Gartner has updated its magic quadrant for horizontal portals and there are some notable changes from the previous version. Much of the change is related to organizations embracing Enterprise 2.0 concepts in an attempt to deepen user engagement. This signals the first expansion in a long time of the number of platform options as vendors strive to meet the demands of enterprises seeking new innovative solutions.

The Horizontal Portal Market

Portals have always been an excellent idea conceptually. Consolidating information and presenting in a neat browser-based package -- who could argue against that? However, the reality of portal adoption is that they rarely, if ever, achieved widespread adoption. There are multiple theories why portal usage didn’t expand; ultimately, it didn’t happen because users didn’t want to use the tools. The use of highly dynamic and interactive tools in the consumer market raised user expectations and legacy  portals weren’t meeting those expectations.

Portal vendors have realized they must evolve. They must provide social experiences and mechanisms that improve usability and encourage user adoption of their products. Vendors are now readily embracing concepts such as app stores, leaner platforms and user experience management. The portal market is in a state of flux, and at the end, a different model will likely emerge.

Gartner’s Methodology

Gartner’s analysis focused exclusively on horizontal portal solutions. Horizontal portals can be leveraged across business functions, as opposed to vertical platforms that address one business area (e.g.  human resources). In addition to being limited to horizontal portals, Gartner only included products that have:

  • A container or framework and component model
  • Security administration
  • The ability to integrate with a wide range of technologies
  • Personalization
  • Content management
  • Business process management (BPM) and a mechanism for providing or integrating with workflow and BPM tools or platforms
  • Support for multi-channel and multi-device delivery

Vendors were also required to have:

  • Sales and support in at least two geographic regions (North America; Latin America; Europe, the Middle East and Africa; Japan; and Asia/Pacific)
  • Clients in more than one industry vertical
  • US$ 4 million in portal-related revenue
  • at least 100 enterprise customers

These criteria resulted in a final list of 14 products, which Gartner then categorized based on their completeness of vision and ability to execute.

The Horizontal Portal Market Results

The 2011 version of Gartner's portal rankings reflects some of the change occurring in the market. The updated magic quadrant features four new portals: DotNetNuke, Drupal, edge IPK and The new additions, however, did not spur any changes in the vendors Gartner ranked in the leader quadrant; Microsoft SharePoint, IBM WebSphere Portal, the re-branded (as usual) Oracle WebCenter, SAP netWeaver and Liferay share the lofty leader spot. There was a tiny bit of movement in the placement of products in the illustrious square, but it was so insignificant it could have been related to Gartner using a new graphics creation tool.

The other three quadrants experienced a bit more fluctuation:

  • OpenText moved from challenger to visionary, leaving Red Hat’s JBoss the sole, lonely market challenger.
  • Tibco slid over from visionary to niche player, a position formerly held by Backbase, which managed to take Tibco's spot in the visionaries square. Tibco's placement in the niche player categorization might have been influenced by its lack of responses to Gartner's inquiries, which resulted in the analyst relying on publicly available data.
  • Three (Drupal, DotNetNuke and edge IPK) of the four new products in the quadrant were assessed as niche players. The fourth new addition,, was categorized as a visionary.

So to summarize:

  • Leaders: Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Liferay, SAP
  • Challengers: Red Hat
  • Niche players, which I affectionately refer to as the "we were happy just to be nominated" quadrant: Tibco, Drupal, DotNetNuke, edge IPK
  • Visionaries: OpenText, Covisint (Compuware),, Backbase

Beyond the pretty graphic, Gartner provided some details about the strengths and weaknesses of each vendor in the assessment, like Oracle’s complex stack with overlapping functionality and DotNetNuke’s/Tibco’s relative anonymity.

Almost everyone who reads an analyst report has an opinion of how the rankings should have turned out or a conspiracy theory about vendor placement. That is the nature of a study that has a dimension of subjectivity. If you were doing the rankings, how would this year’s quadrant change? Let us know what you think.