Corporate portals offer employees, vendors and partners a simple view of a company's complex information infrastructure by integrating document management systems, enterprise resource planning, business intelligence and other systems into a single resource. Despite differences in audience and intent, the model for most corporate portals has been Yahoo of Mountain View, Calif., whose site is viewed by an estimated 70 percent of Web users daily.
Now Yahoo itself is getting into the enterprise act. Corporate Yahoo, its first enterprise information portal (EIP), brings the company's strengths in categorization, content aggregation and personalization to the corporate world.
"Companies like the idea of putting information on Yahoo that they want employees to see," claims John Wilcutts, vice president and general manager for Corporate Yahoo. "Corporate Yahoo is fundamentally an aggregation point for a hodgepodge of Web sites that sit behind the intranet that people don't know how to get to."
However, aggregating information on an intranet is a complex task of integrating disparate legacy systems with external information into a seamless, Web-based view. Corporate portal developers such as InfoImage Inc., Plumtree Software and Viador Inc. have a head start on building EIPs for the global enterprises that Yahoo is targeting. Despite its late entry, though, Yahoo has advantages, chief among them its immense content resources. Yahoo has partnered with Tibco Software Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., to bolster its back-end connectivity. The two developed Yahoo's Portal Builder software, which uses Tibco middleware to integrate front- and back-office applications with the portal.
"Yahoo has always been a content provider," says Jawad Abbassi, senior analyst for Internet computing strategies with the Yankee Group in Boston. "[Now] the decision rests with the individual customer as to whether they will want to go to a vendor whose core business is as an independent software vendor [ISV] or to a content-provider-cum-ISV."
Yahoo's relative inexperience in systems integration is a weakness that competitors in this space are quick to point out. "They're a media-brand company, not a technology infrastructure company," says Glenn Kelman, vice president of product management and marketing for Plumtree in San Francisco.
Yahoo's Wilcutts concedes that the company's strength lies in the presentation layer rather than in integration. However, he insists that the partnership with Tibco will allow the company to deliver in the future.
Its strong brand and content expertise notwithstanding, Yahoo will still be but one player among many competing for the expanding corporate portal market, says Yankee Group's Abbassi.
Corporate Yahoo is clearly an attempt to dominate the corporate market in the same way that Yahoo dominates the consumer one. The offering makes sense for corporations that want to combine Yahoo's content with their own extensive document repositories, but corporate managers should be wary of Yahoo's attempt to extend its brand into the enterprise. Most corporations would prefer to brand their own content, and Yahoo's approach is far more intrusive than that of other portal providers, who see themselves purely as infrastructure suppliers.