NATF has an overarching requirement to replace their SharePoint based Member portal with a new platform that is more current and applicable to the needs of the entire organization and its members.
The North American Transmission Forum (NATF) is a not‐for‐profit organization of transmission owners and operators that represent about 85% of the net peak demand and 78% of the transmission circuit miles at 100 kV and above in the U.S. and Canada. The NATF currently has over 75 members and over 50 member affiliates/subsidiaries.
The NATF has over 4,000 subject matter experts (or users) among the member companies participating in NATF activities. SMEs interact through a private web portal, Internet meetings, online surveys, and conference calls. Periodic face‐to‐face meetings build working relationships and allow knowledge transfer on key reliability issues. Onsite peer reviews, conducted by teams of up to 25 reliability professionals, offer direct, confidential feedback and constructive opinions.
Time for an upgrade!
The SharePoint based Member Portal had served NATF well, but it was at a point where major updates needed to be applied. NATF was looking into replacing their SharePoint based Member portal with a new platform that is more current and applicable to the needs of the entire organization and its members.
The primary goal of this portal implementation was to greatly improve NATF staff and members’ ease of access and management of its content. This empowers NATF content owners and staff with robust technology tools, which allowed information to be efficiently published with minimal IT or developer involvement. In addition, with the new platform, the new TransPort accommodates new updates as needed. Furthermore, the new portal:
- Streamlines the login process and user self-management
- Empowers business units to manage content and corporate standards
- Enhances NATF operations knowledge base & operational effectiveness
- Has intuitive, modern look and feel to the site
- “Google-Like” search capabilities by suggesting the possible search results
- Ensures compatibility with hand-held tablets and other browsers and devices
- Provides for permission-based access, navigation, and content possession, including fully operational “view-only” access (i.e., no copy/paste or download capability),
- Provides ability to manage/assign users to various groups, teams, and projects, with user roles/security permissions defined for each project (team member, chair, secretary, lead, etc.)
Finding the right solution
The foundation of the solution to NATF’s new portal was a robust content management system (CMS). In general, there are many high quality, feature-rich CMS packages on the market today, so selecting the appropriate one was a critical component of the overall success of the project.
Many CMS options were analyzed and eventually ruled out based on our existing knowledge of the technology environments at NATF. The one CMS platform that really presented itself as an overall clear choice is Sitefinity by Telerik. It’s a mature, award-winning, Enterprise ready platform that’s been around for almost 10 years. It’s had 7 major revisions, has over 70,000 users and is in use today by companies like Microsoft, Sony, IBM, and Fox. It’s built and managed by Telerik, which has been a leader in Microsoft Technology components and solutions for over 15 years.
Sitefinity is based on the Microsoft .NET development platform which has the benefit that “normal” .NET engineers can pick up the development easily and it allows for the eventual deeper integrations and customizations that will be required in the long-term feature scope. The best part is the user interface. It has one of the most advanced and intuitive drag/drop style interfaces for managing content on the market today. If you’re not familiar with the platform, more information can be found here: http://www.sitefinity.com/.
A solution that worked!
With the Sitefinity platform, nearly all the requested functionality is out-of-the-box, which means a very stable, error-free, and enterprise quality codebase to quickly launch with. Some key CMS attributes were very important for this solution such as:
- Native support for visual page creation and navigation creation through an intuitive administration UI. This allows either an administrator or content authors to create new pages with a single click and drag/drop them into the site organization and navigation.
- Content Type customizations. Sitefinity supports documents, events and calendars, news items, video postings and many more. Each of the content types can be customized through the UI to support the searchable and public or hidden requirements very easily.
- Native support for "responsive design" user interfaces
- Native support for all major browsers and operating systems
- Native support for mobile browsers and phones
- Ability to centrally manage multiple websites or brands and languages from a single location
- Built-in Google data analytics capabilities and deep integration with marketing campaigns, social media, and other business systems
- Rich content management features include intuitive in-place editing for easy site updates and content management. WYSIWIG editing capabilities are central to the system and uploading documents is as easy as dragging them into the browser.
- Ability to manage and display events via calendar
- Ability to manage announcements such as edit, create, delete
- Ability to manage Discussion Threads such as edit, create, delete
- Ability to create and manage document libraries
- Robust search feature which NATF users can use to search for documentation and pages relevant to their search term
- Per-domain licensing model. The CMS licenses will be in the name of NATF and any work product or content created is owned by NATF
Our solution required deep customization to meet NATF’s need and make sure the new TransPort portal had all the capabilities needed to streamline the day-to-day usage of the portal. Here are some of the major custom features that were delivered:
- Contacts management module (AngularJS based)
- Companies management module (AngularJS based)
- Rosters management module (AngularJS based)
- Peer Reviews management module (AngularJS based)
- Surveys management module (AngularJS based with full integration with SurveyGizmo)
- ListServ integration
- Custom utility to automatically migrated over 40 gigabytes of documents from the legacy SharePoint portal to the new TransPort portal
- Custom widgets:
- Events list (with different layout templates)
- Announcements list
- Quick Links list
- Documents list (with different layout templates)
- Discussions list
- and much more…