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Gateway to the Enterprise

Gateway to the Enterprise

By extending business processes across the enterprise, intranet-based portals create efficiencies that are unobtainable in other connected environments; but organisations must be prepared to walk the talk if they want to deliver optimally functional corporate portals.

In the business world it is undoubtedly the enterprise information portal that is being viewed by many as the lowest hanging fruit. A survey of 157 large Australian companies earlier this year suggests at least one-third of Australian organisations with more than 1000 employees will complete an enterprise portal project this year, with almost three in four looking to connect with employees well before customers and other businesses. Portal development company Corechange surveyed companies in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra to find what the company's Asia-Pacific business development manager, Gari Johnson, describes as an "extraordinarily high level of activity" in portal development work among Australian organisations.

The survey found that more than 70 per cent support business-to-employee (B2E) functions compared to 54 per cent supporting business-to-business (B2B) operations while around 33 per cent support both. A tiny 9 per cent of the emerging portals were aimed at the business-to-consumer space (B2C). Asked to nominate what they saw as the major benefit, corporate portal builders put "single sign-on" (the ability to access all information systems with only one log-on) top of the list.

That single sign-on is certainly proving a boon at Ford Motor Company, where My.Ford.com, a Plumtree-powered portal, services about 200,000 employees in almost one thousand facilities and manufacturing plants worldwide. Ford boasts that it is the world's largest corporate internal computer portal, and claims employees now share a single desktop for content and services, from the office to the assembly line.

With My.Ford.com providing unconstrained online access to Ford's corporate intranet for HR, collaboration and learning services, it's proving a highly flexible tool, easily adapted and tailored to suit local conditions, says Ford Australia general manager e-business David Katic. For instance, Ford Australia employees now have access to global information as well as to significant information unique to Australia from the single My.Ford.com portal, yet can readily tailor that portal to suit their personal needs. So an engineer can construct a home page with links to engineering-related modules, while marketing specialists can create marketing-related links.

"My.Ford.com was launched [by the US] a few months ago and we're integrating our stuff into that, so now every employee has a portal that they can then modify to whatever suits their business," Katic says. "I think the Internet is an extraordinary powerful tool for portals. It is absolutely sensational at portals and we're finding it a very, very powerful tool."

"We're not launching all of these portals just because it's nice to do something in e-business. We're launching them because they're saving us money, we're launching them because they save our employees time," Katic says.

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