As summer draws to an end, so does my three-part series, The New Promise of Corporate Portals. This month, we get to the hard stuff — the future.
In June, I explored the history of corporate portals, the broken promises of collaboration, and how we got where we are today. In July I examined how we can make the most of the portal and collaboration tools and technology currently available and what it takes to build today's most effective enterprise-grade portals.
This month I'll share my predictions for the future of corporate portals as they relate to cloud computing, system convergence, and planning and governance. I invite you to weigh in with yours. And thanks for all the feedback — feel free to continue sending me notes directly, if you are so inclined.
Moving Up in the World
Cloud computing has become such a ubiquitous topic that it probably deserves it’s own "past, present, future" series of articles. But I'm including it here, because I believe that the future of corporate portals is inextricably linked with the future of the cloud.
Today's workforce is both global and mobile, and I don't foresee a return to the "old school" centralized headquarters or 9 to 5 workdays any time soon.
Employees are most productive when their office environment can travel with them — providing a universal experience whether working from home, while on the road or from Junior's soccer practice. Cloud-based portals make this possible, increasing efficiency and productivity.
Cloud-based portals also provide the financial incentives of per-user licensing (which can be much more economical than licensing on a per-machine basis) and reducing maintenance and IT costs.
True, there are some industries for which the cloud isn't presently a very good option. Those industries tend to have security or legal requirements that the young cloud can't yet meet. But my years in this industry have taught me one thing above all else — the only constant is change.
Today's security or legal shortcomings are tomorrow's opportunities.
As we look ahead, I'm confident that we're going to see less talk and more action when it comes to moving corporate portals into the cloud.
Fostering System Convergence
Early corporate portals were often little more than glorified employee directories. Although we've come a long way since then, we've still got a long way to go in offering a true one stop shop.
Today's best portals provide access to corporate communications, training resources, human resources, collaboration environments, and more. And the requests from new departments continue rolling in (this influx begs the question "what is our portal strategy" — we'll return to that topic at a later date).
But too many enterprise organizations are still fundamentally module-based systems, and rely on separate software programs for functions like travel planning, expense reimbursement or purchasing.
This disjointed approach adds exponentially to the complexity of basic job functions. They require additional user IDs and passwords; they offer different user experiences (which requires users to continually "relearn" how to use each system); and they require substantial corporate governance and IT management.
As more and more systems are rolled out using open application programming interface (API), the possibility of a truly integrated corporate portal becomes a reality.
I expect that full portal integration will quickly become a top priority for the enterprise, and that this shift will reverberate throughout our industry. Stand-alone solutions that fail to find a seat on the convergence bandwagon will be left behind. More progressive competitors will be rewarded with huge adoption in the enterprise.
This trend also will do much for the burgeoning SharePoint app market, which I expect will become the go-to source as enterprise companies seek to add integrated functionality to their corporate portals.
Better Input for Better Output
It is true that in life we make tradeoffs. The cloud-based, fully integrated corporate portal that I describe above requires a much greater level of planning and oversight than the early "employee directory" iterations of corporate portals.
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