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Stage 4

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T H E

F R A M E W O R K ™

Stage 4

 


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Enterprise Information Portals

Stage 4 intranets aggregate information from legacy applications, disparate databases and external sources into a single view. Usually built on portal platforms from one of the major portal vendors, these intranets include significant customization and personalization so that employees are provided only the information and tools needed for them to do their jobs. These intranets also integrate search tools and provide users with the ability to set notifications alerting them to new content and data. These intranets truly serve as employee productivity tools that enable employees to perform key business tasks.

 

Intranets in this stage provide a personalized experience based on a user’s region, department, role and access levels. They require mature governance models, explicitly defined policies and procedures and workflow processes to drive the publication of content.

 

Current State

 

Sponsorship:

Enterprise Information Portals are expensive and, as a result, are sponsored at the highest levels in a company. With development costs for a medium-sized company exceeding $1 million, according to industry analysts, CEOs generally sign off on these expenditures. Because of their astronomical costs and the fact that they’re support tools, these intranets are watched closely through their lifecycle—usually with CIOs being held responsible for their success.

 

Governance:

Enterprise Information Portals are expensive and, as a result, are sponsored at the highest levels in a company. With development costs for a medium-sized company exceeding $1 million, according to industry analysts, CEOs generally sign off on these expenditures. Because of their astronomical costs and the fact that they’re support tools, these intranets are watched closely through their lifecycle—usually with CIOs being held responsible for their success.

 

User Needs:

These intranets are supposed to meet every user’s needs whether for corporate news, competitive intelligence, self-service, knowledge management or business processes. However, it is hard for enterprise information portals to fulfill their true promise, and, thus, the primary needs they meet are self-service, corporate news, and basic information sharing. While one can argue that these needs are met by intranets in Stage 1, 2 or 3 the true benefit is in the prioritization and aggregation of information for employees, based on certain identifying characteristics and preferences such as role, location, seniority, department, interests, etc.

 

Experience Design:

Most portal companies restrict how much their interfaces can be customized. As a result, most Stage 4 intranets end up looking quite similar and bare. They all have a series of gadgets (also referred to as portlets or widgets) on their home pages that provide access into information repositories, databases and business applications. Historically, these intranets have been adopted slowly, primarily because their interfaces were clunky and hard to customize.

 

Technologies:

Portal software from BEA, IBM, Vignette, Microsoft and others crowd this space. Significant consolidation is taking place among these software players, limiting the technology choices available. With the advancement and adoption of the JSR 168, JSR 17, and WSRP specifications, open source portal servers such as gridsphere, liferay and JBoss are gaining ground. Over the last few years, portal software has gotten easier to modify, resulting in a strong user experience. The major portal software providers are also including social media functionality to keep their packages relevant.

 

Training:

This is where things start to change. Depending upon the applications you have running on your Stage 4 intranet, you may need to conduct extensive training. Instructor-led training is most appropriate for mission-critical applications where high failure rates cannot be tolerated. Often, face-to-face training needs to be conducted by a manager to further explain how the intranet should be used in conjunction with other processes. It is also useful to publish online user guides and include contextual help within the application. Keep in mind that with the personalization functionality, it is easy to push specific training gadgets to specific audiences.

 

Adoption:

Historically, adoption of these intranets has been slow, simply because they often launch with few applications and little content. Companies have realized that for an enterprise information portal to have a successful launch, there must be buy-in from employees at all levels in the company. As a result, enterprise information portals are increasingly launched in a localized fashion, one department or one group of users at a time. This strategy has multiple benefits—it allows the IT department to scale the technical infrastructure in a methodical fashion and enables the intranet owners to promote and educate employees about the intranet in a more strategic, targeted way.

 

ROI Metrics:

A company must manage project costs very closely to get its expected ROI since projects that implement portal packages often run over budget. Tracked metrics include increased employee productivity, reduced head count, cost avoidance on the infrastructure side, reduced employee support costs and reduced IT investment costs. Most companies that deploy portals do see significant ROI benefits if the portals are designed and built around user needs.

 

Key Takeaways

Stage 4 intranets are built on software that is very expensive to purchase and integrate. Companies moving in this direction must plan carefully before deploying a portal package. Migrating content, managing the single sign-on issues, integrating with legacy applications, introducing personalization and customization, tagging content with the right metadata and getting the security issues ironed out can be challenging, to say the least. Companies that succeed in moving their intranets to Stage 4 are the ones that planned carefully, deployed adequate resources and introduced strong governance teams vested with the authority to make decisions in a timely fashion.

 

Stage 4 intranets have become extremely common in large companies, especially in the banking, healthcare and retail industries. In many cases, the technology infrastructure benefits of the portal platform are reason enough to migrate the intranet to it. Once a portal package has been implemented, new applications are built within the portal framework, furthering the value the portal provides to the organization. However, it is important to keep in mind that intranets should provide value to all employees, not simply the IT departments. If the primary reasons for including a portal package are technical versus user-driven, then the migration is likely to fail. Understanding how to leverage the portlet concept is critical to success when working within the portal framework.

 

Executives at one of the companies interviewed for this report communicate with employees via daily webcasts that are published on the intranet. The webcasts, which reach every employee across the company, are extremely popular. Why? Because they not only communicate company strategies but are also used to anonymously respond to employee queries and concerns. The more personal, two-way communication is seen as vital for the health of the company and is a way for employees to better understand their leaders. The success of the webcasts alone was reason enough for the executive team to continue funding the intranet. Do you webcast via your company intranet?

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External Resources

 

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