1 i Web Portals: The New Gateways to Internet Information and Services Arthur Tatnall Victoria University, Australia IDEA GROUP PUBLISHING Hershey London Melbourne Singapore
2 ii Acquisitions Editor: Senior Managing Editor: Managing Editor: Development Editor: Copy Editor: Typesetter: Cover Design: Printed at: Mehdi Khosrow-Pour Jan Travers Amanda Appicello Michele Rossi Elizabeth Arneson Amanda Appicello Lisa Tosheff Yurchak Printing Inc. Published in the United States of America by Idea Group Publishing (an imprint of Idea Group Inc.) 701 E. Chocolate Avenue, Suite 200 Hershey PA Tel: Fax: Web site: and in the United Kingdom by Idea Group Publishing (an imprint of Idea Group Inc.) 3 Henrietta Street Covent Garden London WC2E 8LU Tel: Fax: Web site: Copyright 2005 by Idea Group Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without written permission from the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Web portals : the new gateways to Internet information and services / Arthur Tatnall, editor. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN X (hardcover) -- ISBN (pbk.) -- ISBN (ebook) 1. Web portals. 2. Management--Computer network resources. 3. Business--Computer network resources. I. Tatnall, Arthur. HD30.37.W dc British Cataloguing in Publication Data A Cataloguing in Publication record for this book is available from the British Library. All work contributed to this book is new, previously-unpublished material. The views expressed in this book are those of the authors, but not necessarily of the publisher.
3 iii Web Portals: The New Gateways to Internet Information and Services Table of Contents Preface... vi Chapter I Portals, Portals Everywhere... 1 Arthur Tatnall, Victoria University, Australia Chapter II On Portals: A Parsimonious Approach Wita Wojtkowski, Boise State University, USA Marshall Major, Moffatt Thomas Barrett Rock and Fields, Chartered, USA Chapter III Portal Combat Revisited: Success Factors and Evolution in Consumer Web Portals John M. Gallaugher, Boston College, USA Charles E. Downing, Northern Illinois University, USA Chapter IV Competitive Dynamics of General Portals Sandra Sieber, IESE Business School, University of Navarra, Spain Josep Valor-Sabatier, IESE Business School, University of Navarra, Spain Chapter V Portals Gateways for Marketing Ian Michael, Victoria University, Australia
4 iv Chapter VI Designing E-Commerce Portal for an Enterprise A Framework Sushil K. Sharma, Ball State University, USA Jatinder N. D. Gupta, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, USA Chapter VII Portals in Large Enterprises Ian Searle, RMIT University, Australia Chapter VIII Employee Portals: Just the Next Step in the Journey Andrew Stein, Victoria University, Australia Paul Hawking, Victoria University, Australia Chapter IX A Flexible Evaluation Framework for Web Portals Based on Multi-Criteria Analysis Demetrios Sampson, University of Piraeus, Greece and Informatics and Telematics Institute of the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (ITI-CERTH), Greece Nikos Manouselis, University of Piraeus, Greece and Informatics and Telematics Institute of the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (ITI-CERTH), Greece Chapter X Web Portals in Government Service Tony Aitkenhead, Multi Media Victoria, Australia Chapter XI Building New Systems for Decision Support in Education: Was There a Baby in That Bathwater? Christopher A. Thorn, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA Chapter XII Educational Portals: A Way to Get an Integrated, User-Centric University Information System Marko Bajec, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
5 v Chapter XIII Intelligent Portals for Supporting Medical Information Needs Jane Moon, Monash University, Australia Frada Burstein, Monash University, Australia Chapter XIV Portal Services for Older Australians Jerzy Lepa, Victoria University, Australia Chapter XV Functioning Portal Interfaces to Support Knowledge Enabling Jan Soutar, Victoria University, Australia Beverley Lloyd-Walker, Victoria University, Australia Chapter XVI Developing a Portal to Build a Business Community Alex Pliaskin, Deakin University, Australia Arthur Tatnall, Victoria University, Australia About the Authors Index
6 vi Preface The topic of Web portals is a diverse one, and this book provides an overview of the different types of portals and the many and varied business uses to which they can be put. The term Web portal is rather overused and quite difficult to define precisely. Furthermore it takes on a somewhat different meaning depending on the viewpoint of the stakeholder. Each of the chapter authors in this book outlines their own definition of the portal and relates this to the content of their chapter. Web Portals: The New Gateways to Internet Information and Services outlines current research relating to portals and attempts to look at how portals might be used by organizations of the future. Chapters cover a wide range of topics, including: the use of portals in marketing, techniques for the evaluation of portals, how portals are used by large enterprises, enterprise information portals, general portals, community portals, human resource management and employee portals, educational portals, medical portals, knowledge management portals, government portals and horizontal industry portals. All contributions to the book are of a high academic standard and have been subjected to a rigorous process of blind peer review by at least two reviewers. Chapter 1 introduces the portal concept by exploring the meaning of the term portal and investigating the wide-ranging use of the portal concept. In this chapter Tatnall outlines a categorisation of portals but notes that any current categorisation must inevitably be far from perfect as present categories are not mutually exclusive, and some portals fall into more than one category. The concept of using portals to foster virtual communities is discussed, both in the conventional community sense and also in the business sense. An important direction for portal development is the growth of the market for corporate or enterprise information portals (EIP), and the chapter discusses this, conclud-
