The Rise of Enterprise Portals: The Future of E-Business

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The Evolution of Web Presence for Businesses
In the early days of the internet, many companies were hesitant to establish a web presence due to concerns about the permanence of the internet. However, by the end of the 1990s, departmental websites began to proliferate in the corporate world. The prevailing notion was that the more isolated websites a company could build, the better. This led to a confusing array of Intra/Extra/Internet sites that often lacked consistent branding, offered overlapping functionality, and required users to manage multiple login accounts. The aim of an Enterprise Portal is to consolidate these disparate corporate websites into a single entry point, providing users with a consistent brand, a single login, and reliable access to the company’s offerings.

Features of Enterprise Portals
Enterprise Portals offer a range of features. Customers can use these portals to access product information, sign up for training, leverage service features such as online call center interactions, register for company-sponsored conferences, or simply access the company’s online commerce offerings. Partners can use the portal to strengthen channel ties, download content to extend the relationship, or collaborate online with the company on new programs. Employees can use the site as they would the company Intranet, with the added benefit of accessing traditional Intranet features outside the firewall, such as checking email. Enterprise Portals also offer established “Portal” features such as industry news, event calendars, and user preferences to encourage return visits and longer sessions.

Enterprise Portals often utilize personalization and one-to-one marketing, allowing for the targeting of content and messages to unique individuals. This means a customer might have access to product manuals or white papers that a partner would not be able to see. The portals often rely on sophisticated CRM and campaign management systems for personalization and communication, enabling the company to interact with its customers and partners in more effective and profitable ways. Enterprise Portals also provide valuable analytical data about customers and partners through direct feedback utilities and tracking of site usage and navigation.

The Technology Behind Enterprise Portals
Enterprise Portals are often built on advanced development technologies. They typically feature a complex application server/personalization engine such as Broadvision One-To-One, ATG Dynamo, or BEA Weblogic. They also often need to integrate with backend legacy systems, requiring a robust and scalable EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) architecture. Open systems languages such as Java and XML facilitate this integration by reducing proprietary interfaces and inconsistent standards.

Building a system comparable to a mini-ERP implementation is no small feat, and the business process and data issues involved in constructing an Enterprise Portal are as complex as any application development issues. However, companies recognize the operational efficiencies, cost savings, and potential revenue offerings of such sites. It’s only a matter of time before Enterprise Portals become as ubiquitous as the company 1-800 phone number.

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