Giga offers portal implementation tips

With corporate portals still a developing and nebulously defined software category, a successful implementation hinges on having clear goals and on paying keen attention to user experience, according to Giga Information Group Inc.

“It’s going to be a confused market for another 12 to 18 months,” said Giga analyst Laura Ramos, the director of Giga’s Enterprise Portals and Information Management group. “We have to wait to see who the leaders are and how people are deploying the technology.”

Ramos advised companies deploying portals to avoid problems by narrowing and focusing their early projects.

“You need to start with the basics. Start by focusing on who will be using the portal, what they will be doing with it, and scope down your initial portal efforts to one or two key audiences,” she said.

Once a project and goal are identified, IT and management employees should sit down and organize their company’s specific needs for the portal into “four buckets”: the portal’s content; its context – the roles and rules that will govern its functionality; the necessary application integration; and the portal’s user experience, Ramos said.

Content is the thing that will keep users returning to the portal, and must be fresh and relevant, Ramos said. The user experience is also critical. Don’t be afraid to restrict the extent to which users can personalize their portal interfaces, Ramos suggested. Vendors like to show off the flexibility of their software, but too many choices can paralyze users.

Finally, for those planning to use portals to aggregate or integrate applications, focus and specialization is again key, Ramos said. Good user interfaces are critical, as is insuring that applications pass on only necessary information.