It's the Content, Stupid
To paraphrase James Carville's famous phrase from the 1992 Clinton presidential run, it really is the content. Corcoran says that too often content is "ho-hum" and not kept up-to-date. If the users aren't confident they have good content, then they won't use the portal. This leads to the "empty portal syndrome referred to in the Plumtree portal report.
Conchango's Smith says regardless of the technology you use, you need to have a grip on your knowledge management. Smith says, "Knowledge management as a whole has very little to do with technology. The technology is just there to support the processes of knowledge management, and anyone who doesn't have a solid grip on the knowledge management of their company won't have a successful portal. If the portal supports knowledge management policy, then it will be successful."
Eric Perry, manager of product marketing at Documentum believes there has to be a link between the portal and content management to ensure that the latest content is deployed to the Web site. He says, "If people go to the portal and are not confident that the information they have is really the latest information available, that it's accurate and approved, then that's where content management really comes in, to provide that trusted source of information."
What's more, if the content companies place on the portal is must have, then the users will naturally gravitate there to get it. David Schatsky, vice president and research director at Jupiter Research, says, "You need to provide real value to employees to get them to use the portal." He says, "If you cut the amount of time it takes for a person to find the information they need to make a decision, that's real value." Jupiter interviewed the Krispy Kreme doughnut chain during their research and found they were able to use a portal successfully to deliver this type of must-have information. Schatsky says, Krispy Kreme has franchises all over the country and they had been regularly sending financial reports and other information on paper by Federal Express to the tune of $50,000 a year. Schatsky says, "They learned how to distribute that same information through the portal and stopped distributing the paper. Well, the employees still needed the information and they only had one place to get it. That drove adoption dramatically and cut their costs significantly."
Encouraging Employee Interaction
Another aspect of portals and how useful employees perceive them to be is the types of services the portal provides and how these elements can contribute to increased productivity during the day. As virtual workspaces become an increasingly popular way for geographically dispersed teams to work together online, the electronic meeting space becomes more important, and as such many companies are incorporating this element into the portal along with a variety of other services to make it easier for employees to put together teams with a set of skills and competencies.
Thatcher says that IBM's portal solution includes a variety of services that you can put together to help an employee perform team-building tasks such as an online phone directory, instant messaging, and a virtual team room. He says, "They can be thought of as separate applications, but you can also think of them as collaborative services that need to be integrated and threaded together."
For example, employees could go into the portal, access the phone directory, and search for individuals with certain expertise that they need for a team they are building. They can also open a virtual meeting space, send emails, and schedule time on a group calendar all from one place. Thatcher points out that the employee could have done all these functions outside the portal, but having them all in one space makes it more convenient to complete the task and provides a reason for the employee to come.