How are the customers of major portal vendors faring?
Editor's Note: This article is a summary of the Nucleus Research Report "ROI Comparison Report: Portals."
Many companies have looked to portals to leverage existing applications and data assets. The right portal strategy for any organization depends on three key factors:
Existing applications and data sources
The scale of benefits
The overall solution cost
Nucleus looked at three vendors with portal offerings that reflect their technology strengths as well as their view of the market. Standalone portal vendor Plumtree provides integration tools and services such as collaboration, content management, and search, positioning itself as a central interface for accessing multiple data sources and applications. Application server vendor IBM provides a portal framework for developers and partners to build scalable applications supported by the underlying server technology. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution vendor SAP provides a portal interface that integrates and streamlines access to data within its own applications, with some additional integration and collaboration functionality.
To help clients understand the cost and benefit drivers associated with each technology strategy, the ROI challenges of the strategies, and the way to choose the best portal strategy, Nucleus analysts contacted customers of Plumtree Enterprise Portal, IBM WebSphere Portal, and mySAP portal solutions about their experiences. This analysis is a comparison of the ROI factors of the three approaches. The vendors were notified of the analysis and invited to provide the names of customers for the sample. All these customers were contacted, and all who agreed to participate were included in the report.
Nucleus interviewed companies about various aspects of their deployments that would impact ROI, including the following:
Why and when did you select the portal?
What were your business goals?
How long did your portal deployment take?
Did you stay within your deployment budget?
What are your most significant returns and benefits from your portal?
How much did you spend on software, hardware, consulting, training, and personnel?
What were the key deployment challenges?
Do you think the costs of your deployment have been outweighed by the returns?
Of the 51 Plumtree customers Nucleus identified and contacted, 20 agreed to participate in interviews. Eighty-five percent of Plumtree customers interviewed had achieved a positive ROI from their portal deployment. Sixty percent of deployments were completed on schedule; 71 percent were completed on budget.
Of the 82 IBM WebSphere customers Nucleus identified and contacted, five were still using the portal and agreed to participate in interviews. Eighty percent of IBM customers interviewed had achieved a positive ROI from their portal deployment. Twenty percent of deployments were completed on schedule; 60 percent were completed on budget.
Of the 96 SAP customers Nucleus identified and contacted, 12 were using the mySAP Enterprise Portal or mySAP Workplace Portal and agreed to participate in interviews. Forty-two percent of SAP customers interviewed had achieved a positive ROI from their portal deployment. Fifty percent of deployments were completed on schedule; 67 percent were completed on budget.
Existing Applications and Data Sources
The goal of a portal is to create one access point at which users can find data, information, and tools to meet their needs. Because the cost, time, and effort to integrate information sources and applications as well as the benefits from providing users with access to them are key factors driving the ROI from a portal investment, existing applications and data sources can be key decision drivers for a particular portal strategy.
For many SAP customers, the ability to provide integrated access to SAP solutions was a key decision driver in investing in the SAP portal. A number of IBM customers cited an existing investment in WebSphere Application Server or other IBM technologies as a driver for investing in the WebSphere portal. Those with a J2EE application strategy and existing developer skills also found a positive ROI strategy from the WebSphere portal. Many companies looked to Plumtree because they recognized that their IT environment required a solution that could integrate data and services from various sources.
Existing applications were also factors for deciding against or delaying a portal decision.
The Scale of Benefits
To achieve a positive return on investment, companies must manage project costs while ensuring that expected benefits deliver impact to the bottom line. Nucleus found companies achieving benefits from a portal in a number of areas, including the following:
Increased employee productivity and reduced head count. Time saved by employees can result in increased employee productivity and/or the ability to reduce the number of employees devoted to a specific job or task.
Cost avoidance. Customers were able to reduce travel costs, compliance reporting costs, and the cost of fraud.
Reduced customer support costs. Many portal customers reduced customer support costs either by providing employees with information to support customers or by opening the portal to the customers themselves for self-service.
Increased revenues. Increases came from a combination of sources, including the ability to provide customers with customized service, integrate partners into product development to deliver new products faster, and win new contracts based on the portal functionality and image.
Reduced IT costs. Many companies leveraged the portal to reduce overall IT development and support costs, either by moving from a homegrown portal or intranet to a more automated one or by rapidly delivering users access to new applications via the portal without adding IT costs.
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