Information & Communication Portals Drive Your Business10 Sep, 2010 By: Eric Stavola, Witt Company imageSource
Information & Communication Portals Drive Your Business
With so much talk on
digital sharing of information, interfacing with others, communicating online
with, well, the world, if I specifically asked you what two factors drive
business today, what would you say? If I asked you why the Web is so popular,
what would you say? Or even, if I asked you what the basis of our industry is,
what would you say? Did you first think of saying “information & communication?”
Actually, I am still
amazed at the power and drive to control and utilize these two factors in
business today. But it has become a necessity for any business to undertake.
When thinking of the World Wide Web, we all know it contains and drives a
plethora of information as well as being one of the most affordable ways to
communicate that information. Businesses can take advantage of many online
services, promote their own websites or share through social networking, and use
portals to drive information. Wait…portal did I say? It’s beginning to sound
more familiar of late, but what exactly is it you ask?
A portal is similar to
a website in that it can present and communicate information, however, portals
go beyond the common website to provide varying types of control, management,
and viewing of how and what we communicate: i.e. 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
As we know, 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 continues to double. They can be used in varying ways depending on
business use, 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:
– 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
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.
establishes a paper workflow process through which a document or request flows
among users that can be tracked & controlled.
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.
allows users to take ownership through customization. Portal members and
users can customize the look and feel of their environment. Like My Yahoo, MSN,
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 management.
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 a global environment of ongoing technological advancements, regardless
our immediate territory and/or interests might consist of a small portion within
the big picture; but this is an exciting time to utilize all the types of
services available to us, of which thankfully, we can deliver to our clients.
Eric Stavola is IT
Director, Professional Services for a California-based dealership. He is a
former network solutions manager for Kyocera Mita, and consults nationwide. Eric
holds a Masters Degree in Information Systems & holds the following
certifications: MCSE,MCSA, N+,CDIA+. At 619.379-3009.