More than 85 percent of Global 2000 organizations will deploy portals by 2004, and most will tie these portals to content management systems, according to Andrew Warzecha, senior vice president of Electronic Business Strategies for the META Group, a Massachusetts-based IT research firm.

So what?

So these highly personalized portals are becoming strategic investments that are saving companies literally thousands per year and increasing revenue. For instance, one pharmaceutical research firm saved approximately a half-million dollars per year and generated revenue increases of 40 percent after deploying a portal, Warzecha said.

During a recent e-seminar, Warzecha explained why this new approach is a best practice and what business problems this technology solution solves. He made these remarks during an e-seminar cohosted by META, Corechange, and Stellent called “Taking Control of Corporate Communications and Enterprise Content.”

Information overload
The impetus for moving to portals driven by content management systems is not IT, Warzecha said. It’s business.

“We’ve been fielding a very large number of inquiries surrounding portals, as well as content management, and we’ve been asking the clients why is there such an interest. We come back to two significant drivers from the business perspective, not the IT side,” he said.

First, companies are recognizing that business is moving faster, and that means people have less time to perform their various jobs. Second, there’s huge growth in the amount of information employees are being asked to manage.

Warzecha used the example of e-mail. In 2000, the average business user spent about half an hour a day viewing e-mail. By 2001, that number had increased to an hour per day, and by the end of this year, employees will likely spend nearly two hours each day dealing with e-mails. And the majority of those messages—including work e-mails—will be irrelevant to what those employees are trying to do in their jobs.

And e-mail is just one facet of the problem, Warzecha said. There’s also all the cross-department information, Web information, and other types of data circulating in the modern business, all of which, ironically enough, makes it more difficult to get relevant information.

Add to this the business climate—when critical, timely information can mean the difference between profit, layoffs, and even bankruptcy—and it’s easy to see why businesses are interested in solving the information overload problem.

Evolving solutions
So far, efforts to organize internal corporate information online have created as many problems as they’ve solved. Organizations have attempted to bring consistency and order to their intranets by placing a Web master in charge of all posted information. But before long, the Web master is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data.

One way agencies have tried to solve this issue is to use a system that provides users across the business lines with tools and standards, establish an approval process, and allow them to create their own content. Often, they used content management systems to do this. But content management systems do not organize the information across the enterprise or help filter it. Plus, this information isn’t tied in with existing databases and storage.

Portals are another tool agencies turned to, Warzecha said. But this solution also falls short when it comes to providing role-based information.

“They were great maybe if you wanted to do your HR stuff once a month, but they do not provide deep enough integration or relevance, nor do they solve individual business problems to be used on an ongoing basis by the employees,” he said. “The requirements for a sales person, vs. the requirements for a claims processor vs. the requirements for an R&D person, are significantly different. They are dealing with different content, different applications and, quite frankly, they work differently.”

A better approach
The best practice, according to Warzecha, is to create a system that unites the content management system, portals technology, and the application server.

The content management system allows users to create their own content with a unified look and feel that can be published efficiently, thus eliminating the Web master bottleneck. That information then hooks into the portal technology, which provides a one-stop site and search engine for the agency. Working in tandem with the application server, these technologies also can deliver information and applications based on individual roles and security clearances, Warzecha explained. Thus, the system can actually siphon through the flood of corporate information to provide only what individuals must know to do their job.

“When trying to respond to a client, I don’t want 300 items. Ideally, I don’t want to see 20; I want to see three or four of most the relevant items delivered to me in context of what I’m trying to do,” Warzecha said. “We’ve seen these three technologies in particular actually coming together and providing more value as they are integrated vs. on a stand-alone basis.”

Using these three technologies together also allows you to collect the content for legacy repositories, as well as systems inside and outside the firewall. Plus, this technology combination can hook together communities of practice within organizations, which allows for greater collaboration between business units.

Information overload

Does your organization use a content management system? Do you plan to deploy portals in the future? Share your thoughts with us by sending e-mail or by posting a comment.