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."