Monday, November 07, 2005

Definition of portals

Many organisations are now starting to look at using enterprise 'portals' to replace their existing intranet or to provide an overriding architecture to their internal information systems including their intranet.

The reason I use the quotes around portals is that the word has been hijacked in recent years by the big software vendors.

In terms on the online space all websites or intranets that provide access to various types of information are portals. Yahoo, MSN etc are all basic examples of web portals. Your intranet is an example of an organisational portal.

Software companies are now selling 'portals' to organisations saying we have this great piece of software to sell you that links various information in your organisation.. strangely this is the same as what our exisitng intranets are actually doing (to various degrees of success).

In fact by using 'intranets' as a search term in the search all blogs at the top of the page you'll notice that the results return very little information on intranets but a whole heap of information on buying very expensive portal software (mostly blogverts it seems - 'The use of blogs to disseminate advertising maskerading as discussion or personal opinion"). And when I sign up for adwords I will assume this posting will actually have little links to portal vendors down the side :)

In my experience there is no such thing as a single out of box solution for online problems... especially when the problem is one that being promoted by a software company.

I feel that organisations are in danger of spending (is wasting too harsh?) vast amounts of money on sofware they don't actually need to solve problems they haven't actually worked out they have yet. It is also interesting in my experience where it is usually IT departments praising the use of portals going against the content and usability folk who are trying to highlight the dangers. The winner in these battles are usually the people who hold the budget (and it usually isn't us content people!).

Now there are pros (single management points, personalisation, search improvements) to using 'portal' software but there are also a lot of cons (proprietary solution problems, lack of standards comopliance, usability nightmares) which I will outline in upocoming posts.

Be great to hear what anyone else has to say on the issue.



At 12:38 AM, Anonymous Brian D said...

I'm starting an IT dept right now. The parent company has no intranet portal at all. I have installed the system with the highest benefit to effort ratio that I have encountered yet for documenting and sharing company knowledge, a wiki.

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Nick Besseling said...

I think in terms of knowledge sharing a wiki is a great tool but it raises issues of long term standards and information management/structure into the future as it grows... especially if it is the only knowledge sharing tool or information repository that you have.


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