Maarten van Heiningen and Liferay: 10 years together

"I am proud of everything we have achieved"

Maarten van Heiningen, senior portal consultant at Componence, has been working with Liferay Portal for ten years this summer. How has Liferay developed during this period and what does this mean for Maarten? And what are his expectations for the future? Time to look back, look ahead and more …

What drew your attention to Liferay ten years ago?

"It was very simple to create something with the tools that were available. No extra programming was necessary. It could be done, of course, but in fact you could get down to work immediately. I was completely accustomed to doing my own coding and building, so I was very surprised. So much functionality was included that I thought: why haven’t I seen this before? Liferay was unique, especially in the Java environment."

That was ten years ago – how have you seen Liferay develop?

"Liferay initially concentrated on incorporating numerous new features in the standard product. This meant dividing their attention over a large number of different functionalities. A few years ago, they made a clear change of direction. Liferay now supplies the trucks and the space for the pallets, but the market must decide itself what is needed. If this is good, then Liferay will adopt it. You now see that they focus much more strongly on a few major aspects and therefore excel in these."

What effect does this have on your work?

"This change of direction made working with Liferay more interesting but also more challenging. The product Liferay Portal became simpler for me, I know exactly what there is and how to use it. But the advent of, for example, the Marketplace has made keeping up with and keeping track of interesting solutions for customers a task of its own. Take products such as Valamis eLearning, Enforms, Audience Targeting. These are solutions that can be useful for customers as add-ons to your product. I have to spend a lot of time on this, but it is very enjoyable work, as I am always discovering something new."

What other developments do you see in your work?

"At Componence, I have moved away from the visual work on order to focus more on what is good for customers. Consultancy, in other words. How can you make the best use of Liferay Portal, why should you use it to start with? I have increasingly taken on an advisory role."

What are you most proud of?

"Liferay. Componence. Everything we have achieved together as colleagues at Componence, in particular Corné Aussems and myself. The interaction between us is something I consider exceptional. Without Corné, I would not have come as far, and perhaps he feels the same about me. We complement each other and I think this combination is the reason that we are where we are now with Componence. It means customers get the best and that is what they are entitled to. I value this and wish to preserve it. We really did it together."

What does the Liferay community mean to you?

"Corné has a more prominent role in this than I do, but I have participated for a long time. BugSquad, 100 Paper Cuts, the Community Leadership Board, I enjoy being active in these areas. In the past, you could primarily ask all sorts of questions and find answers on the forum. Nowadays there are the community events and the symposia, these are really worthwhile activities. I have led sessions on several occasions and greatly enjoyed this, I want to give people something. I see the community members as friends rather than competitors. I always come back with a great deal of positive energy. All these new things!"

You have an enormous amount of knowledge and experience. How do Componence customers benefit from this?

"I make sure they get off to a good start with Liferay Portal. It is not just about a product, it is about the solution that best meets their needs. The focus is always more on standard and less on customization. So I first look at the extent to which the customer’s requirements can be met with functionalities within Liferay Portal and the Marketplace.

“As a consultant, I frequently observe that customers have just been hashing things together – themselves or with another party. And that they were unaware of how they could make the best use of Liferay. Then you see the customers thinking when we first get together: If only we had known that was the way to go, it would have saved us a great deal of trouble and problems."

What future developments do you expect with Liferay?

"I expect Liferay to become even stronger in creating its own solutions. And that they will focus even more on aspects such as the use of mobile devices. With the new Liferay Screens, it is already reasonably easy to put together applications for mobile phones. Developing native apps and linking these to everything in Liferay, it is interesting that things are increasingly heading in that direction.

"OSGi has now been incorporated into the Liferay portal as well. Version 7.0 is expected later his year, giving more flexibility to decide what is necessary for your portal and what you need to install. The rest you can ignore. So you are even more flexible in how lean and mean you want it to be. Developments like this keep things exciting.

"As well as this, improving the user experience remains a focal area. This is something I am personally committed to. Good usability on every device is important. The more technical Liferay image of the past has now made way for a clear and user-friendly interface. This is a great improvement and I certainly expect more in this direction.

"The market share of Liferay has been growing steadily for years. As a result, the position of Liferay in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals has also risen repeatedly. I am confident that this upward trend will continue."

What should people be sure not to expect from van Liferay?

"The Golden Egg – this doesn’t exist. Every solution, every product is thought up by people using the information available at that moment. Choices are made on this basis. Liferay is flexible, extremely flexible, but there are naturally cases for which it is not a suitable solution. This may sound negative, but there is no one product that is ideal for everybody."

What is your future with Liferay?

"I hope it lasts for a long time, but the market is always changing, so you can never be sure. I have a certain name and position in the Liferay community. Of course, you never know how long that will continue. I still most enjoy helping people with the choices they can make. So I would be happy to go on doing that for as long as Liferay exists. But in time, I also see myself moving away from the details and managing others in their consultancy activities."

What would that mean for your customers?

"That we are growing as an organization, that there are people with more specific expertise who could take over parts of my job. I see this as a positive development, both for us and for the customers. Rejuvenation and renewal are good things, and I am very hopeful in this respect."

Maarten & Liferay in a nutshell
Name: Maarten van Heiningen
Works at: Componence 
Position: Senior Portal Consultant
Specialist in: Liferay Portal and usability
Favorite plug-in: Valamis eLearning
Less happy with: At times, the commercialization of Liferay
Curious about: The future
Surprised by: The quality of plug-ins in the Marketplace
Complete confidence in: Componence and myself