Enterprise Portals: Reborn and Transformed by the Social Web

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Productivity Takes Hold

Jarlath Forde, associate creative director at Sapient, Inc., points out the strength of the communications window approach, as well as its pitfalls. "If it takes me 2 hours to figure out an expense report because the tool is in one place, the policy is in another, and the ‘how-to’ is in a third, then I’ve blown half a day doing nonproductive activities." But this only underlines the need for a portal in his view. "When you think of this broader set of needs, the need for a portal is huge. The question then becomes, ‘Why can’t this portal load on my mission-critical applications page instead of the corporate communications homepage?’"

What Forde hears from clients is that people want everything that loads to be of maximum relevance because they are deluged with content all day. Thus, getting the most from personalization appears to be the key toward providing visibility into content and access to tools.

At portal software development company Liferay, CEO Bryan Cheung points out that the evolution of the company’s product is a microcosm for the evolution of the web: moving from a presentation function in 2000 to content management in 2002, publishing in 2004 and, more recently, social networking functions. In its recent release, Liferay’s Social Office application retrieves related content for people from wikis, blogs, forums, the documents library, and user profiles based on what they’re browsing at that moment, based on tags. Cheung says, "I suppose that’s sort of a Web 2.5 paradigm, since it still relies on explicit tagging." However, the application automatically connects content to people and provides structure based on social networking ideas applied to the enterprise.

A Liferay implementation that also uses social networking is WebJunction, a website funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that provides a learning community and tools to librarians. At the site, librarians are able to leverage social networking features to help them decide what curriculum to follow by tracking users’ course enrollments, progress, and ratings. 

At Entuity, a developer of portals for the IT infrastructure community, the philosophy is that portals need to be of maximum business use to users. Inspired in part by iGoogle, Yahoo! Pipes, and Salesforce.com, Entuity’s philosophy came directly from customers wanting to visually identify trends quickly. Hence, instead of simply displaying IT performance metrics, Entuity has recast its product offering around the concept of dashboards that are geared toward business goals, many of which define how employees will be compensated in a given year. 

Kenneth Klapproth, VP of marketing at Entuity, underlines that the emphasis has turned from displaying information to creating dashboards of metrics of immediate value to managers. "Business units are measuring more on service availability, for example, ‘What percentage of the time was email or ERP available? What was the headcount that was affected by any outage or degradation?’ They are also using user experience measures, such as, ‘How responsive does the service "feel" from the user’s perspective?’" In addition, Entuity offers a green dashboard that measures energy usage of systems across the enterprise. In determining the layout of information, Entuity takes some inspiration from real life, as many of its displays "mimic physical, automotive dashboards."

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