In the never-ending quest for better functionality and time and cost savings, portals are now being touted as the "next generation of the intranet".
Since the introduction of Web-based portals, many enterprises have been left wondering what exactly they are intended to accomplish.
Some have adopted the theory that portals will replace the corporate Web site, while others have subscribed to the notion that portals are a place to store data for internal and external use.
According to Chris Reckling, senior production manager, WebSphere portal solutions, IBM, portals will be used to "get control" of the many intranets within a company.
"The drivers for portals will be the IT manager who manages all the intranets and wants to get them under control. Also the user [will push for them] if they want for example a B2B portal."
While adoption of portals in Australia has been quite slow, Reckling said overseas they are taking off, mainly due to the desire for intranet consolidation.
"[When deploying a portal] about 60 to 70 per cent usually start off with B2E [functionality]. Once this piece is in, it is the driver for other applications and [also] enables IT to show ROI.
"Companies then extend the portal to outside the firewall to customers and partners."
Reckling believes the main benefits of moving from an intranet to a portal environment are cost savings, the ability to impose the same 'look and feel' throughout the company ensuring consistent user experience, and that portals can be easily spun off with different applications added.
With the portal market only three years old, Reckling believes it will reach maturity by 2003.
"We believe dynamic workplaces will be the next generation desktop for the company [where] everything will pass through the portal."
He said in the near term, players will be concentrating on industry-focused solutions and having the right portlets available for applications, thereby ensuring ease of integration.