Stats Watch: Portal storm

Portals are going to be bigger than Iraq this year. 'Portals started out as content aggregation, then became about application aggregation, now it's focusing on application and content integration,' says Laura Ramos of Giga Information Group.

Portals are going to be bigger than Iraq this year.

"Portals started out as content aggregation, then became about application aggregation, now it's focusing on application and content integration," says Laura Ramos of Giga Information Group.

"It's no longer sufficient to have these portlet windows in the interface; the portal has to know what to do with them. So things like application integration, workflow, application development, content management, collaboration -- all these things are becoming more and more important."

Goldman Sachs, Forrester and Delphi Group are among those picking a portal push in 2003, saying an increasing adoption of enterprise portals reflects the broader enterprise migration toward web-based applications.

Portal technology vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, CA, Sun, BEA and Vignette are champing at the bit. IBM New Zealand software head Lisa Buchan told Computerworld last month that “huge” growth is expected in portals as the meet a clear need.

Boston-based Delphi says three out of four companies that used portals had deployed those portals within the past 15 months. Just 16% had deployed portals for more than 20 months. According to the survey, 51% of the portals are tabbed for business-to-employee (B2E) functions (HR, payroll and so on). And while business-to-business (B2B) portals make up only 26% of current deployments, Delphi says that’s where the real momentum is (74% of those surveyed said collaboration functions should be included in portal software).

Forrester says IT managers can make the business case, but not by multiplying projected time savings by hourly pay rates – that won’t fly. Instead, emphasise how you can: scale back IT infrastructure such as multiple intranets; cut service staff; reduce printing and distribution costs; trim travel expenses; minimise process errors; and sharpen “soft” benefits like branch communication.

Forrester says nearly half of all employers will offer an employee benefits portal by 2004. Some 40% of large US firms already offer them and over 30% of small firms will have access by 2004. Key objectives are better employee accountability (81% of respondents), followed by reduced admin costs and improved access to benefits. A worrying find is that many firms aren’t sure how they are going to build a portal, from commercial software, with a developer’s help, or perhaps by themselves.

Looking ahead over the next 12 months or so, corporate customers can expect to see features such as increased security, business process automation, web services support and deeper customisation. Transactions, business processes and application development will become key.

Email Computerworld's deputy editor Mark Broatch.

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