Some of you may still remember the days of the enterprise portal. In the late nineties and early noughties, the enterprise portal reigned king in businesses worldwide. Its main objective? To provide a single point of access to all kinds of enterprise systems via the web-browser, and to banish fractured data and information silos. The driving force behind all of this was the invention of the world wide web, and the need to make data and information in backend systems easily accessible across the globe.
Enterprise Portals categorized all information so that users can always see their information in the context of their department, projects and more. This extended more widely into user personalization; enterprise portals were the first attempt to provide information to users based on their role and preferences, and to allow them to maintain their personal pages and user settings. And of course, application integration was an essential part of any Enterprise Portal implementation - but you would need to develop individual interfaces to integrate data into your Enterprise Portal, because back-end systems did not provide APIs for easy exchange of data.
Today’s digital landscape encompasses a multitude of backend systems as well as a plethora of cloud services and mobile apps, chatbots, smart speaker devices like Amazon Alexa and more; all of which manage data and information, and each with it’s own log-in, user interface and data. New technologies like NLP and AI can help us to organize our day, our health and of course our work. Flexible working has become the norm, with a larger proportion of the workforce than ever before wishing to work from home more often. And digital transformation changed the user experience and expectation to the extent that user interfaces should be both effortless to use and provide simple, easy access to data and functionality.
So it’s no surprise that as data has become more dispersed across the enterprise ecosystem, it’s become exponentially more difficult and time-consuming to access critical work information or to complete day-to-day tasks. Not only this, but the need to capitalise on bleeding edge technologies, integrate multiple systems into a unified platform and deliver them in a multichannel, digital experience to customers and employees, is bigger than ever before. And the solution has been there all along - in the form of the enterprise portal. Leading research companies Forrester and Gartner both expect the rise of the Digital Experience Portal in the near future; Forrester explicitly emphasize that modern portals play a critical role in the broader digital experience architecture, because they “own much of the reusable code for the authenticated web experience, stitch back-end data together and allow users to self-serve”.
Here are three ways the enterprise portal is still an excellent solution to a modern, evolving problem.
Integration and aggregation
Even in the early days of the internet, enterprise portals were a good way to provide unified access to various disparate systems. It makes sense that they can act as the ultimate one stop shop to support corporate communications, employee self-service, knowledge management and collaboration. Modern enterprise portals aggregate and render content, data and services through web services and APIs, and so can act as a perfect foundation for delivering content and APIs to other websites and mobile apps. Some even support push notifications and feature UI technologies capable of delivering rich experiences (HTML5) for consumption across a multitude of devices.
Personalized access to relevant information, services and applications based on a user’s roles and permissions was always a core functionality of enterprise portals. Modern enterprise portals have improved vastly upon this, and can even adapt their content with machine-learning algorithms based on a user’s behavior and data analytics. And with a variety of customization features, users can create their own pages and dashboards - with access to exactly what they need to do their job effectively.
Especially with today’s modern way of working, users want to access company data from everywhere and on every device they have; this naturally poses a huge security risk. Enterprise portals are a valuable way to deliver secure web and mobile experiences on top of back-end and transactional systems. They negate this risk by integrating with SAML Single-Sign On (SSO) supporting services, enforcing an enterprise-wide authentication and authorization policy - with the added benefit of the convenience of logging in once to access all integrated services and applications. Extensive user-permission management helps organisations to stay in control of all their data assets, and role-based security makes it simple to control the access permissions for categories, documents, portlets, applications and data.
If you envision one interface from which your customer and employees can manage their needs and tasks, reuse content, data and applications, and securely access back-end systems and front-end interfaces, you’ll realise that the modern enterprise portal platform is here to stay - and might even be the key to your digital employee experience architecture.
On the blog next week: 3 areas where digital experience portals fail to provide a holistic digital experience.