The Council's priorities – service delivery and end user experience – defined the first step in designing a solution. An in-depth research initiative revealed a variety of requirements expected by Camden's residents and businesses: a single point of contact, viewable status and history of transactions, customised content, and automated messaging and transaction confirmation. The right solution obviously needed to be flexible and customisable. To lower costs and encourage users away from expensive, traditional channels, any online offering must be a better and more convenient experience. Camden therefore designed their solution ‘bottom up' from the end user experience, using an open source portal solution: easy to set up, customisable, interoperable, and flexible. In summary, Alasdair Mangham (Head of Information Systems and Development, Camden Council) said, "We must remember that channel shift is the Council's objective – not the customer's. For our customers it is always about the easiest way to get something done."
Initial in-house testing demonstrated Liferay Portal's ability to meet Camden's requirements in many ways, including multi-level authorisation, standard compliance, and customisation of the user registration process. Camden's Assistant Director of ICT, John Jackson, then commissioned a formal evaluation with Gartner, who recognise Liferay Portal as a leader in their Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals. Their expert analysis proved to be a deciding factor into executive buy-in.
Liferay now powers the user interaction end of Camden's two portal solutions: a business portal and a citizen-facing portal. Both portals offer single points of contact where businesses and citizens can access information and transact securely with the council. Businesses and citizens have different needs and frequencies of interaction. Liferay's flexibility, however, meant that most of the code and functionalities used in one portal could be adapted to the other. Other key components of Liferay included:
- High level of configurability without touching the core of the software
- A wealth of out-of-the-box features
- Standards compliance
- Enterprise grade support and UK-based account management
- Interoperability and integration capabilities (including Facebook, Google and Open ID login; legacy line of business application using Camden's integrated business services (SOA) and GIS addressing service; and financial information systems)
- Compatibility with the UK Government's Open Standards agenda
Finally, Liferay's agility allows for extensions of the portals to be taken in stages. From the first installation of Liferay, a working citizen-facing portal was live in just twelve weeks. Within the following 15 months, Camden will have achieved two further releases on the citizen-facing portal, and two on the business portal.