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Building an Enterprise Portal

As your business grows and the number of employees increases, you may want to think about establishing an enterprise portal. Put very simply, this is a Web site that assembles a wide range of content and services useful to a targeted group of people.

Typically, some of an enterprise portal’s content is originated by the organization itself, and some is acquired from third-party sources. The intent of establishing your own company’s enterprise portal is to collect the key information relevant to your business on one Web site. When considering developing an enterprise portal, remember that “portal” means different things to different people: Some will see it as an intranet, others as an e-marketplace, others as part of a customer relationship management program. Enterprise portals can be useful but are complex to develop and expensive to manage.

An enterprise portal (sometimes called an enterprise information portal) can be just a company intranet, but an effective portal offers not only internal content, but also external content useful to employees and customers. The portal can be set up to entitle (allow access) to sensitive company information only by employees, while general information is available to the public.

Software packages are available for companies desiring to develop their own portals, but it’s important to remember that, while anyone can publish on the Internet, that doesn’t mean that people will want to read their content. Few public portals have survived, because they have not been able to build a viable business case.

Some portals provide information that is organized around a vertical market sector, such as pharmaceuticals or plastics. These “vortals” and e-marketplaces are similar and in many sectors may be one and the same thing. Few of these vortals, if they haven’t evolved into e-marketplaces, may survive either.

The lessons to be drawn from a study of public portals and industry vortals include the following:

  • People are very conservative in the way they consume content
  • The majority of people favour a few trusted brands
  • Maintaining a portal is expensive, and many have not survived because they did not have a proper business model

The enterprise portal would seem to have its employees as a captive audience, but staff who use an enterprise portal demand high publishing standards. Such standards are expensive to maintain, and many enterprise portals fail because they lack enough quality content, the content is not kept up to date, and the portal is poorly organized and structured. Many organizations discover that providing a volume of relevant information is good in theory but expensive and difficult to manage in practice.

Before deciding to establish an enterprise portal, ask the following questions:

  • How are employees’ information needs currently being met?
  • Are any of these needs not fully satisfied?
  • Can our company fill this gap in a cost-effective manner?
  • Will my staff trust me to provide information?
  • Will there be a return on this investment?

The key question must be: Where is the return on investment? If employees can just as easily get this information somewhere else, why duplicate the effort? Unfortunately, organizations often don’t take the time to examine which content is of value to the business and which has little effect.


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