United Planet Offers Practical Portal Building Tips for SMBs

United Planet, a developer of Enterprise Portal software, has highlighted eight tips for small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) who want to optimise business processes across the board with an Enterprise Portal.

Axel Wessendorf, managing director of United Planet, points out that: "Modern Enterprise Portals are much more than just platforms for information sharing. A well built portal has the power to integrate data from a variety of software systems (e.g. an ERP system) to create dynamic applications that map all types of business processes and deliver tangible improvements in efficiency and productivity."

SMBs looking to save costs and optimise work processes should consider the following recommendations when creating an Enterprise Portal to ensure the long term success of the project:

1. Select the appropriate portal solution - In addition to various open-source solutions on the portal market, there are several major products to review such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, IBM WebSphere and Intrexx, the portal software from United Planet. At first glance, choosing an open-source product might seem to make sense from a cost perspective. On closer examination, however, this would be a short-sighted decision because service costs, rather than license costs, represent by far the largest portion of the total costs of a portal project. Depending on the solution, these can be 6 to 9 times greater (SharePoint) or 1.5 to 3 times greater (Intrexx) than license costs. In order to reduce service costs to a minimum, it is important to be clear from the start about the requirements of a portal.

2. Create and customise applications - To minimise the overall investment in the portal, companies should focus from the beginning on a portal solution that simplifies the process of creating and adapting portal applications, requiring little or no programming. This will not only ensure that companies will be able to react quickly and appropriately to future developments, it will also eliminate the need for external programmers.

3. Integrate existing systems to reduce duplication - Secure existing investments in a system such as SAP or Lotus Notes, by selecting a portal solution that facilitates integration of data from these systems into the portal. This also helps to avoid the need to change media in the course of a business process and reduces duplication of work. As Enterprise Portals are fundamentally database-oriented, the portal software should be able to access any type of database.

4. Adopt integrated process management - Interactive process portals facilitate the automation of business processes and the electronic mapping of workflows. In addition to simple information and document management, time- and event-controlled processes ensure that the relevant people in the company receive, relay or supply information and perform other tasks to guarantee seamless business processes.

5. Offer multiple languages - Companies with international operations must ensure that the portal solution they select enables employees to choose and switch between languages with ease. Users should be able to select their preferred language on an individual basis. All content and labels on the portal must be generated in multiple languages.

6. Implement role-based user management - Different groups of users require different functions and information, depending on their role in the company. Therefore, it makes sense for the portal to provide role-based user management. This ensures that each employee can only see and/or edit the applications and documents for which he or she has the appropriate read and write permissions.

7. Involve employees in the development of the portal - To ensure a high level of acceptance by users, it is important to involve the employees in the development of the portal from an early stage and to invite their feedback on the project before, during and after implementation. Users should be encouraged to familiarise themselves with the technology gradually and be offered incentives to use the portal.

8. Make it user friendly - Every portal project is doomed to failure from the start if employees do not find it easy-to-use and avoid it as a result. When designing the layout, therefore, it is best to remember that good, clear layout is just as important as the correct use of the company's corporate identity, so that users can find what they need quickly.

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