Study: Private Portals Changing the Face of E-Business

Illustrating the extent of evolution that online business is facing, a report released Wednesday by IDC found that the number of private corporate Web portals might eventually surpass the number accessible by the public via the Internet.

“There are only so many portals that are going to make it in the consumer domain and the shakeout is going to continue, whereas potentially every corporation or division of a corporation may require or think it needs its own portal,” Geoffrey Dutton, the author of the report, told the E-Commerce Times.

According to IDC’s report, 18 percent of U.S. companies already had a corporate portal by the end of 1999, and 32 percent planned to complete one by the end of 2001.

If these trends continue, half of existing U.S. companies will have their own portal by the end of the year.

“The corporate portal market is potentially larger than its public Internet counterpart,” the report said. “As only so many consumer portals will prove popular, survival depends on high traffic or else building loyal niche audiences.”

Portal Possibilities

According to Dutton, a corporate portal is “a way of organizing, under one interface, a variety of processes and resources that a company or its partners may have or may want to make available.”

For example, the portal could contain a link to the company’s travel agent site, or to a local weather page if that was applicable to the business.

The most common elements of portals include: user interfaces, search engines, directory services, authorization and access control, collaboration support, knowledge capture and management, and application/process/data integration, IDC said.

Limited Uses for B2B?

A company’s size and industry sector determines the types of applications to be accessed through company browsers, according to IDC. Around 30 percent of those companies who are planning to have a portal will incorporate e-business applications into their portal, the research firm said.

Dutton said that the growing popularity in company portals does not necessarily translate into new avenues for online business-to-business (B2B)transactions.

“When I think of B2B, I think of marketplaces, which are often run by a third party or a consortium,” Dutton said. “They can be set up to be portals, but it doesn’t mean that each company’s portal that participates in that marketplace is part of that larger portal.”

However, Dutton added that portals do provide partnership opportunities. According to the report, corporate portals and the concept of combining application access, collaboration opportunities, and a personalizable intranet interface will be the key trends in the near future.

Intranets Breed Portals

More than 95 percent of companies that have a corporate portal already operate an intranet, IDC found. A single company could potentially create private portals for employees, remote workers, or customers on the public Internet, all at the same time.

“Intranets and portals go together like ham and eggs, research and development, or marketing and sales,”the report said.

By connecting various business functions electronically across an organization, corporateintranet portals “create efficiencies” that cannot be reached in other connected environments, the research firm found.

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