Enterprise Information Portals: An Enabling Platform for CRM and B2B

Since the November 1998 release of the groundbreaking Merrill Lynch report on enterprise information portals (EIP), the market for these tools has been subject to wild and fierce fanaticism. While the report forecast bumper EIP revenues of $14 billion by 2002, the findings were based on no primary market research.

In an effort to bring some sanity to the EIP market, and identify its current stage of development, Survey.com's BI/DW Research Program recently conducted an online survey of 1069 organizations and their plans for adopting EIPs. The results clearly indicate that the market is in an embryonic state, and has barely entered the early adopter stage.

Nevertheless, with the ubiquitous browser enabling easy access to enterprise information sources, both structured and unstructured, this research indicates that EIPs are a very important enabling technology for CRM and every variety (B2B, B2C and B2E) of e-commerce.

Survey Methodology and Demographics
Unlike other EIP surveys targeting subsets of the IT audience, this survey was designed to be random and is not biased by sampling. Survey results were collected online over eight weeks in April and May, 2000, and more than 70,000 email solicitations were sent to a wide range of IT managers. List sources included: Intelligent Enterprise Magazine, Survey.com internal IT panels, TechRepublic, and various IT email lists. Nearly 900 respondents failed to qualify as IT managers with purchasing influence and/or responsibility. The majority of the respondents are from North America, however, slightly more than one hundred were from Europe, Latin America and Asia.

The following table shows the breakout of respondents by company revenues.

Respondents by company revenues
28% $20 million or less
15% $20-$100 million
10% $100-$500 million
6% $500-$1 billion
6% $1-$3 billion
7% $3-$15 billion
1% $15-$25 billion
3.5% $25 billion or more
15% Declined to state revenue

Respondents by IT purchase involvement
22% Total purchasing authority
47% Recommend products for purchase
25% Create product specifications and requirements
6.4% Particpate on standards committee

Respondents by EIP deployment stage
59.6% Considering EIP deployment
17.9% No plans for an EIP
7.4% In evaluation phase
6.8% In pilot phase
8.3% EIP system deployed

The Bleeding Edge Of EIPs
Out of a total sample of more than 1,000 companies, only 83 have actually deployed an EIP. Thirty five percent indicated that they will complete deployment sometime in 2001 or later than 2001, and 21 percent did not know when they would complete deployment. Of those interested in deploying an EIP, 50 percent said they would target a department, business unit or division. Respondents indicated that deployment of an EIP for an office of 100 end users should take 11 weeks, and deployment of an EIP for a department of 1,000 users should take 21 weeks.

Nearly all respondents indicated that an EIP acts as a single point of access to internal and external information, and access to structured data was considered extremely important by the majority of respondents. Other functions, in order of perceived importance, were:

  • Control of user access to information
  • Search across all organizational information sources
  • Allowing users to publish and share information
  • Enterprise application integration.
  • Workflow business process support and collaboration

    Microsoft, IBM and Hummingbird have the most mind share at this time, while Microsoft, TopTier, Broadvision, IBM and SAP had the largest installed base.

    The primary business reasons for deploying an EIP, in order of importance, are to enable access to relevant information, save users time, increase user productivity, enable more efficient communication with employees and create or maintain a competitive advantage.

    Those respondents with an EIP installed said they were most satisfied with its ability to increase user productivity, enable access to relevant information, and provide a platform for more efficient communication among employees.

    The primary operating system planned for EIP deployments, by a wide margin, is Windows NT/2000, followed by Sun Solaris and HP-UX. This data may be slightly skewed because of the large number of small- to medium-sized organizations in the sample. Nonetheless 30 percent of the sample is comprised of organizations with 5,000 or more employees.

    Service vendors have great opportunity as many respondents indicated that they are willing to outsource a wide range of EIP components, including design, piloting, implementation, and deployment. The key EIP decision-makers and influencers are Web/Internet IT executive staff followed by network IT staff, architecture/standards staff and corporate management. Most respondents indicated that they expect their EIP to be a cost center, not a profit center, and that their EIP solutions would support B2B and B2E e-commerce.

    EIPs will be on nearly every desktop in the enterprise as most respondents indicated that executives, customers, line of business managers, operations personnel and sales staff (in that order) are the most important groups to have EIP access. This reinforces the key role that the EIP will play not only within the enterprise, but its strategic importance in B2B e-commerce.

    Application Integration Key to EIPs
    CRM, ERP, employee self-service, customer self service, marketing and supply chain management are the most important business applications. Respondents indicated that the EIP should support Microsoft, Oracle and IBM applications.

    Enterprise application integration, ease of use, customization, scalability and security are the most salient EIP product requirements. The majority of respondents (62 percent) indicated that the primary information to be accessed through a portal would be structured, and only 21 percent indicated that they would maintain commercial information in the EIP. Access to data marts and data-warehoused information (including canned reports), internal documents, email, ERP and financial information sources were the most important information sources that an EIP needs to support. Workflow was the most important collaboration technology, followed by user publication. Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Active Server Pages, Microsoft Active Directory and vendor-specific EIP development tools are the most important proprietary technologies.

    Although the importance of Microsoft technology is an ominous sign for many smaller EIP vendors like Plumtree and Viador, XML ranked significantly overall as the most important open-systems based technology followed by LDAP, SSL, and CORBA. From the security perspective, public key cryptography was the most important security technology.

    Competitive Lineup
    An EIP can be viewed as an enabling platform for information dissemination and collaboration. Organizational motivations for deploying EIPs are driven by a need to increase overall employee productivity by providing easy access to information and a platform for collaboration. There is nothing new about this and the decision to implement an EIP is a strategic one driven from the top down. The focal point of an EIP may indeed be the killer application of the 1990s, the browser; however, we feel that the email client and Microsoft's Exchange and IBM's Lotus will play a key role as collaborative platforms. This situation sets the stage for companies like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle to lead the EIP market because of organizational investment in their technologies, requirements to integrate them, and their ability to integrate disparate technologies and information systems.

    Organizational demands to leverage technology infrastructure such as Microsoft Windows 2000, Exchange, Active Server Pages and Active Directory put the company in a strong position in small- to medium-sized companies who have already implemented intranets based on Microsoft technology. Fortune 500 and 1000 organizations, however, require a much higher degree of technology integration and will be prime targets for IBM, Oracle and other nimble vendors such as Hummingbird, Viador, TopTier and Plumtree.

    Established vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle represent the majority of legacy application requirements. Although many organizations have indicated that they view the EIP as single point of access for all information, the majority of respondents strongly indicated that most information accessed would be from structured data sources. These requirements position this product area as a business intelligence portal (BIP, and legacy business intelligence vendors such as Brio, Business Objects and Cognos as potential early leaders in the market.

    In summary, the EIP market is up for grabs and most likely will consolidate and segment over the years ahead. If information is power, then the concept of EIP has the potential to deliver powerful capabilities in a customized, categorized and personalized fashion. The winners are the user who achieve the ultimate goal, increased productivity.

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