An Organization groups Users hierarchically. For example, you can model a company’s departments (i.e., Human Resources and Customer Support) with Organizations. Organizations often have their own Sites. The how-to portion of managing Organizations is in the next article, Managing Organizations. This article contains important conceptual information on what Organizations are and when they’re needed.

Many simple portal designs don’t use Organizations at all; they only use sites. The main purpose of Organizations is to enable distributed User management. 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.

When to Use Organizations

To decide whether your portal design should include Organizations, think about its function. A 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 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 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.
    • Sentient Organism Resources Department–Department of Users that hire, fire and regulate intra-company relationships. We’d call it Human Resources, but what’s stopping Martians from applying? Nothing!

Each department is a sub-Organization of the resort, and each division is a sub-Organization of the department.

What can Organization Administrators Do?

Whenever you have a collection of Users that fits 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 the Retail Group organization.

Organizations and sub-Organization hierarchies can nest 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 the Organizations section of the 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, content, and membership of their Sites. 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 Sites but cannot manage the Users themselves. If an Organization has a Site attached to it, the Organization Administrator has the same rights as a Site Administrator for managing the Site’s content, but an Organization Site’s members are the members of the Organization. Thus 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 it’s not necessary. In their personal Sites, Organization administrators can click the My Organizations link to gain access to any Organizations they manage.

Figure 1: The My Organizations application lets Organization Administrators manage their organizations in their personal site.

Figure 1: The My Organizations application lets Organization Administrators manage their organizations in their personal site.

Organization Roles and Permissions

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 entire Organization. For example, consider an IT Security group in a corporate setting. You could have a sub-Organization of your IT organization that handles security for all applications company-wide. If you grant the IT Security Organization the portal administrator Role, all members of the Organization get administrative access to the entire system. 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 things up. 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, attach a Site to your Organization and use Site Teams to assemble the sets of permissions (see below). See the Roles and Permissions article for more detail.

Organization Sites

Does your Organization need to have its own Site? If an organization has an attached Site, the Organization’s administrators are treated as the Site administrators. 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. 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 Users and Organizations.

« User Management: Additional TopicsManaging Organizations »
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