A portal includes a set of integrated programs designed to make it easier for a user to find information and, if needed, to conduct business or personal interest activities (e.g., shopping, setting up meetings, chatting). Typically these programs offer at least the following core features (see Figure).
- Web searching and Web advertising (e.g., home pages, banner ads, etc.)
- News about the topic of your interest
- Reference tools and specialized assistants (“wizards”) to help with your chores (e.g., scheduling meetings, calendaring, video conferencing)
- Access to online shopping venues and, if needed, to back-end systems and services
- Some communication capabilities such as email, chat rooms
Classes of Portals
Portals can be, as shown in the following table, Internet-based or enterprise-based. Internet portals provide uniform access to the information on the Internet, while enterprise portals provide a similar uniform access to the information systems and processes of an enterprise. In addition, portals can be directed to horizontal or vertical markets. Due to our emphasis on E-business, the enterprise portals are of particular interest to us. These portals are usually aimed at employee productivity and can be designed for employees and contractors, for customers, or for trading partners. An example of enterprise portals for trading partners is the GM/Commerce One alliance that ties together more than 1000 partners. In fact, enterprise portals are beginning to look a lot like the emarkets that we will discuss later. Let us review these portals in a little more detail:
Eyeball aggregators such as Yahoo, Infoseek, Lycos
“Vortals” such as eBay, >CNET, Ivillage, E-LOAN, E*TRADE, Sportsline
Horizontal Enterprise Portals such as Verticalone
Enterprise Portals such as Space.com, WebMD, and VerticalNet
Eyeball Aggregators (Mega/Super)Portals. These portals are Internet Portals that provide horizontal aggregated services. Known as eyeball aggregators or “Mega/Super Portals”, these portals originated as the Internet search and navigation tools. Examples of these portals are Yahoo, Lycos, AOL, and Infoseek. Initially, the Internet Portals provided a “window” from which users could find and view desired content. However, they have evolved into powerful sites that offer a wide array of online resources and services such as personalization services, communities of interest, free email and chat rooms, and direct access to specialized functions, such as shopping networks, auctions, and online trading sites. The Internet portals are becoming MegaPortals due to consolidation.
Vertical Portals.Vertical Portals, also known as “Vortals”, focus on a specific industry or community, and were the fastest growing segment of Internet Portals. Vortals provide the same core functionality as Internet Portals, but are targeted to a specific industry or niche:
- aggregation of relevant content
- links to related industry, supplier and even competitor sites
- community and collaboration capabilities
- e-commerce services for products and services relevant to the industry
Examples of vertical portals include telezoo.com in the area of telecommunications, cnet.com for computer-related technologies, webmd.com in healthcare, and many others. Verticalnet.com is an interesting vortal for several vertical marketplaces. In addition, vortals such as eBay and E*TRADE are popular for auctions and trade.
Enterprise Portals. Enterprise Portals, also known as corporate or transaction portals, provide a door into an enterprise’s information, applications and processes. Enterprise Portals personalize and aggregate the corporate computing resources primarily for its employees. In some cases, enterprise portals are built for the customers and partners. The focus of enterprise portals is on improving the productivity of its employees thus they provide work related aids that may include conducting business transactions. Typical enterprise portals provide a personalized view, based on the role of the employee, of the following services:
- access to applications and transactions needed by the employee to conduct work
- information retrieval tools
- PC desktop services
- communication services such as email, instant messaging, voice over IP
For example, an enterprise portal for financial analysts may provide facilities for stock analysis, trading, and settlements, in addition to the email, fax, news, calendaring, and video conferencing services. Enterprise Portals can provide integrated applications access, information management and knowledge management within enterprises as well as between enterprises and their partners, suppliers, and customers. At the time of this writing, enterprise portals are starting to integrate enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, such as SAP and PeopleSoft, through thin client access such as mobile devices. These portals are also providing support for mission-critical operations. This includes support for application integration, process and workflow management, and aggregation of resources (information, applications, services, communities) relevant to the context or task being performed.
An extensive discussion of portals for e-business can be found in the book by M. Davydov, "Corporate Portals and e-business Integration", McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing; 2001.
Portals typically represents the C2B - information services business pattern.
In this pattern, the enterprises are mainly information providers. No purchasing takes place (that is a different business pattern).
This is one of the oldest model of Web and is largely used for advertisements and information dissemination through Web sites.Users, who can be either internal or external to the enterprise, interact with enterprise transactions and data. In some cases, there may be a need to access back-end applications and data. This pattern is relevant to those enterprises dealing with goods and services not normally listed in and sold from a catalog. It encompasses all user-to-business interactions not covered by the User-to-Online Purchase pattern. Many (but not all) of the functions supported by the User to Business pattern relate to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.