7 vii ing with a view that those who are still predicting the death of the portal are unlikely to be right. In Chapter 2, Wojtkowski and Major discuss the enterprise portal, a term they use to refer to a combination of corporate portal and vertical enterprise portal. This term is used to mean a secure, authenticated, personalized portal that extends to a firm s employees as well as its clients and business partners. Wojtkowski and Major question what such a portal should provide, offer a partial list of portal vendors, and outline the technical aspects of a portal environment, which include: application server, Web server, database, taxonomy, crawler, metadata repository, gadget, categorisation engine, filters, index, virtual card, Web service, user profiles, content management, and enterprise application integration. The chapter concludes with an appendix that provides a primer on the various technical terms relating to Web portals. In Chapter 3 Gallaugher and Downing use the term Web portal to refer to the category of sites (such as Excite, InfoSeek, Lycos, and Yahoo) that have evolved from early Web search engines but now include features such as calendar management, chat, free , games, and shopping. The authors discuss the factors that make a market leader in the context of business models and technologies that can easily be imitated. They suggest that these include: the length of time a service has been offered, the brand-related make effects of various leading players, and product features that create virtual communities and other switching costs. The study supports the importance of brandrelated make effects at work in the portal industry during the time period examined. It also offers limited support for first-mover advantages among portal players and demonstrates the positive benefits associated with features that create virtual communities and switching costs, specifically games and chat. Chapter 4, by Sieber and Valor-Sabatier, addresses the overall low profitability of the general portal industry and why, although the industry has great potential for value creation, value appropriation in information-based businesses remains problematic. They argue that the horizontal portal constitutes a critical link in the online value network as it provides a way of organizing content and can capture and canalize incoming traffic. Sieber and Valor- Sabatier then note that as with most technological change, the early and most obvious changes are of an incremental nature, resulting in cost savings for things we are already doing, but that a more profound effect occurs when we discover that we can do completely new things with the technology. They outline two different business models for general portals. The first is the pure portal, such as the original Yahoo! business model, which started with an
8 viii advertising-based revenue model similar in nature to the broadcasting industry. The second is that of online service providers, such as AOL, which combine a pure portal with Internet access and proprietary content. The success of the portal industry is closely linked to marketing, but in the next chapter (Chapter 5) Michael points out that advertisers and marketers are yet to understand the full potential of the Internet. The chapter focuses on portals and their relationship with the marketing function and the behaviour of consumers at portals and other Web sites. Michael argues that a key function of marketing is to match buyers and sellers and to facilitate transactions, but to do this a proper institutional infrastructure is required. He points out that marketers need to be aware of new demographic segments that are being attracted to the Internet for searching and shopping purposes and that one such segment is the older, or greying, segment (a line taken a good deal further in Chapter 14: Portal Services for Older Australians). Portals have matured to become a key trading exchange intermediary between consumers and businesses and also between businesses. Michael suggests that portals should be regarded as strategic tools in the marketing process. In Chapter 6 Sharma and Gupta argue that organizations need a single point of online access to their stakeholders through an integrated and personalized enterprise portal. The chapter gives details of such a portal and suggests a framework for developing an enterprise-wide integrated e-commerce portal for evolving organizations. The proposed framework would help to design a distributed, extensible, cross-platform, collaborative and integrated e-commerce portal to integrate a range of features and services, including requests for bids, business links and news, a forum for sharing information, a valueadded service for buyers and a value-added service for suppliers. The authors point out the importance of integrating applications within the portal rather than just a simple collection of content. They note the emerging importance of context personalization for portal applications, based on factors such as a user s current task, the time of day, accessing device, bandwidth, and location, and how enterprise portals can help make more efficient use of an individual s time. Sharma and Gupta point out that developing integrated enterprise-wide e-commerce portals to create one integrated storefront to support B2C and B2B electronic business models is one of the major challenges for software developers, requiring integration of many technologies. In Chapter 7 Searle discusses two aspects of the use of portals by large corporations: the roles of portals set up by corporations and the use made by corporations of portals other than their own. Many of the traditional Internet portal applications appear to have no obvious connection with large corpora-
