I Want My Applications
No discussion of portals could be complete without a discussion of how portals help integrate applications inside the organization. Like content, these applications are available in other places, but placing them in a central place makes it more convenient for employees, and more likely, people will use the portal.
Bowstreet is a company that produces portal integration tools that help the enterprise portal interact with a variety of existing systems. Joe Lichtenberg, vice president of marketing at Bowstreet sees the portal as a part of a stack of applications. He says, "The portal software is the thin layer at the top of a stack of existing applications such as legacy applications and new applications."
Lichtenberg says that by integrating data gathering into a single access point—the portal—it will simplify the data gathering process for employees. He uses the term "swivel net," to describe the process of having to search multiple systems to get the data you need and explains that accessing multiple systems is an inefficient process. Says Lichtenberg, "If you can change the access to that data so that it's available through a browser and then streamline it so that the user doesn't have to manually access multiple systems to get the data, then the actions that the user was going to perform manually are programmatically captured, so that the workflow or the business logic is already captured in the application. For the user, there is a lot of value in that."
Carmel from iManage points out that the portal has to be more than gadgets connecting to data. The portal can't be relevant to employees unless it relates to their work. He says, "Although the portal has to connect to many things, it has to connect and to leverage those things that relate to my purpose better than any other [method] could."
In spite of widespread portal adoption, the portal market is still developing and changing. Documentum's Perry says, "Portal technology is still emerging. The pie in the sky process of integrating all of the information in the enterprise in a single desktop application is still a promise." So portals remain an evolving idea, but like any solution, technological or otherwise, it always comes down to return on investment and does the money and resources you put into it pay for itself in increased productivity. In order to meet this criteria, people inside your organization need to use the portal. Outsell's Corcoran sums it up this way. "If you help people with a better way to do their work, they are going to use it."
Sidebar: Leading the Portal to Your Users with AtHoc
After a company makes the investment in portal technology, the trick becomes motivating employees to use it. One way to do that is to call them back when important new information has been added to the portal. AtHoc, a developer of communication and alerting software, works with portal vendors and customers to provide desktop alerts that inform users when important information has been added to the portal. Customers include Boeing, eBay, and Wired News, among others.
The AtHoc application can be configured to send alerts when important new information is available such as an announcement by a key competitor, significant company information, or any other type of information the customer finds important. AtHoc's system also includes a browser toolbar that incorporates a scrolling ticker with headlines or stock prices, quick access to portal information, portal search capability, and other features that keep the portal in front of the user, even when the user is visiting sites on the Internet. What's more, the toolbar is fully customizable so that the end-user can add or remove features that are most relevant to his or her job.
Ly Tran, vice president of business development at AtHoc says," If you look at normal usage behavior, even though the company may force the home page to be the corporate portal, realistically the employee is not going to be there all day long. What does the business application on the portal do to make them come back." AtHoc provides a way to call the user back and the toolbar provide an easy way for them to return to the portal on a regular basis.
Companies Featured in This Article
IBM Web Sphere www-3.ibm.com/software/webservers
Jupiter Research www.jup.com
Plumtree Software www.plumtree.com