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Analyst Insight: Real-World Portals
Analyst Insight: Real-World Portals
By Wayne Eckerson
The enterprise information portal (EIP) took the market by storm about 15 months ago. Since then, dozens of vendors have introduced EIP products and the first customer deployments are just beginning to go live.
Early customer experiences reveal that most EIP projects are departmental in nature, address a specific business problem or opportunity and are generating substantial benefits or cost savings. Many early projects are also being turned outward to support the information requirements of customers and suppliers.
At the same time, a few large corporations are planning true enterprise-wide EIPs designed to support tens of thousands of employees and, in some cases, customers and suppliers as well. By mid-2000, the first large EIPs are likely to come online. But since the companies view these multimillion dollar projects as highly strategic, it's unlikely we'll hear much about them. Even companies with smaller projects are reticent about their EIP initiatives.
There is still much confusion about what EIPs are. In fact, more than half of information technology (IT) managers think they've already deployed an EIP. The problem is that most IT managers today equate a corporate intranet with an EIP. Although the two are similar, there are some significant differences.
Unlike a corporate intranet, an EIP provides users with personalized and role-based views of corporate information as well as online access to the applications and services they need to perform their jobs. Most corporate intranets, on the other hand, are fairly static repositories of corporate news and information an online corporate newsletter, if you will. It's not surprising, therefore, that a majority of IT managers report that users access the portal only lightly.
In contrast, a well-designed EIP serves as an employee's primary electronic workspace. It provides personalized access to key information and application resources via a single sign on and real-time notification of important new content via e-mail or other channels. It also presents critical information on the portal interface itself in the form of graphics and charts that are continuously updated. This type of digital dashboard essentially provides each user a personalized analytic application.
The first wave of EIPs that companies are deploying don't yet deliver all these features. But most are providing tangible returns by delivering information over the Web in a personalized manner.
The EIP market is still in its infancy. Users are just beginning to roll out applications based on the first and second waves of commercially available EIP products. Most initial implementations are fairly straightforward, focused on addressing the information requirements of a key set of users.
However, it's clear that EIP products will be used for more than just satisfying the information requirements of internal users. Many companies are already deploying EIPs to improve customer service and increase customer loyalty and retention. Some companies are looking to deploy EIPs on an enterprise scale.
In the next 12 months, many companies should begin transforming their static corporate Web sites into dynamic EIPs. These EIPs will leverage information found on current intranets as well as internal applications to deliver users a one-stop information shopping experience.
Wayne Eckerson is director of education and research at The Data Warehousing Institute, the industry's premier provider of in-depth, high-quality training and education in the data warehousing and business intelligence fields. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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