The last 15 years have been a stage of continuous development for portals. Following developments in web technology, from mere content display platforms with minimal personalization capabilities, portals have now become projects of large integration, web services and Web 2.0 technologies and approaches.

In this article we will see how enterprises can carry out an affordable and valuable portal project, rather than getting into an expensive and complicated venture. We will also explore how the new generation of portals are evolving and transforming the concept of the enterprise portal and its relationship with its customers.

1. Emerging User Experience Platforms

One of the main trends that can be observed among various portal vendors is the emergence of User Experience Platforms (UXP), evolving from the traditional portal software.

The UXP main value proposition is providing a portal that is easy to deploy out of the box and already pre-integrated with essential capabilities. Also, it puts emphasis on superb user experience (usability, customer journey) and use of lean web technologies (such as Widgets, Ajax/HTML5 and REST) that are known for their fast implementation time.

The different capabilities of a UXP depend on the niche it specializes in. While it seems that most UXPs will provide basic features like content management, according to analysts there are different types of “ethos” that characterize the main approach of the UXP: customer, employee, collaboration and business application.

For instance, while a customer portal will include targeting and analytics tools out of the box, an employee portal is more likely to include a document collaboration package. Understanding the ethos of your portal project and its key requirements is the first step in choosing the right user experience platform solution.

The emerging customer platform specifically puts major challenges to the old portals. Today’s web platforms are expected to be data-driven, personalized and customer-centric environments. Moreover, the customer experience shouldn’t fall short of other online services (such as Apple, Google and Amazon). As will be elaborated later, this trend, towards a customer-centric platform has much deeper implications for the purpose of the portal inside the enterprise.

2. Lean Portals

Another important trend in the portal market relates to the nature of the portal itself. A couple of years ago, Gartner introduced the concept of the “Portal-Less” portal and the “Lean Portal.” Lean Portals are an alternative to traditional portals, which became too complicated and too bloated with features. Traditional portals became notorious for exceeding budget and development deadlines and in the worst case not fulfilling requirements.

The Lean Portal is a lightweight and easy to deploy portal that is built on modern Web 2.0 technologies, such as AJAX, widgets, representation state transfer (REST) and WOA/SOA approaches. Lean Portals replace the classic container-oriented portal model but maintain the main purpose of a portal -- providing a personalized point of access for users of the enterprise to relevant information, business processes and people.

According to Gartner, organizations find that a Lean Portal delivers over 80 percent of the needed functionality within a couple of months -- without compromising security and advanced integration requirements.

More recently, we see some Lean Portal vendors expanding their lean portal offerings with high value business functionality. These offerings include content management, targeting and campaign management, and online channel optimization capabilities -- thus creating a Lean UXP solution.

3. Better Business -- IT collaboration

As discussed earlier, the enterprise-customer relationship is evolving as customers interact more and more via the online channels, instead of using the traditional channels (phone and physical branches). The portal, accordingly, becomes the main interaction channel with the customer and is one of the key areas where a brand can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.