Introduction to Enterprise Portals - Why they Benefit IT and the Business
Patterns in Enterprise Portal Implementations
With a brief overview of enterprise portals complete, this section will discuss the major types of enterprise portal implementations. Industry analysts and portal vendors have identified a set of common enterprise portal patterns that are seen in enterprises throughout the world. We will look at each pattern and discuss what each accomplishes.
Typically, the first portal to be implemented in an organization, a content portal is largely a read-only platform that aggregates enterprise content from many sources throughout the enterprise. Value-add services such as search and content authorization enhance the basic benefit of a unified content Web site.
Figure 3 shows an example of a content portal. It is a Web site that provides information via a set of portlets on the page. Each portlet surfaces a different type of content. It is laid out on the page such that the portal becomes a quick method of finding a document. Built into this portal is a search service and an authorization mechanism to make sure only the right users see sensitive information.
Figure 3. An example of a content portal
The following are characteristics and benefits of content portals:
Integration or transaction portals
Whichever name is used, integration or transaction, this type of portal focuses on surfacing application functionality within portlets in a portal. They move beyond content portals in that they not only display documents and textual information, but they also surface data from back-end data sources and allow users to interact with that data.
Figure 4 shows a banking portal, which allows a user to view their account balances and make wire transfers. Each portlet surfaces a back-end application.
Figure 4. An integration portal for a bank
The following are characteristics and benefits of integration portals:
Collaboration project portals
A more recent trend in enterprise portal implementations is to provide portals that support ad hoc or short lived project work. These portals provide collaboration features that enable groups of users to self-organize and then share information and ideas through a dedicated project portal.
Figure 5 depicts a sample collaboration portal implementation:
Figure 5. A collaboration portal, offering forums, shared documents, and group calendar
The following are characteristics and benefits of collaboration portals:
The final enterprise portal pattern is the process portal. A process portal is an implementation that goes beyond an integration portal in its depth of functionality. Instead of making point-to-point integrations with back-end applications, a process portal will support a user interface that enables users to enlist in a business process that spans multiple back-end systems. A process portal will often seamlessly cross departmental boundaries, integrating applications from Sales, Engineering, HR, and Manufacturing into an end-to-end process with a unified user interface.
Figure 6 illustrates the logical implementation of a process portal.
Figure 6. Process portals enlist multiple back-end systems in a unified process
The following are characteristics and benefits of process portals:
Enterprise Portals are a Single Point of Access, Control, and Development
The common theme across the different implementation patterns is that of aggregation. In all cases, enterprise portals aggregate functionality from many enterprise applications into a single point of access for users, and a single point of control and development for IT. This simple concept provides a solution to the problems listed at the beginning of this article.
To review, the following section lists the problems afflicting business users and customers, and how enterprise portals provide a solution:
For IT, the following problems were presented, and now solved using enterprise portal technology:
In this article I have discussed the following:
Analysts that cover the Enterprise Portal space:
Peter Laird is the Managing Architect of the WebLogic Portal product.