Information portal allows restricted access

Business trends suggest that portals will play a larger role in organizations of every flavour, according to Matt Cain.

Cain, vice-president of Web and collaboration strategies for META Group, said the business world is seeing more teams spread out across the globe and they all need access to the same information.

Toronto-based Hummingbird Ltd. is trying to be a leader in the enterprise information portal (EIP) market with its latest release, Hummingbird EIP 4.0.

David Ahrens, manager of field marketing and product marketing at Hummingbird, said EIP 4.0 is a good platform for organizations looking to build e-business solutions.

The EIP server is a Java engine, but the user interface can be Java, DHTML, or HTML. “This product helps businesses streamline the process of access to information, while organizing all of the information before the user looks for it,” he said.

Cain told a group at the product briefing in Toronto that providing information to all parties involved in your business is important, and the ability to do that 24 by seven will be key in the future.

“Most of us are now working not just at a desk but in a mobile fashion. It makes portals very important,” Cain said.

He added that teams outside a firewall are going to need information as well, and Web-based portals can accommodate that need.

He noted that the growing popularity of information portals is also a resurgence of “the principles and practicality” of knowledge management.

The portal will interact with any data sources the customer has and allow users to search all data through a single engine. Companies can also specify who has access to which parts of the data, according to Ahrens.

“One of the key benefits of this solution is that it is all ours,” he said. “We own all the pieces and we implement all the pieces.”

Keith Berkland, application development manager at Washington law firm Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin and Oshinsky, was also impressed by the total solution offered by Hummingbird.

“Other vendors we looked at have bought the underlying product and that means if there is a bug, they don’t have control over that. If that happened with Hummingbird, there is just one place you have to go,” he explained.

The law firm has been using Hummingbird’s EIP product since August, and will be rolling out the 4.0 upgrade by the end of this month.

Berkland has used the latest version of the EIP product and said Hummingbird is on the right path with their collaborative efforts.

He also noted that changes he suggested had been implemented. “We had asked them to alter the single sign-on, because we know the users. They are authenticated to us,” he said. “So, they are already authenticated to our LAN and Hummingbird wrote an application so the users do not have to log in another time.”

He added that all users must log on if they are dialling in from off site, but if they are inside the company firewall the portal is automatically available to them.

The latest version, Berkland said, includes that alteration.

“There are a lot of collaboration features as well. I know I like those a lot, although I’m not sure how the end-user will get into using them. There would have to be some training.”

Berkland said in the future he would like to see more collaboration. “We’d really like to have an environment where whether you’re inside the firm, a partner outside, a client – when you log in, we’d like to be able to provide that working collaborative environment.”

Ahrens agreed, noting the next release will have to have tighter integration with collaboration features and workflow.

Ahrens estimated that a general 500-user implementation would cost US$100,000.

Hummingbird EIP 4.0 will run on Microsoft Windows, Sun Solaris or Linux.