Smaller Firms Nip at the Big Dogs in Gartners Portal MQ

Smaller Firms Nip at the Big Dogs in Gartner's Portal MQ

7 minute read
David Roe avatar

Gartner cited six trends in its Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals, including a convergence of portal and Web Content Management (Web CMS) needs across enterprises. In addition, long-time traditional, portal vendors and their bloated, unwieldy architectures are losing ground to smaller, lighter portal vendors.

As evidence of both trends, just look at the companies who made it into this year's MQ: Ektron, Jahia, Sitecore, Squiz and WordPress.

Portal Characteristics

That is not to say the old guard has vanished. It hasn't: the market is still dominated by IBM, Liferay, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP in the Leaders’ Quadrant. They're just facing increasing competition from other companies, including:

  • Visionaries: Salesforce, Adobe, Backbase, Covisint
  • Niche: Drupal, DNN, Red Hat, Squiz, United Planet, Ektron, Jahia and WordPress
  • Challengers: OpenText and Sitecore.

Given the maturity of the market, it is difficult to make it into any of the quadrants. All 19 of this year's vendors can offer the following portal functionality:

  • Personalization: Personalization includes the ability to direct relevant content to individuals, groups and roles, or change the content easily to suit business needs
  • Security: The principal function here is to control access rights and privileges
  • Integration and aggregation: The ability to integrate and aggregate a wide range of sources
  • Content management: The ability to create, organize and publish a wide variety of content types
  • Search and navigation: The ability to search and discover different kinds of content
  • Workflow and BPM: The ability to create business processes and workflows in the portal
  • Mobile and multichannel: Support for different multichannel devices

But this core functionality is not enough. Vendors also need to be able to demonstrate that they can manage all kinds of portal scenarios, including employee-facing, customer facing and partner facing, and this needs to be backed-up by customer references to this effect.

Vendors must also provide support in at least two of major geographical regions and provide support for at least two industry verticals. Financially, it must have had revenues of at least $6 million directly related to portal-related product and service last year as well as an installed base of at least 100 enterprise customers.

Horizontal Portal Leaders

Making it into the Leaders’ Quadrant is even tougher. These vendors have reportedly delivered significant product innovation in pursuit of portal customers and have been successful in selling to new customers across industries. Here are Gartner’s Leaders for this year, along with commentary from Gartner.


IBM’s presence in the portal space is principally around its WebSphere offering, which is a core element of its digital experience strategy and its emerging user experience platform (UXP) offerings. Recent improvements include a script portlet that aims to improve interoperability with other systems, along with a Digital Data Connector that enables the use of open APIs in the portal.

Learning Opportunities

  • Strengths: IBM’s shift to a wider digital experience strategy on the back of WebSphere, which is highly reliable, scalable, secure and cleanly architected. IBM customers claim they deploy it for projects that require complex integration with other systems, including content applications and multisite or multichannel technologies.
  • Weaknesses: WebSphere can be complex and expensive to deploy, with some users that require only simple portals complaining about the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). IBM's broader Digital Experience strategy requires a substantial commitment in money and time, while others associate it with traditional portals and not the new generation of agile products.


According to Gartner, Liferay has been the fastest growing Java-based portal company of the past few years among enterprises using the Liferay Portal Enterprise Edition, principally on a subscription basis. This has been happening as other Java-based portals have stagnated. Currently in version 6.2, it has nearly 1,700 customers for the Enterprise Edition.

  • Strengths: The Liferay Portal has succeeded where other more complex and costal portals have failed. The open-source option also means considerably reduced costs, as well as a substantially faster, agile development pace than its competitors. On top of this it has managed to maintain adequate support for customers even as its customer base grows.
  • Weaknesses: Despite the recent and rapid growth, it remains a small company that is competing with the largest vendors in the enterprise software market. Its open source ethos is also posing problems for some vendors, while other users cite difficulties finding adequate skills and professional services to support their efforts.


What can be said about SharePoint that we haven’t already said? Available on-premises and online, Microsoft is currently in the process of encouraging customers to move online forenterprise document and content management, search, collaboration, social networking and workflow, and business intelligence needs.

  • Strengths: Probably the best-known portal brand on the market at the moment, its popularity has given rise to the widest ecosystems of partners, system integrators, third-party software vendors and communities offering support.SharePoint's recent developments align well with many organizations' aspirations for their B2E portals and intranets.
  • Weaknesses: While SharePoint’s expansion with Office 365, generally speaking, makes it more accessible, Gartner also points out that it could limit its development capacity. New product developments may compel customers to pursue a Microsoft-only strategy, which could compromise their negotiating ability. There are also question marks over the future of the on-premises versions that could hold back development.


Oracle WebCenter Portal has the ability to aggregate, present and contextualize a substantial range of content and information applications, including Oracle Cloud Applications, third-party systems and other content.

  • Strengths: Oracle has retained experienced leadership, development talent and knowledge derived from its acquisitions of portal and adjacent technologies, including from those from BEA, Sun, Siebel and ATG. It is very strong in supporting many verticals with solutions for financial, telecommunications, insurance and retail. Gartner noted that it is one of a few vendors with the product breadth and technical means, experienceto realize the vision of a portal as a versatile composite framework for contextualizing information, applications and business processes
  • Weaknesses: Unforeseen costs and complexities have keep it from achieving a100 percent satisfaction record, with its acquisition strategy leaving some customers with products that have changed direction. Despite the attraction of an integrated WebCenter suite, customers are concerned about a lack of ready integration with WebCenter's primary products.


SAP’s portal strategy as it relates to the company’s overall user experience (UX) strategy is going through a transformation with SAP Enterprise Portal, now in its seventh major version. However, according to Gartner, SAP's UX initiative has given birth to new, alternative means of providing contextual access to information, including SAP Hana Cloud Portal and SAP Fiori Launchpad.

  • Strengths: SAP rates very highly for innovation, especially in its investment in UX principals, practices and technologies. SAPs work to institutionalize design will help address long standing problems with SAP's usability and flexibility. According to Gartner, SAPs vertical strategy puts it in a favorable position to understand diverse portal rudiments.
  • Weaknesses:The split between Enterprise Portal and the newer Fiori Launchpad and SAP Hana Cloud Portal is confusing customers and hampering SAP's portal strategy. Most existing customers still recognize Enterprise Portal as the only SAP portal offering. Many customers also claim it is difficult to customize it. While SAP's portal innovation has focused largely on UX innovation across channels, more effort must be devoted toward context-aware computing.

We'll look at more from this MQ soon. In the meantime, you can download the full report at no charge from Backbase (registration required).

Title image by tunaboat  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.