Understanding A Portal’s Foundation

Hard to believe, but intranet portals have already been part of corporate life for almost a decade now. Your own intranet has likely matured through the years. But what’s ahead? And, more importantly are you ready for it?

You have probably done a great job over the last number of years working with your users and stakeholders to deliver key information and services that have reduced the burden of delivery from various lines of business. But there may be something missing.

Users need a way to connect with each other, and tap into organizational information that is not being delivered through your intranet today. Managers are looking for an effective way to share information between applications that don’t talk to each other. The email system is bogged down by large files being passed between users and there is no way of verifying the validity or version of these documents. Furthermore, there is a risk of this unmanaged information leaving the organization.

In recent years hundreds of established vendors have entered the marketplace, offering software and tools that will manage people, processes and information. The big names in this space include Microsoft, BEA, Plumtree, IBM, and SAP. The technology on its own is not a solution, rather a framework that can be leveraged to address the issues we face in managing the collaboration between people, people and information, and information with information.

Eighty-five percent of organizational information remains unstructured or semi-structured – that is documents, spreadsheets, emails, and other content is not organized in a database. As knowledge workers, this information is core to our business and we need methods to ensure that we are leveraging it to the best of our abilities. A recent statistic I heard makes the issue of information proliferation even more compelling – more information will be created in just the next two years than in the entire known history of mankind! I don’t know if we can prove this one, but if my inbox is any indication…

Structured Information:

Information that is analyzed and organized in a database. The way that the content is described is by its data model.

Semi-Structured Information:

Information that has some structure that describes itself and not in relation to anything else, but that structure is part of the document, is unpredictable and can change rapidly.

Unstructured Information:

Information such as documents and video.

Add to this the data that is coming from secured applications and we begin to understand why the planning process to manage this information is critical.

An Information Architecture, the way that you navigate your site, while still very important, will not effectively manage this content explosion. Planning goes far beyond that. Building taxonomies, metadata, and workflows (adding structure) both through technology and good business practices, is a priority in a successful initiative.

Plumtree, one of the leading vendors in the space started a campaign a few years back “No Empty Portals”. The campaign addressed a key business plan of moving people, processes, and technology into the new paradigm. The technology has evolved dramatically but the challenge in the planning process remains true.

SharePoint (Microsoft’s portal) doesn’t need a tag line. The name alone addresses where portals are moving. The process of connecting any permutation of knowledge worker and information source touches on the key priorities that users are looking towards today.

A portal on its own is not a solution. In many of the implementations that I have seen it has been difficult to measure success, largely because realistic and measurable key success factors were not defined in the planning process. Companywide portals offer clear benefits in cost reduction, collaboration, and improved overall communication.

Measurement at this level is challenging. Where we are able to provide good metrics is across specific organizational groups including Finance, Sales, and Human Resources. Departments that are using Portals solve specific issues in areas that include shortening cycles and tightening governance.

Developing a strategy to deliver a portal starts with governance. The governance strategy here is made more complex in that is bleeds across traditional corporate boundaries. Some essential parts are:

  • An effective stakeholder team including IT and key organizational leaders
  • A User Group that is engaged throughout the process
  • Process that is effective and efficient that serves to meet business requirements Infrastructure – people and technology – to support the process

Where is this market going? All indications are that the portal boom is coming this year and this space will continue to grow steadily over the next five years.

So what does moving towards a portal mean? It means: understanding where your corporate knowledge is, shifting your business process to help your employees and key stakeholders work better with that knowledge and each other, and developing a framework to enable your organization to achieve your business objectives.

To engage Prescient for help in selecting the best Portal for your organization, please see our Intranet

Portal Blueprint

service or directlly.

For more information on Prescient's Portal Blueprint service, or for a free copy of the white paper “

Finding ROI


contact us