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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.

 

My takeaways:

·         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.

·         Portals are “expensive, hard, and difficult to maintain”. (Gene Phifer) “It’s not a product implementation like Microsoft Office. … It’s an ongoing program.” (Jim Murphy)

·         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
Team Lead, Web Technologies Team
Office of Information Technology
Southern Methodist University

 

 

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

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Ouch! The last pitfall (2nd to last line of this email) should be Faulty governance, not faculty governance. I must have pressed the wrong button on spell check!

 

Aren

 

Message from martine.lafleur.2@umontreal.ca

Great summary Aren ! I hope you don’t mind that I translate your email since your takeaways sum up mine. I wish we could have met since I also attended.

 

On my part, I had a one on one  with Jim Murphy and we mostly talked about the interoperability capabilitier of Liferay…. I manage the portal project at my university. We are in the strategic phase : defining users’ needs, business objectives and the overall governance. Will be looking at tool further down the road.

 

 

My other takeaways :

Baby steps

Bring onboard evangelists within the university

seed content with early adopters,

build-roll-watch-build-roll-watch,

not mobile first but people first

 

 

Martine

Martine Lafleur

Directrice | Centre d'expertise Web

Bureau des systèmes d’information

DGTIC

UNIVERSITÉ DE MONTRÉAL

PAVILLON ROGER-GAUDRY, bureau T 217

Téléphone bureau: 514 343-6111 # 33843

 

De : The EDUCAUSE Web Portals Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:PORTALS@listserv.educause.edu] De la part de Cambre, Aren
Envoyé : 15 mars 2012 10:14
À : PORTALS@listserv.educause.edu
Objet : [PORTALS] 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.

 

My takeaways:

·         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.

·         Portals are “expensive, hard, and difficult to maintain”. (Gene Phifer) “It’s not a product implementation like Microsoft Office. … It’s an ongoing program.” (Jim Murphy)

·         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
Team Lead, Web Technologies Team
Office of Information Technology
Southern Methodist University

 

 

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

No problem.

 

“not mobile first but people first”

If “people” means “students”, mobile-first could make sense. If not today, definitely in a couple of years.

 

Aren

 

All,

 

I am surprised at the amount of positive feedback I have gotten from this email.

 

It makes me wonder, “why was this was so useful?”

 

Are there organizational conflicts between a portal vision and portal reality? Do we have problems communicating what portal means to the business side? Are we suffering from IT-driven, underfunded/under-resourced portal projects? Do our portals suffer from usefulness or usability problems?

 

An admission: my university has no portal, and I’m not sure we’d benefit from one. Sure, portal would be a good project, a great line on my resume.

 

But does my institution need a portal? I’m not sure.

 

I attended 3 of the Gettysburg College conferences, and it appeared the #1 reason for a portal for higher eds (at the time) was customer self-service to ERP stuff. At the Gartner conference, Gene Phifer said a portal might have these components (direct quote from one of his slides):

·         Application gateway; SSO

·         Corporate communications, policies

·         Employee, manager self-service

·         Performance, business intelligence, dashboard

·         Composites, process orchestration

·         Knowledge/expertise management

·         Collaboration, team sites, projects

·         Online workspace

·         Many or all of the above?

 

And you know what? We have a lot of that, just stovepiped in separate apps. And these are generally best of breed apps, like SharePoint, Sitecore, Exchange, Atlassian Confluence, WordPress, Cognos, et al. We already use Active Directory for single user ID/password on all systems, and with Shibboleth (hopefully later this year!), we can start having true SSO to many apps.

 

So what is the value of unifying these apps? It’s certainly more than $0, but how will it compare to the cost of setting up and maintaining a real portal? Remember, portals are “expensive, hard, and difficult to maintain”. Plus, what is the cost of getting rid of some less-than-best-of-breed apps built into the portal for our current apps?

 

I’m just not convinced that we’d benefit from a portal effort.

 

So that led me to two ideas.

 

The first is from Gavin Tay, a Gartner analyst with whom I had a 1-on-1 at the conference. He suggested considering an ultralight portal built on one of our existing systems, like Sitecore, that didn’t do much more than show context-sensitive links and iframe-ing in content from other systems. Eh, I guess better than nothing, and achievable, but sounds kind of like the “page of links” thing.

 

The second, which we’re floating around, is skip a portal entirely and just go straight to mobile apps. Seriously, what is more of a portal than your own phone? And how many students don’t have a smartphone these days? Certainly, we shouldn’t deliver backoffice stuff or ERP administrative interfaces this way, but how about customer self-service-type stuff?

 

What do you think?

