with an attached site are treated as members of the organization’s site. This means that they can access the private pages of the organization’s site, along with any portlets or content there. The capability of attaching sites to organizations allows portal administrators to use organizations to facilitate distributed portal administration, not just distributed user administration.
That’s a lot of information on organizations. Next, learn how to create and manage organizations.
Now add an organization to the portal (perhaps start by adding the Physical Plant Department organization to the Lunar Resort):
- Click the Users and Organizations link in the Control Panel.
- Click the Add button and choose Regular Organization. To attach a site when you create an organization, click on Organization Site at the right and check the Create Site box. If you don’t know right now if your organization needs a site, that’s fine. You can always add one later.
- Enter a Name for the organization.
- Choose whether this is a regular organization or a location. A location cannot have any suborganizations.
- Select an organization in the system to be the direct parent of the organization you are creating. Click the Remove button to remove the currently configured parent.
- Click Save when finished filling out the Add Orgnanization form.
As when creating a new user, once you submit the form a success message appears and you have access to a new form which lets you enter additional information about the organization. Organizations can have multiple email addresses, postal addresses, web sites, and phone numbers associated with them. The Services link can be used to indicate the operating hours of the organization, if any.
To edit an organization go to the Users and Organizations section of the Control Panel. You should see any active portal users and organizations listed. Click the Actions button (as usual, the vertical ellipsis icon) next to an organization. This shows a list of actions you can perform on this organization.
Edit lets you specify details about the organization, including addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and websites.
Manage Site lets you create and manage the public and private pages of the organization’s site. This only appears for organizations that have attached sites.
Assign Organization Roles lets you assign organization-scoped roles to users. By default, Organizations are created with three roles: Organization Administrator, Organization User and Organization Owner. You can assign one or more of these roles to users in the organization. All members of the organization automatically get the Organization User role so this role is hidden when you click Assign Organization Roles.
Assign Users lets you search and select users in the portal to be assigned to this organization as members.
Add User adds a new user in the portal and assigns the user as a member of this organization.
Add Regular Organization lets you add a child organization to this organization. This is how you create hierarchies of organizations with parent-child relationships.
Add Location lets you add a child organization of the type Location, which is a special type of organization that cannot have any children added to it.
Delete removes this organization from the portal. Make sure the organization has no users in it first.
If you click the View button at the top of the Users and Organizations page and select View Hierarchy you can view both a list of users who are members of this organization and a list of all the suborganizations of this organization.
Users can join or be assigned to sites when they share a common interest. Users can be assigned to organizations when they fit into a hierarchical structure. Users groups provide a more ad hoc way to group users than sites and organizations. Let’s look at them next.