9 ix tions, and Searle outlines how portals can be used by these businesses. Large enterprises have built Internet portals for corporate information, product information, customer service, selling (business-to-consumer, business-to-business), supply chain (collective procurement portals, supply chain management portals), and business-to-employee applications. The uses of portals by large enterprises provided by other companies are also discussed, including: the development and demise of collective procurement portals and the slow development of supply chain management portals. Finally, Searle suggests a number of directions for further research, including: large enterprise plans for collective procurement portals, the potential of supply chain portals that are not dominated by a single buyer, and the potential for increased transparency in the supply chain by development of supply chain management portals. In Chapter 8 Stein and Hawking investigate the application of portal technology to human resource management, particularly in regard to the use of Webbased HR solutions from enterprise resource planning systems vendors such as SAP. They point out that one reason for the development of the portal was to address problems with the large-scale development of corporate intranets. Like a number of the other authors they note that the term portal takes a different meaning depending on the viewpoint of the stakeholder: to the business user it is all about information access and navigation, to the organization it is about adding value, to the marketplace it is about new business models, and to the technologist a portal is about integration. Stein and Hawking point out that many leading companies are using enterprise resource planning systems to support their human resource information needs, partly because of the integrative role that human resources has in business processes such as work scheduling, travel management, production planning, and occupational health and safety. In Chapter 9 Sampson and Manouselis present an evaluation framework for addressing the multiple dimensions of Web portals that can affect users satisfaction. The objective of this framework is to specify a set of total satisfaction indicators that allows monitoring of the user-perceived quality level of a Web portal, comparing the results from different evaluation groups. The focus is on content, design, personalization, and community support. To demonstrate the application of their proposed framework they introduce, in the context of a summative evaluation, the Greek Go-Digital Programme. This is a national initiative of the Greek government to promote the deployment of e-business in very small and medium enterprises (vsmes) and their familiarization with the digital economy. It is an awareness and training portal. In their study, issues are introduced by adoption of a quality-oriented approach in Web portal evalu-
10 x ation that considers the portal as the product and the user as the customer of the Web portal services. Government portals are rather like business enterprise portals, except being outward rather than inward looking, and in Chapter 10 Aitkenhead investigates the use of portals in the service of government. Government portals are becoming gateways or central access points for many e-government initiatives around the globe and perform this task well as they provide a consistent and easy-to-use interface that allows citizens access to a range of government services. There are many business factors driving the implementation of portals, including: the massive proliferation of Web sites, the large amount of duplicated information, the advantages portals offer in positioning businesses for future integration of information from a single point, and the strengthened security they provide. This chapter presents the findings of a review of two Victorian government portals, each of which has implemented different operational models. The use of portal technology in educational decision support systems is the subject tackled by Thorn in Chapter 11. Decision support is one of the promises held out by proponents of portal technologies, and Thorn notes that while the challenges to improving decision support systems across K-12 school districts in the United States are substantial, the payoffs are also potentially quite large. Repositories and business analytics systems are two of the most common types of knowledge management systems that school districts have attempted to build, and the author argues that efforts to build portals in education in the US are inseparably tied to district knowledge management system development. Thorn argues that portal technology will be crucial to any effort to use information technology effectively to support good decision-making in educational organizations, but unfortunately it is not technology that is lagging in this area. The challenge, he suggests, is to overcome the entrenched bureaucracies of educational systems. Chapter 12 also discusses the use of portals in education, but this time at a university level. In this chapter Bajec discusses the use of portals in institutions of higher education and examines the motivating factors that drive these institutions to use portal-based solutions. Bajec notes that almost all universities are either developing or purchasing portal solutions for their needs and that there are several reasons for this. He suggests that the most common driving forces can be explained as follows: systems integration, utilisation of e-business technology, and providing wider use of data and services of existing systems. Bajec illustrates his arguments by considering the case of the University of Ljubljana, where the use of portal technology was stimulated by
