Power to the Portal

Enterprise portal software provider Plumtree is putting a spotlight on employee services. Today the company announced a new portal solution, and revealed new enterprise-class "Gadget Web service" suites developed with PeopleSoft and SAP. The company also detailed customer wins, and announced that three employee relationship management (ERM) vendors are integrating to its platform product to jump start implementations. The new Plumtree Portal Solution for Employee Services is a "bundled online resource center for all the content, services and systems that an organization seeks to offer its employees, retirees and their spouses," says the company. A February survey conducted by Plumtree indicated that 80 percent of customers wanted or were building some kind of HR community. "We've seen what some of our customers are doing and it's clear they could use a little bit of a jump start," says Laura Nusbaum, group manager of corporate communications at Plumtree. "So why ask them to reinvent the wheel for every customer wanting a HR portal experience?" Plumtree's bundle consists of its basic portal platform along with human resource (HR) "gadget" suites developed by PeopleSoft and SAP. Gadget Web services are Plumtree's branding for components, (or business objects), that integrate selected information from existing applications and websites into the enterprise portal. Such components might gather inventory data from an ERP system, or call on a variety of other user-relevant information, like documents or email, to present in a personalized workspace. Community spaces can also be created for information sharing. Plumtree's new Gadget Suite for Employee Services addresses a series of common HR business processes, though Nusbaum says these go beyond common HR transactions. A good example might be a time off request, a gadget containing a simple workflow. If an employee requests two days off next week, a workflow sends a note to the manager, which, when approved, sets off another workflow which notifies HR and keeps time-off hours updated in payroll systems. Plumtree is building 19 such gadgets in its suite; the SAP and PeopleSoft suites add 17 and 24 of the most popular HR functionalities respectively. Plumtree also announced that an employee relationship management (ERM) vendor, Extensity, and online media players Placeware and Screaming Media are integrating with its portal platform, which will hopefully give a lift to portal sponsors in the user community. ERM partner Extensity, for example, is developing gadgets that will integrate financial ERM applications into Plumtree's portal. These include expense reporting; travel planning; procurement; timesheets; and payment requests. This will provide user self service, and allow managers to review, manage and improve business processes in the portal. (For an overview of ERM and a customer's use of Extensity, see "Is ERM a Contender?") Plumtree's take is that the typical portal aggregates information from as many as 20 systems, and that this is practical only when the components integrating them operate on separate computers as platform-independent Web services, which are then assembled in parallel within the portal. Plumtree also announced new customers Hy-Vee, Administaff, and an 8,000-seat deal with MTV Networks. Though Plumtree is not currently holding its own event, the releases were tied to DCI and PeopleSoft conferences underway.
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