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ISM Article

Converse By Portal

29 Mar, 2007 By: Eric Stavola, Witt Company imageSource

Converse By Portal

If I asked you what two factors drive business today, what would you say? If
I asked you why the World Wide Web is so popular, what would you say? Or even,
if I asked you what is the basis of our industry, what would you say? Did you
think of saying  Information & Communication?

I am often amazed at the power and drive to control and utilize these two
factors in business today.  Thinking of the World Wide Web, we know it is a
plethora of information as well as giving us a way to communicate that
information. Businesses try to take advantage of such services, mainly as web
sites and portals to drive this information. Wait…portal did I say?  What really
is that, you ask?

A portal is similar to a web site, in that it can present and communicate
information; however, portals go beyond the common web site to provide varying
types of control, management, and viewing of how and what we communicate and
share with our employees, venders, and clientele. Microsoft describes a portal
as "a single web interface that provides personalized access to information,
applications, business processes and much more. With portal technology, an
organization can lower development and deployment costs and significantly
increase productivity. Portals help to harmonize content, commerce and
collaboration with business goals."

Portals are extremely versatile and useful and are growing in use within
companies. Giga Information Group reported that the number of businesses with
more than one portal increased from 21 percent to 53 percent in just one year.
They can be used in varying ways depending on the use for business, such as
E-Commerce Portals or Vertical Enterprise Portals (VEP) like Amazon and E-bay,
Horizontal Portals like Yahoo, AOL, Google, or Intranet Portals such as Customer
Service Portals.

For the context of our industry we should focus on Content Management and
Enterprise Information Portals. As solutions providers, we need to be aware of
such services and technology to better provide for customization,
personalization, workflow, and data integrity of our clients’ needs for
information and communication. Review the following portals:

> Content Management Portals

These allow for improved access and information sharing in the form of
improved security, control, and workflow. CMP’s allow for such capabilities as:

Check-in/check-out – allows users in groups or a collaboration of
individuals to know who has a particular document so that users cannot overwrite
or change each others document.

Version control – allows for successive versions of a particular item
to be retained or overwritten if allowed by users’ rights.

Role Based Security – in that we can assign specific levels of access
to certain information and documentation based on the employee’s role with in
the company.

Workflow – establishes a paper workflow process through which a
document or request flows among users that can be tracked & controlled.

> Enterprise Information Portals

These act as a single gateway for users, employees, customers and company’s
partners to log into and retrieve information and/or other services and
resources.  Some features of these are:

Search & Navigation – we have all tried and failed to find needed
information on our own computer, let alone within the company. Information is
only valuable when it is communicated, so on the usage side of the equation,
being able to find and retrieve targeted content is the essential task.

Personalization – allows users to take ownership through
customization. Portal members and users can customize the look and feel of their
environment. Like My Yahoo, MSN, and Google.

Entitlement – security control provides the ability for IT/MIS
administrators to limit specific types of content and services users have access
to.  For example,  employee files can only be accessed by HR and specific

Integration – allowing for multiple portals or information to be
combined; employees e-mail, calendar, meeting schedules, or other heavy used
business applications to be used and access at one site for example.

Single sign-on (SSO) – requires a user to  authenticate only once.
Many enterprise portals provide single sign-on capabilities between their users
& various other systems.

As one can see, and probably has experienced, the title of solution provider
seems to have a never ending learning curve. However, the better we take in the
given information and then communicate it back to our potential clients’ needs,
the better the end result will be in our increased sales and gross profit. So
where do we start? I would try implementing a portal service at your office. If
you are running Microsoft 2003 Server, try utilizing Microsoft’s Share point
services to increase productivity and flexibility in your work environment. The
more we expose and make our reps and engineers utilize the technology, the
better they will grasp, understand, and be able to communicate it.

As we know, we are living in an exciting time in our industry and, with the
types of services that we can deliver to our clients, it is only limited by our

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