11 xi the renovation of its existing information system. This was necessary because of the organizational changes the university was facing. He argues that portals are a promising technology for helping universities to transform their legacy systems into integrated, user-centric information systems. In Chapter 13 Moon and Burstein review the way portal technology can assist in the search for medical information. In the chapter they review the way portal technology can assist users in broader community contexts and, in particular, how portals are employed for meeting community medical information needs. They consider how medical portals could be improved so that they could assist users with their needs. The authors explore the extent to which these portals behave intelligently in addressing users needs, discussing what constitutes an intelligent portal and outlining the desirable components and attributes of such a portal and how these can be implemented to meet the needs of diverse users. The analyses of medical portal intelligence issues are discussed in terms of search engines, spell checking, sounds like indexing, parsing, ontology, use of thesaurus, personalization, and decision facilities or expert system functionality. Australian medical portals are then analysed to illustrate the problems and opportunities of intelligent community portals. The Web has the potential to be a major source of information for older people, and this is discussed by Lepa in Chapter 14. This chapter reviews the needs of older people and explores two Australian older-person portals: Greypath and About Seniors. Lepa notes that statistics show that the proportion of older people will increase dramatically over the next 25 years and that the Web has the potential to improve the lives of these people. The needs of older people are considered around the following themes: financial security, physical health and well-being, mental health and social environment, and engaging in intellectual endeavours. The author suggests that older people could use specially designed older person portals as their first port of call on the Internet and use the links provided to access the informational and recreational activities they are interested in. These portals can also provide an important recreational vehicle through the use of facilities such as , chat, current affairs (news), and music channels. He describes the establishment of a virtual community where older people can access chat facilities in the three-dimensional Greypath Village. Well-designed portals have the potential to provide a single point of access to information stored in a variety of repositories so that it may be used to support informed decision-making. In Chapter 15 Soutar and Lloyd-Walker discuss how portals can support knowledge enabling and make the conversion of information to knowledge easier and quicker. They note that early claims of
12 xii portals supporting knowledge management initiatives in organizations were generally misleading, but that there has been a move from information portals to knowledge portals that do support the creation of a knowledge-sharing environment. In this chapter they discuss the role of portals in supporting knowledge sharing and innovation diffusion within organizations. Soutar and Lloyd- Walker describe how portals enable information from disparate databases to be integrated, categorised, shared, and used to advantage. A range of portals is discussed, and their role in managing knowledge within organizations established. In the final chapter (Chapter 16) Pliaskin and Tatnall discuss the creation and demise of the Bizewest B-B portal. This innovative project was to create a horizontal portal that would enable the whole range of SMEs in Melbourne s West to engage in an increased number of e-commerce transactions with each other. The attempt to establish and maintain an inward-focused B-B e-commerce portal to allow SMEs in the Western region of Melbourne to take advantage of emerging technologies was a brave move, but a worthy one, and constituted a very forward-looking, innovative project. Bizewest ceased operations in June 2003, but despite its demise, the emergence and development of the Bizewest portal left a legacy of useful benefits, and its development costs were certainly not wasted. Probably the biggest problem was the attempt to change the culture of the 300 businesses involved. This was a monumental task, and the project was probably doomed to failure right from the outset. This chapter chronicles the development of the Bizewest portal. Arthur Tatnall December 2003
