Enterprise Portals – they’re easy, aren’t they?

By Pete Buffham

Date 19 November 2010 Tags

The propagation of portals continues apace. Often viewed as a panacea, portals are seen as a simple way to transform an organisation, providing much needed freedom of access, and helping to improve compliance processes.

It is possible to offer an almost instantaneous intranet, with built in functions such as collaborative working, document, content and knowledge management, straight out of the box.

The road ahead may look clear and straight but how can you be sure you’re not going to be led down a blind alley?

Conditioning for success

Pause and think, plan, mobilise and go’ and remember that you are going to have to go through the same level of effort as you would for any project, this is not ‘plug and play’. It only costs ‘a hundred pounds a seat’ is a misconception. IT and the business must be aligned and serious consideration must be given to the real cost of generating the available business benefits.

What’s the plan?

Portal applications are incredibly rich in functionality, so the biggest challenge facing firms considering such an investment, is working out the overall strategy; How do you want to work and collaborate in the future? What are the principles? How do you want to share information and achieve compliance? How will you keep information current and who will be responsible for this? Who will ‘own’ the system? What systems does the portal need to interface with and how will you handle the storage management?

What will make it work for the users? The search function is vital. The search engines are powerful beasts but can’t simply be switched on. Serious thought has to be given to your information architecture and document management functionality if you want to achieve the real benefits these tools offer.

Flavour of the moment is Microsoft’s new SharePoint server 2007 but it’s a hugely different platform to the 2003 version – you can’t just migrate from one version to the next, without considering the real business drivers, and you definitely can’t just leave the set-up to developers, with little thought for user adoption! If you don’t get it right from the start, you may get off to an early win, but very soon the cracks will begin to appear and you will be forced into making significant in-flight changes.

Pain but lots of gain

Get it right and you’ll have a good adoption rate; users will have a consistent experience and be happy with the accurate, relevant search and functionality which makes their life easier, utilising the portal as their workplace of choice. Document level security and document management will be automated and centralised, with scrupulous record keeping, ensuring legal compliance – in keeping with your industry standards. Conditioning for success will make sure you don’t take the wrong road. ‘Pause and think, plan, mobilise and go’ – It’s a business opportunity; don’t leave it to the techies.

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