2010 Enterprise 2.0 Blazer: Balfour Beatty

2010 Enterprise 2.0 Blazer: Employee-Facing Portal Award

The Employee-Facing Portal Award was given to the customer with the best interactive collaboration environment for employees with integrated Web 2.0 tools. This year's recipient was Balfour Beatty.

Balfour Beatty.jpg
Company Background

Balfour Beatty is a world-class infrastructure services business that delivers services essential to the creation and care of infrastructure assets including investment, project design, financing and management, engineering and construction and facilities management services. Balfour Beatty's services can be brought together in any combination to provide an integrated capability. They work for customers principally in the UK, Europe, the US, South-East Asia, Australia and the Middle East who value the highest levels of quality, safety and technical expertise.

Business Challenges

Balfour Beatty is a large, global organization; it has over 40,000 staff operating in over 1,200 sites in 100 countries across the world. Balfour Beatty has grown rapidly both organically and by acquisition. Turnover of staff within the construction and engineering industry is relatively high when compared to other sectors. This represents a significant challenge when attempting to retain and share knowledge and locate available expertise in a timely way across the organization. Often, innovation will happen in a local site or office and it can be difficult to make this discoverable to Balfour Beatty staff within the whole Group without a common, globally accessible platform.

There is also a movement witnessed in Balfour Beatty and other companies where increasingly, employees, especially the new graduates and younger generation, are demanding Web 2.0 features normally associated with public social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. They are expecting to be able to exploit the same features within the corporate network and within enterprise applications to form and build relationships among colleagues and utilize the knowledge they know exists within the organization. The absence of a corporate Enterprise 2.0 platform increases the risk of these types of staff using external social networking sites for business purposes and inadvertently exposing confidential information on the public internet.

Why Oracle?

Oracle Web Center Suite has enabled Balfour Beatty to build a corporate Enterprise 2.0 platform allowing employees to maintain rich profile pages, build collaborative workspaces and locate other Balfour Beatty staff using a range of built-in social networking tools and search capabilities.

Each member of staff has a rich profile page, which contains some corporate information such as operating company and job title that are sourced from the HR system, as well as a range of self service fields such as 'About Me', 'Personal Interests' and Photos that allows other colleagues to find out more about them. This encourages staff to make social connections to like-minded colleagues, invite colleagues to join on-line Communities to contribute to the development of key thinking where they could add value, and locate internal experts who can help to solve complex customer issues.

Oracle Web Center Spaces has some excellent out-of-the-box features supporting on-line collaboration, which Balfour Beatty has implemented. For example, workspaces can be discoverable allowing members of staff to search and find any existing Communities of Practice that they are interested in joining. Moderators of each workspace can decide whether this request is automatically accepted, or they set an approval workflow so they can review this against the requestor's rich profile page to ensure they are appropriate before accepting them.

Social networking features within WebCenter allow members of staff to interact across Balfour Beatty operating company boundaries and geographies. With a large diverse workforce, this is essential in order to leverage the full range of talent across the group. Staff can maintain business networks and keep in touch with colleagues' activity within a secure corporate Oracle Enterprise 2.0 platform. At the end of an assignment, staff can leave feedback for others to see on their Message Wall recommending them for other projects and validating their published expertise. Over time, this will create a very rich searchable source of information about all staff and allow their expertise to be leveraged to assist other parts of the group.

Solution Overview

The key components of Balfour Beatty's Enterprise 2.0 Platform are:

  • Rich self-service profile pages for each member of staff containing, for example, contact information, photos, skills and experience, qualifications and interests
  • Social Networking capabilities including status updates (tweets) , networks of colleagues, activity streams, and the ability to invite colleagues to be a contact
  • Collaboration Workspaces supporting Projects, Communities of Practice and Social Groups
  • A rich set of Enterprise 2.0 Services - e.g. Blogs, Wikis, Forums, Tagging and Status Updates
  • Expertise Finder allowing rapid location of staff across the world with the required skills and experience
  • Engaging, easy to use interface to encourage user adoption and naturally encourage staff to interact regularly
  • Access to the platform using a variety of mobile devices for remote workers, staff based on client sites, etc.

The overall benefit of the Enterprise 2.0 portal platform is to provide a rich set of tools that help to connect together Balfour Beatty staff, across geographic and operating company boundaries within a secure corporate environment. Without this, operating companies may be limiting the potential of their innovations, re-inventing the wheel, or missing out on inspiration, advice and experience from across the Group on innovation challenges and improvement initiatives.


Accepting the award on behalf of Balfour Beatty was Darryn Warner, Chief Information Officer. Congratulations!


Just for clarity, what specific products were involved here? The post mentions Suite, but that could be a fairly large range of products. Was this a strict Spaces install? Or was WCI or another portal a foundation for it? Does this involve UCM? or SES? I see they use wiki's, blogs and discussions, are those from the Services bundle or, if they use UCM, are they from that area instead? Is there a webinar or any screenshots of their implementation? I'd love to see what an award winning site looks like! Thanks, Geoff

Posted by Geoff Garcia on October 08, 2010 at 05:10 AM EDT #

The Balfour Beatty Enterprise 2.0 solution is based upon Oracle WebCenter Spaces, a component of WebCenter Suite, but in reality this is just one component of a multi-channel and highly scalable Enterprise 2.0 Oracle Platform. A mix of a standards-based LDAP implementation (Oracle Internet Directory) and the Oracle relational database platform store the users’ rich profile fields. This gives Balfour Beatty a central repository that allows all services to consume data coming from different local sources e.g. Oracle HR, Local divisional HR systems and other LDAP’s/ Active Directories. A custom WebCenter Portlet based application called People Finder 2.0 enables complex searches for people using different attributes and incorporating soundex and other Intelligent search rules. The results are then ordered by a sophisticated ranking system, designed to increase the relevance. Also all users are authenticated against Oracle Access Manager implementing a unique Single Sign On for all the applications. The key to gaining rapid user adoption of the portal was to create an engaging user interface, and significant effort has been invested in this using Oracle ADF (Application Development Framework). A different “skin” is presented to the final users based on the OpCo he/she belongs to - delivering a consistent experience according to the Balfour Beatty divisional brand. A very rich user experience has been created by combining the power of web based technologies like AJAX, CSS and J2EE. The look and feel complies with CSS standards making it compatible with the latest browsers including IE7, IE8, Firefox and Chrome. An accessible HTML version gives mobile users access so everyone can connect to the system while on move. The application uses OAM to authenticate users and the REST API to read and write into Oracle WebCenter Services. This is a dynamic portal where Balfour Beatty is actively encouraging staff to contribute their own social content, and an effective caching strategy is key. Oracle Web Tier allows this to happen. All JavaScript, CSS and static files are cached at different levels including OHS, proxies and local computers browsers. Also, industry standard technologies including Hibernate and JOC are used in order to cache Java Objects and data source results, those in conjunction with the power of Oracle Database caching complete the cycle of caching at all possible levels. Balfour Beatty’s Enterprise 2.0 solution is comprised of Oracle WebCenter and external services, including Oracle UCM for document and content management, SOA , Worklist, Secure Enterprise Search, Analytics, Jive Discussion forums, Wikis and Blogs. They also use Exchange to integrate with users’ emails and an SMTP server for sending mails and notifications, which gives a whole world of functionality for collaborating, sharing and communicating with the E2.0 Balfour Beatty community. We are hoping to do a webcast in the coming months to showcase Balfour Beatty’s implementation. Stay tuned!

Posted by Kellsey Ruppel on October 11, 2010 at 09:50 AM EDT #

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