13 Portals, Portals Everywhere 1 Chapter I Portals, Portals Everywhere Arthur Tatnall Victoria University, Australia Abstract In general terms a portal is just a gateway, and a Web portal can be seen as a gateway to the information and services on the Web. This chapter explores the definition of the word portal and attempts a categorisation of the various types of Web portals. It outlines some of the many uses for portals and shows that the portal concept is equally useful for accessing corporate intranets as for the public Internet. In conclusion the chapter looks at the proposition that the portal is dead and finds that any announcement to this effect is very much premature. Portals are everywhere and are likely to grow to even greater importance in the future. Introduction Kate and Leopold (in the film of the same name) travelled through a time portal from the 1800s, and the exploration team in the television series
14 2 Tatnall Stargate SG-1 travels to the other side of the universe using a portal. The word portal has been around for many years and was even referred to in 1595 by Shakespeare in Richard II (Act 3, Scene 3): See, see, King Richard doth himself appear, as doth the blushing discontented sun from out the fiery portal of the east. In its simplest form the word portal just means a gateway, but often a gateway to somewhere quite different than just the next room or street. The Oxford Reference Dictionary (Pearsall & Trumble, 1996) defines a portal as: a doorway or gate, etc., especially a large and elaborate one. In this sense we could, perhaps, refer to the Great Portal of Kiev (Mussorgsky) or to the Pearly Portal. In this chapter, however, we are referring much more specifically to Web portals. The term Web portal is overused and difficult to define precisely. In the 15 other chapters of this book each of the authors has provided their own definition of this term, from their own perspective. Many of the definitions are similar, but some definitions are able to provide a little more insight into the use of Web portals. A colleague from my academic department at Victoria University says that there is nothing new about portals, and in this he is both partially right and completely wrong. A simple definition sees a Web portal as a special Web site designed to act as a gateway to give convenient access to other sites. In a sense there is nothing new about this as Web sites have contained hyperlinks to other sites since the Web s inception. What is new is the way that these special Web sites are now being used to facilitate access to other sites that may be closely related, in the case of special purpose portals, or quite diverse, in the case of general portals. What is also new is that the marketers have discovered the portal concept and its advertising potential. Portals, Portals Everywhere A Google search of the Web in December 2003 revealed 35.6 million entries for the word portal. Even allowing for a considerable degree of overuse and overlap, portals are seen everywhere, and it would be difficult to make any use of the Web without encountering one. Portals also span a bewildering range of topics and interest areas, a small sample of which is provided below. There are government portals such as: (Québec), (UK), (Victoria),
15 Portals, Portals Everywhere 3 (USA), and (Germany). Science portals include: sdcd.gsfc.nasa.gov/esd/portal (Goddard Space Flight Centre), and Those interested in things environmental are catered for by portals such as and Community portals cover many regions and interest areas, including: (PortalsCommunity), webdesign.foundlocally.com/ourportals.htm (Canadian community portals), (Melbourne), (Mt. Beauty, Victoria) and (Rockhampton community groups). Many portals relate to the IT industry, including: (IEEE), (ACM), (IFIP), (COBOL), and (Microsoft SharePoint portal). There are a number of education portals, such as: and (for educational administration), mciunix.mciu.k12.pa.us/~tech/pde_web2/portals.htm and vic.edu.au/ (for schools), and (for Austrian academics). Portals relating to other interest areas include: libraries portal.unesco.org and music sport and health www. diabetesportal.com and and genealogy There is a Britney Spears portal (www.britney-spears-portal.com), a portal for those interested in progressive activism (www.progressiveportal.org), and one dealing with South Asia terrorism (www.satp.org). There is even an anti-portal portal (http://internetbrothers.com/aortal) for those who dislike portals. What Is a Web Portal? In general terms, unrelated to the World Wide Web, the Macquarie Dictionary defines a portal as a door, gate or entrance (Macquarie Library, 1981). More specifically, a Web portal is seen as a special Internet (or intranet) site designed to act as a gateway to give access to other sites. A portal aggregates information from multiple sources and makes that information available to various users. In other words a portal is an all-in-one Web site used to find and to gain access to other sites, but also one that provides the services of a guide that can help to protect the user from the chaos of the Internet and direct them
16 4 Tatnall towards an eventual goal. More generally, however, a portal should be seen as providing a gateway not just to sites on the Web, but to all network-accessible resources, whether involving intranets, extranets, or the Internet. In other words a portal offers centralised access to all relevant content and applications. Historically the Web portal concept probably developed out of search engine sites such as Yahoo!, Excite, and Lycos, which can now be classified as firstgeneration portals. These sites, however, quickly evolved into sites providing additional services such as , stock quotes, news, and community building rather than just search capabilities (Rao, 2001). Eckerson (1999) outlines four generations of portals whose focus, in each case, is: generic, personalised, application, and role. Portals may be horizontal or vertical in nature (Lynch, 1998), with sites such as Yahoo!, Excite, and NetCenter being considered as horizontal portals because they are used by a broad base of users. The content area of vertical portals, on the other hand, is tightly focused and geared toward a particular audience (Lynch). The success of a portal depends on its ability to provide a base site that users will keep returning to after accessing other related sites. As an entranceway onto the Web (or an intranet) it should be a preferred starting point for many of the things that a particular user wants to do there. A useful goal for those setting up a portal is to have it designated by many users as their browser startup page. Types of Portals There is no definitive categorisation of the types of portals, but PortalsCommunity (www.portalscommunity.com/) offers the following list: corporate or enterprise (intranet) portals, e-business (extranet) portals, personal (WAP) portals, and public or mega (Internet) portals. Another categorisation (Davison, Burgess, & Tatnall, 2003) offers: general portals, community portals, vertical industry portals, horizontal industry portals, enterprise information portals, e- marketplace portals, personal/mobile portals, information portals, and niche portals. Unfortunately as the categories are not mutually exclusive, some portals fit into more than one while others do not fit well into any. To further complicate any attempt at categorisation, some implementations can span several different portal types, blended into a form of hybrid solution. A discussion of the different types of portals follows.
17 Portals, Portals Everywhere 5 General (or Mega) Portals. Portals can aim to provide links to sites that can be either closely related or quite diverse. In the case of general portals the intent is to provide links to all sorts of different sites of the user s choosing. Many of these general portals have developed from being simple search tools (such as Yahoo), Internet service providers (such as AOL), and services (such as Hotmail). They now try to be the one-stop port of call for all (or at least many) user needs. An important goal of a general portal is to become the page a user returns to each time they want to access something on the Web. It will be successful if it can provide most of the services, information, and links that users want. General portals often include services such as: free , links to search engines and categories of information, membership services, news and sports, business headlines and articles, personalised space with a user s selections, links to chat rooms, links to virtual shopping malls, and Web directories. General portals make their money by selling advertising material. The success of a general portal depends on it generating a large volume of visitor traffic, and this involves attracting new visitors, keeping them at the site for as long as possible, and convincing them to return (Sieber & Valor, 2002). Vertical Industry Portals are usually based around specific industries. They aim to aggregate information relevant to particular groups, or online trade communities of closely related industries to facilitate the exchange of goods and services in a particular market as part of a value chain. Vertical industry portals often specialise in business commodities and materials such as chemicals, steel, petroleum products, or timber. Some specialise in services like cleaning, food, transport, staffing, or publishing. Others specialise in interest areas such as camping, hiking, or fishing equipment. Horizontal Industry Portals. Portals can be described as horizontal when they are utilised by a broad base of users across a horizontal market. Horizontal industry portals are typically based around a group of industries or a local area. Bizewest (see Chapter 16) was an example of a horizontal industry portal. Community Portals are often set up by community groups such as elaunceston (www.elaunceston.com/) and Cape Breton, Canada (www.centralcapebreton.com/) or based around special group interests such as GreyPath (www.greypath.com), ivillage (www.ivillage.co.uk/), and Women.com (www.women.com). These portals attempt to foster the
18 6 Tatnall concept of a virtual community where all users share a common location or interest and provide many different services depending on their orientation. The extent to which some community portals represent the interests and views of their entire community is, of course, open to interpretation. Enterprise Information Portals. The term enterprise (or corporate) information portals (EIP) is now often being applied to the gateways to the corporate intranets that are used to manage the knowledge within an organisation. These are designed primarily for business-to-employee (B2E) processes and offer employees the means to access and share data and information within the enterprise. An EIP may include facilities such as: a categorisation of information available on the intranet, a search engine covering the entire intranet, organisational news, access to , access to common software applications, document management, links to internal sites and popular external Web sites, and the ability to personalise the page. Variations on EIPs include business intelligence portals that are designed to act as gateways to decision-making processes and to provide competitive intelligence, business area portals that support specific business processes such as personnel or supply chain management, and facilities designed to support the field sales forces. E-marketplace Portals. These extended enterprise portals often offer access to a company s extranet services and are useful for