A quick look back at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals over the past two years compared with this year’s Magic Quadrant seems to point to a stagnant market. However, while IBM, Liferay ,Microsoft, Oracle and SAP still dominate the Leaders’ Quadrant, there are subtle shifts in emphasis across the entire Magic Quadrant that are being precipitated by customer demand for more agile and cloud-based portals. 

While it is unclear as to when this mood-change will actually be reflected in a change in the Leader’s Quadrant, the rapid evolution of the lighter versions should see changes coming in the near future.

Note: Check out the full report here.

Before looking at the Leader’s Quadrant today and the other players early next week, we will take a look at the overall market to identify those shifts.

Horizontal Portals

For our purposes, we will use Gartner’s definition of a portal:

[A portal is] Web software infrastructure that provides interaction with relevant information assets knowledge assets, and human assets by select targeted audiences, delivered in a highly personalized manner"

Portals target a range of audiences from C-Suite executives to customers and partners. A portal product, Gartner says, is a packaged software application used to create and maintain enterprise portals. They can be classified as follows:

  • Vertical portals: Providing access and interaction with applications, or business functions.
  • Horizontal portals: Integrate and aggregate information from cross-enterprise applications, as well as line-of-business tools.

Portals, then, provide personalized points of access and interaction with relevant information and serve three different audiences:

  • End users: Unified access to siloed content.
  • Business organizations: A unified place to interact with customers and employees.
  • IT organizations: A scalable environment that delivers Web applications, or enables collaboration.

According to Gartner, the market is currently responding to 8 different trends that it has identified. It is unusual for Garter to be so specific about the market context in its Magic Quadrants, but in this case the evolution of the market is so rapid that it has broken down these trends to clarify what’s happening. The 8 trends are:

1. Nexus of Forces

The Nexus of Forces has made the market more challenging than ever and describes a situation were a number of different forces are colliding and reshaping the market in the process. Some are forces that are part of a broader IT industry dynamic, others are specific to portals.

Users are looking at portals now in the light of enterprise needs for social, mobile, cloud and information management software, and say, in some cases, that the portals are hard to maintain and manage. The result is slow market development with growth among big providers slowing to 0.2% last year. That said, users are still looking for single-point entry for their data.

2. Market Splits

The market is splitting into heavyweight and lightweight providers. Heavyweight portals provide full-featured, but complicated wide-ranging products. They also tend to move beyond pure portal provision to other areas like content management, social computing and collaboration.

Lightweight providers offer low-cost, easy-to-deploy portals that cover the basic, but essential portal requirements. They tend to integrate with enterprise infrastructure rather than replace other applications.

3. UXPs Emerge

User Experience Platforms (UXPs) are now also emerging as portals and provide technologies that support rich experiences across all Web channels. A UXP takes the form of a platform that provides and integrates all elements of the Web experience. It is still a new element in the portal market. However, some of what is referred to as UXP is merely bulking up portal packages.

4. Mobility Is a Differentiator

Many portal packages now incorporate mobile support. Many portal providers have been developing this functionality for more than 10 years. The picture is changing, though, with the explosive growth in mobile devices in the enterprise. IT managers are currently struggling to provide support for an array of smartphones and tablets, which could impact on future development, This is particularly problematic with the rise of BYOD strategies.

5. Portals and the Cloud

Like all other IT sectors, there is a significant shift towards cloud computing. In the portal space, Office 365, and in particular the SharePoint Online element of it, has gained considerable traction despite limitations. In the portal space, Gartner says, the cloud is not just a different deployment option, but an unavoidable part of the environment through which portals must be able to provide their services. This has made cloud computing one of the truly disruptive technologies in the portal market.

6. Digital Marketing And Portals

Many vendors are now targeting business leaders rather than the IT department in organizations as enterprises increasingly see the Web as vital to their business. The result is that portal vendors are being forced to provide comprehensive solutions for business problems rather than a disconnected array of tools and platforms. Portals are now also expected to support all enterprise processes and to be usable for marketing and customer service personnel.

7. Portal and WCM Demands Converge

Over the past few years there has been a notable convergence between the portal market and the WCM market. Over the last decade enterprises have looked to horizontal portal platforms,or WCM systems, as the primary software foundations for their websites. Both have their strengths: WCM supports content creation and management, portals offers users access to that information.