A Look at Portals Inside and Out

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Characteristics of Success
Portal software technology has been around since 1998, and while portal implementations still often suffer from many shortcomings, the industry has also come a long way. As I mentioned in the opening, most of the challenges along the way in your project are likely to be non-technical.

There are three key areas that I keep running into around the world:

Business case. Too many projects focus too much on technology and lack a focus on creating business value. If you invest some time in creating a business case, it can help you assess the benefits of an enterprise portal against the costs. A proper business case takes time to make and if you are not going to look at it again at a later time, you might be better off simply moving to the next step in the project. Remember that cost overruns in enterprise-wide projects are the norm rather than the exception. In any case, you will want to focus on the value drivers in the project: What is the value for the organization to have a well-run portal? What is the value of higher quality content or better online customer service? What drives this value and how can it be optimized? Costs are important, and a smart manager will estimate them properly and contain them carefully. But a visionary manager will take a wider focus on value.

Fun and interesting. Good resources are hard to find, and to make matters worse, they may quickly leave your project. You’ll need a sizable team to implement your project and it’s likely that your portal project will be fighting with other internal projects over key resources. Your colleagues are likely to prefer successful projects that are actually fun and interesting. Portal projects are different from many other projects in that they typically affect the entire organization. As a project manager, this offers you an opportunity to attract talent, which you should use. There are different ways to make a project fun and interesting, but usually it will have something to do with fewer meetings and no hidden agendas. And don’t forget to celebrate your successes along the way!

Vendor relations. No matter the size of your organization, chances are you will not always be treated as a key account. To my surprise, there are still many projects implemented without involvement from the vendor. In my view you’ll need to work closely with the vendor to make sure you get the most value out of your investment. Vendors are the ones who know the software the best. Consider how you can involve them throughout your project and get them committed to your deadlines. In other words: If you keep them on their toes all the time you’ll much better off.

Much can be said about portals and it can indeed be a complex field, but remember that common sense still applies. All the best practices you’ve gone through pains to learn in other areas of business should be incorporated into your portal project.

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