Portals finding their way into IT department

Since the introduction of Web-based portals, enterprises have been left wondering what exactly they are intended to accomplish. Some organizations have adopted the theory that portals are to replace a corporate Web site, while others subscribe to the very basic notion that portals are a place to store data for both internal and external use.

What can be stated with near certainty is that corporations decided long ago to end the messy paper trail that loomed on the desks of both employees and executives, and move it online. But there ends one problem while another is born: moving the data to the Web is useless if it remains as unorganized as written files that are impossible for others within the organization to get at. Portals then, are a way of Web-enabling the business processes and ending the paper trail.

In part, portals were created to access latent data that exists within the enterprise from a single entry point in a useable way. There are four main areas of portals available to company’s today: the business to employee (B2E), business to business (B2E), business to supplier (B2S) and business to consumer (B2C). Which type of portal an organization decides on will also ultimately dictate its use – a B2B portal clearly implies an e-commerce strategy while a B2E could be used for HR-related issues in-house and as a way for employees to access information that is intended only for enterprise use.

Generally, where organizations make the fatal portal error is in wanting to begin layering applications before the necessary infrastructure is in place, and in completely underestimating how much is involved in implementing a functional portal.

“A vendor will come in and say, ‘we can deploy a portal for $100,000.’ And the customer says ‘yes,’ but that (only) means putting the technology in. After the technology is in and you have that portal framework in place to allow you to point to other data sources. If that data source isn’t able to be pointed to, then what good have you done? Putting in that framework is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Craig Gibson, director emerging technology group at Pangaea Systems Inc. in Calgary.