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Observations from the Gartner portals conference
I just attended the Gartner Portals, Collaboration, and Content Summit. Below are my main takeaways. They aren’t comprehensive, rather geared towards/possibly reacting to the state of portals at my university (no portal!).
I also recommend David Aponovich’s IT Meets the Empowered Marketer at #GartnerPCC. I think he did a good job summing up some of the conference’s key points about user experience.
I had a 1 on 1 with Gartner consultant Gavin Tay. He reminded me of something I’ve believed for a few years—you don’t always need a formal portal to meet a lot of the portal vision. You could be at a “good enough” point with existing web apps provided that there’s plenty of customer self-service functionality at users’ fingertips. When I say “good enough”, I mean that the extra benefits to the campus might be eclipsed by the TCO of a formal portal. E.g., SMU has no formal portal product, but we do have a pretty rich ERP self-service system. That already provides most of the transactional, self-service-type data that students and employees would want, so it’s unclear how much extra value a formal portal will provide over its TCO.
· The first priority of a portal is providing value to users. 2nd is business value, last is IT value. Portals are more than the technology. Successful portals require a good user experience, a user-focused goal-setting and development program.
· You will fail if you have to force people to use the portal, or if you play petty games (e.g., making it so that you have to use the portal to sign into email). That will just make people resent it, find ways to work around the portal, and encourage shadow IT. A portal must be pleasing and useful to users.
· Less than 2% of attendees are satisfied with their portal.
· Less than 20% of attendees had a mobile strategy. This surprised Phifer. He says he expects 100% in 2 years.
· Portal software is entering its 7th generation.
· Bring your own device (BYOD) is becoming normative. Successful portals must support as many clients and devices as possible. This is as opposed to products like a certain major ERP that only officially supports a few desktop browsers, and where official support often far lags browser releases.
· The portal market is split:
o Comprehensive suites: Oracle (WebCenter Portal), Microsoft SharePoint, IBM, OpenText, et al. Large, difficult to implement, less likely to be appropriate for SMU because we’re a medium-sized institution.
o Lean portals: Drupal, Liferay, DotNetNuke, uPortal, et al. These are mostly “just a portal”. Can be cheaper to implement.
· Portal-like technology has relevance to marketing, too. Can help us communicate to alumni, donors, prospective students, too. This can meant things like customer engagement platforms on a WCM.
· First two steps of a portal strategy are determine business objectives and get metrics. Only then do you start considering technologies and products.
· How web and portals are evolving:
o Old school, obsolete: company-centric, controlled, orchestrated, business-to-employee, IT-driven
o Current and emerging: person-centric, engaging, flexible, encourages peer-to-peer communication, business value-driven
· Corporate directory is a “killer app” (for portals).
· Gamification is getting big. Can encourage user uptake and desirable uses of systems. Helps motivate people. Market is exploding, expected to grow 2700% between 2011 and 2016.
· Portals from WCM vendors built on WCM platforms are generally not as good as dedicated portal products.
· Very few attendees have externally-facing SharePoint use.
· 50%-55% of portal projects are failures (not 100% sure I did the math right; the 10%-15% might have been included in the 40%?):
o 40% have negative ROI
o 10%-15% are scrapped
· Top 6 portal pitfalls (#1 is most important):
o 6. Underestimated complexity
o 5. Underutilization of portal technology (“It’s just a page of links.”)
o 4. Absence of fresh, relevant content
o 3. Inability to meet expanding demand (“Users want more than we can deliver.”)
o 2. Lack of value for end users (“No one uses it the way we wanted them to.”)
o 1. Faculty governance
· “Technology breaks the perfect before it enables the impossible.” (Seth Godin)
Aren Cambre, '99, '03