A Portal Within
In an increasingly volatile marketplace, business success is rooted in the ability of an organization to develop a corporate instinct for survival. Prospering in the new economy depends not just on how companies manage their internal information but also on how quickly they remove the barriers to opening their enterprise to customers, suppliers, partners and mobile employees and how they reconfigure these value chain relationships to support the e-business environment.
First-generation portals addressed the internal part of the problem--providing a customized view of corporate information--but did not dig deep into core business processes. Most products took a cookie-cutter approach to portal creation that didn't take into account the need for a supply web.
KnowledgeTrack of Pleasanton, Calif., is addressing this issue with its portal technology. Knowledge Center offers integrated business-to-business (B2B) functions and can scale from dot-coms to large enterprises. "Our technology was designed to be built into the enterprise architecture instead of sitting on top the way most intranet portals do," says Jack Porter, KnowledgeTrack CEO. "We've built in a transaction engine that enables companies to build communities within departmental structures that foster the business-to-partners and business-to-consumer economies."
Behind a user's personal view of information are multiple user communities where documents are organized by content. In addition, users can conduct online presentations and share applications via standard community features such as calendars, discussion groups, chat rooms and shared meeting spaces. Knowledge Center enables communities for large project management, allowing information to be shared among all of the extended enterprise value chains.
Under the hood
Knowledge Center doesn't look much different than a first-generation portal, but its underlying technology is different. Instead of relying on script-based technologies like Active Server Pages, Knowledge Center was built in Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) and runs on the Sun-Netscape Alliance's iPlanet Application Server. Additional ports are coming for iPortal Application Server from Iona Technologies and other enterprise platforms.
According to Hadley Reynolds, director of research at the Delphi Group in Boston, dependence on the Windows NT platform--common to many first-generation portals-can be a liability in the B2B market. "Being able to run on industry standard platforms is a key requirement, but it's not safe to assume that Microsoft is the only platform when it comes to portals," he says. A recent Delphi Group survey of 300 organizations revealed that more than 50 percent intend to implement a portal in a Unix or cross-platform environment.
Knowledge Center also employs WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) technology acquired in KnowledgeTrack's acquisition of Axiom. WAP enables corporate information to be extended to handheld devices and smart phones equipped with a WAP browser. Tomorrow's portals must be able to deliver the same information to knowledge workers regardless of whether they are in the office, telecommuting or connecting via a mobile device.
"Anyone who is mobile now is creating islands of information. Mobility tomorrow is going to be an integrated experience," says Reynolds. "The ability to meld e-mail and phone mail into the portal infrastructure is going to be a productivity win and a convenience win for anyone who now has to struggle with two or three different ways to handle these technologies."