Building the perfect portal

Although enterprise information portals (EIPs) promise to simplify employees'

access to information, they are not simple to build. Since there are currently

no true portals-in-a-box available, agencies will need plenty of outside

help. Experts recommend that agencies prepare by:

* Knowing your users' requirements. Get their input and find out what they

need to support individual objectives and departmental strategies.

* Starting small but important. Choose an application or type of information

that everyone in the agency can relate to, and grow from there. "If you

start with something that's really valuable to solve, then people will really

understand the benefits of an EIP," said Steve Dille, vice president of

marketing for Viador Inc.

* Being realistic about costs. According to the Delphi Group, resource

and funding expectations have been significantly understated on EIPs. Senior

analyst Larry Hawes said you should expect a portal to cost five to 10 times

as much as initial estimates.

* Paying attention to privacy. The Census Bureau hopes to create personalized

profiles so that users can be taken to the information sources that they

access most frequently, but the bureau has treaded lightly. "Being a federal

agency, we are restricted to the types of information we can keep on users,"

said Enrique Gomez, program manager for the American FactFinder system.

"Personalization is a priority but we have to proceed very slowly."

* Going slow. Key to a successful EIP is integrating back-end processes

and creating a metadata-standard reference structure that will ensure that

categories and definitions are consistent across all data sources.

* Planning for the long haul. Keeping a portal up and running over the

long term is heady stuff. "When you start integrating this stuff together,

you have to address the ongoing issue of change and how to deal with it,"

said Aubrey Chernick, president and CEO of Candle Corp., which provides

software support for portal implementation. "Organizations really have to

have a long-term architectural vision for an EIP to be truly successful."

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