business-tobusiness processes such as ordering, tendering, and supply of goods. An example is provided by the Swiss company ETA SA Fabriques d Ebauches (www.eta.ch/), a member of the Swatch Group that produces watches for brands including Omega, Rado, Longines, Tissot, Certina, and Swatch. The group consists of a number of individual companies that focus on producing components and movements for watches. The portal was set up principally to improve cost efficiency and facilitate quicker order processing between members of the group (Alt, Reichmayr, Cäsar, & Zurmühlen, 2002). E-marketplace portals can also be used for business-to-customer transactions, and a classic example is provided by the bookseller Amazon.com (www.amazon.com). Another example comes from the Association for Computing Machinery (http://portal.acm.org/portal.cfm) digital library. Personal/Mobile Portals. Following the trends towards mobile (or pervasive) computing, personal/mobile portals are increasingly being
19 Portals, Portals Everywhere 7 embedded into mobile phones, wireless PDAs, and the like. Some appliances are also being equipped with personal portals aimed at allowing them to communicate with other appliances or to be used more easily from a distance. Information Portals. Although these, in most cases, can also be classified into one of the other categories, information portals can also be viewed as a category in their own right as portals whose prime aim is to provide a specific type of information. The sports information portal ESPN (http://msn.espn.go.com/) is one example of an information portal. Another is PortalsCommunity (www.portalscommunity.com/), a portal dedicated to providing information about portals. Specialised/Niche Portals are designed to satisfy specific niche markets. In many cases these can also be classified as information portals. For example, ESPN (http://msn.espn.go.com/) is targeted towards 18 to 34 year-old males, while ivillage (www.ivillage.co.uk/) is targeted towards women. Other specialised portals provide detailed industry information, often available only for a fee. And All the Web Did Shrink Grodner (2003) outlines how global companies use portal technology to create online virtual communities. They do this, he notes, in order to improve productivity, enhance communications, and gain competitive advantage by providing real-time access to critical business information. Other authors (such as Lawrence, Corbitt, Fisher, Lawrence, & Tidwell, 2000) refer to portals that focus on aggregating information relevant to specific interest groups as online vertical trade communities. Virtual Web communities are seen to offer the potential of a high level of collaboration amongst their geographically dispersed users and to facilitate the rapid dissemination and sharing of relevant content. Grodner points out that for consumers, the concept of a virtual community can be used as a way to bring together individuals with similar interests. In the corporate world, companies can make use of virtual communities to facilitate working with other related companies. Portals are also of interest to the scientific research community. An article in Portals magazine (Roberts-Witt, 2003) describes the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) in the USA (www.nbii.gov and a number of
20 8 Tatnall private sites) as a government-to-government/partner/citizen portal, based on Plumtree Corporate Portal software. The NBII portal allows biologists (researchers and students) to share geographic and geospatial data, without the need to know exactly where the data is housed and to whom it belongs. Research by Tatnall, Burgess, and Singh (2004) indicates that small businesses can also benefit from the use of portals. These benefits include: Provision of a secure environment for online trading: portals generally have a payment infrastructure that enables small businesses to integrate their accounts receivable and payable to the portal back-end systems. Search engines, directory services, and shopping bots that list the portals will automatically enable Web users to find the gateway to small online shops on the Web via these portals, saving substantially on costs. New partnerships: e-commerce opens up the opportunity for businesses to sell to new buyers, tap into the supply chain and win new business, offer complementary products with other businesses, and procure goods electronically. Community building and regional relationship features such as chat rooms, message boards, instant-messaging services, online greeting cards, and other Web services are often included in the portal infrastructure. Strategy, management, and business trust: portals enable businesses to adopt a common e-business structure that helps them to attain management support or share ideas with others businesses. Improved customer management: portal managers can make deals with Internet retailers for the eyeballs that will also benefit small businesses that are part of the portal. Lawrence et al. (2000) liken a portal to the front page of a newspaper or magazine, offering directions to the location of relevant information. Hanson (2000) stresses the importance of rapid access as most users will abandon the search if their desired location is not in the first or second screens of information. Yockelson (2002), on the other hand, thinks that the portal itself is nothing special: It may be nothing more than a Web-user interface, with built-in access to data or applications. He argues instead for the benefits of a portal framework that brings with it the notion of context and technologies that support the delivery of information and services in context.