Corporate portals made simpler

Many mid-size companies are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to corporate portals. Often it is a case of middle-child syndrome: too big to design complex portals in-house and too small to make outsourcing fiscally feasible.

This is especially true when continual site updating is required.

SurfMap Inc., a Burlington Ont. based company, offers one solution. It recently released Portal Author Version 2.5 for companies which need to create corporate portals but don’t necessarily have available technical staff.

“Portal Author does it all for you: it analyses your existing content, establishes the hierarchy for that information, then generates the site,” said Robin Hopper, president of SurfMap. It also produces a search component for the site, Hopper added.

“Our navigation tool, SurfMap Search, was being used more on the intranet than it was on the Web. It made sense at that point to bring all of these components together and combine that [for] the complete authoring of a portal,” Hopper said.

Though hardly lacking computer know-how, El Dorado Hills, Calif.-based Talaria Research Inc. has used Portal Author to quickly set up portals for other companies. “It was easy to use, all point and click. It is really something you don’t need to be a programmer to use and we knew one of the concerns of (a customer) was to update its own information,” said Talaria president Bryan Roe. “If they add a section to the site they don’t need to call us and say, ‘Hey we need some more development time at US$150 an hour,'” he added.

The software is an integration of several pieces of SurfMap’s other programs, including SurfMap Search and JavaScript. The complete package, Portal Author, is essentially designed to help companies transform their intranets into portals, much like Web portals Yahoo! and AOL, replete with search engines and on-line news. The advantage, according to SurfMap, is that users can find and access information more quickly and thoroughly.

According to one analyst, products like Portal Author is well-suited to smaller companies. “If companies are trying to address some integration issues, if they want to create more of a platform for knowledge management, then there is a value (for this type of software),” said Mike Comiskey, senior analyst at Framingham Mass.-based IDC Corp. He added that smaller companies tend not to have large back-end systems, so the need for an exhaustive portal may not be necessary.

But larger companies should not dismiss the software outright. Though not database driven enough for a huge corporate portal, Talaria’s Roe says it has wide-ranging potential. “I wouldn’t use it for HP but I may use it for a division of HP,” he said.

Though not specifically designed to create company Web pages, Portal Author can also foot that bill. “When we looked at going on the Web, we said ‘How are we going to do this,'” said Jason Murphy, CIO of Burlington Hobby in Burlington, Ont. “It made life a whole lot simpler in the long run. It produced all my frames, it produced navigation, the whole bit all in one setting, so I didn’t have to go through and do that individually,” he said.

Portal Author ( is now available and pricing starts at US$495 seat.

SurfMap in Burlington, Ont., is at (905) 681-5334.