 

Aren

 

Message from r.m.allen@bradford.ac.uk

Hi Aren,

 

I’m impressed with how accurately you summarised the issues facing the ongoing portal debate.  It is a debate and there is no absolute right or wrong answer.  But our experience at the University of Bradford was that we started to implement Oracle Portal in 2006.  We stopped in 2008.  This was the right decision for us.

The pertinent question you ask is ‘Does my institution  need a portal?’

The headline reason for us moving away from a portal ‘solution’ was that the additional benefit a portal brought was less than the effort required to implement, manage and maintain it.  As oppose to ‘portal-like’ services, which we already provided e.g. access to Blackboard and the student record system.

There is also the major risk that unless one has robust Identity Management underpinning the portal, one can’t really deliver much more than a page of links.  Obviously there is loads more but I’m keeping it to headlines only.  I promised myself that as soon as I got onto IDM I’d better stop as that’s a whole different story.  You’re not asking for advice but I suggest that a cost/benefit analysis from the perspective of your technical staff, key users and the business drivers (corporate and academic managers) will triangulate both whether you need a portal and what your next steps might be.

Good luck

 

Russell M. Allen

Project Manager

IT Services

JBP Building

University of Bradford

Bradford

BD7 1DP

 

Tel: 01724 235968

Mob: 07775 221 568

email: r.m.allen@bradford.ac.uk

Web: www.brad.ac.uk

 

 

 

The "mobile" points that you make are interesting.  A couple years ago, I wrote a blog article about portals as a foundation for mobile development, which you can read here: http://www.logiclander.com/blog/2010_11_19_archive.

The article talks about how early adopters of portals are ahead of the mobile game in a number of ways.  The right portal platform provides a springboard for mobile apps, and delivering applications via portal prepares developers with the skill-set and experience in the design paradigm required to successfully deliver to mobile platforms.

Since this article was written, Jasig uMobile has taken this a step farther to allow uPortal content to be delivered to native mobile devices like iPhone and Android (in addition to mobile rendering via the browser).

A key point to make here is early adopters of portals are ahead, but new adopters of portals can still leverage the "write once deliver everywhere" functionality available via uPortal/uMobile.

Regards, Tim


You bring up excellent points. At MIT we tried to put up a portal at one point, using Oracle, and failed due to many of the standard issues (lack of institutional interest, lack of governance, bad platform, insufficient resources). Meanwhile, for the past 12 years or so we have maintained two static web sites that are basically just lists of links. They are not user aware, so everyone sees every link and then gets thrown out if they try to authenticate to an application they are not authorized to use. Some of us at MIT came to the conclusion years ago that a very simple "portal", which would recognize who you were and only show you your authorized links, plus allow messaging, would be ideal for our disparate audiences and legion of legacy applications. The reason for this light portal is simple: one stop shopping: everything for each user in one place. From the mobile point of view, either doing mobile first, especially for students, or doing a responsive design on a light portal, might solve both of your needs. But you are exactly correct, portals are “expensive, hard, and difficult to maintain” and they do not evolve well. So trust your instincts, if you have not needed one yet, you probably don't need one now. - Mike

Too funny. We did about the same thing with PeopleSoft Portal 8.8 or 8.9. Made it public in 2006, shut it down about 2 years later, haven’t had a portal since.

 

There’s a lot of reasons for the failure, but they include the product itself, problems with our institutional processes that led to selecting it and governance, and under-resourcing.

 

Aren

 

Message from dthibeau@post03.curry.edu

What an interesting chain J.  I agree with much of what has been said.  We embarked on a portal solution in 2008 and went live in early 2009 with the CampusEAI Consortium’s offering.  Our intent was to provide single sign on to as many applications as possible; provide a much more effective method of communicating with our various constituencies; and ultimately, improve retention through improved engagement – all without adding any human resources.  Sounded like lofty goals, but we feel the project has been a huge success.  Today the portal is the most heavily used application on campus.  We allocated management rights to over 50 different people in nearly every office on campus, thus sharing the workload – making it a minimal task for any one person.  There is no doubt that the cost/benefit, as mentioned below by Russell, was positive in our experience.

 

It’s clear that all of us will have different experiences!  It’s also clear that we all have different needs and challenges.  The rapid onslaught of handheld devices is changing everything!  All applications, including portals, have a life cycle.  If you do move forward with a portal, be sure that the product will work in full partnership with handheld devices and “apps”.  We are currently testing “apps” that will work seamlessly with our portal – possibly using the portal’s role-based security to present specific sets of “apps” to each user.  It’s a very exciting project, but it shows us that a portal can be extended beyond a single product.  Easy, seamless application integration is the one of the keys to success.

 

Dennis Thibeault

CIO, Curry College

 

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