Software sales are harder to come by in today's economic climate, so some companies are looking to expand their product lines into new markets. One such company is Compuware Corp., which is adding enterprise portal software to its line of application development, performance, and management tools.
The company next week plans to unveil OptimalView, an outgrowth of its Uniface development suite. The new product provides companies with a portal framework for giving employees and customers Web-based access to data and services.
"Over the last three or four years, almost all [Uniface customers] have developed some form of a Web front end, which today we categorize as portals," says Dirk Gorter, director of product management for Compuware. "So instead of continuing to build a Web front end for any particular application, it's much easier to use a portal framework and from there start to tie in existing applications or data."
Detroit Medical Center was already using Compuware's suite of application-management products, called EcoSystems, when it licensed OptimalView for Windows NT. The hospital started deploying the software last month and plans to launch staff and patient portals in the summer. The staff portal will give employees access to human-resources benefits, while patients will be able to get information on billing and hospital services and make appointments.
Don Ragan, Detroit Medical Center's CIO, says the hospital already offers some patient services through its Web site, but "we're hoping the portal will make it a bit more user-friendly and really be the place people come as their health connection, if they're a DMC-affiliated patient."
Compuware provides "plugs" to draw data from enterprise resource planning and legacy systems, Ragan says. If pre-built plugs are unavailable, such as for PeopleSoft Inc. applications, Compuware will help its customers build them. Plugs "are an open interface expecting to receive information from an application and to reformat it and present it on the Web," Ragan says. However, if any intermediate computing is needed, such as tallying an employee's vacation days, then a developer would have to write the routine.
OptimalView draws data from ERP legacy systems as needed, which means a separate content-management system would be needed for companies with large amounts of data, such as a product catalog for a retail chain. Out of the box, OptimalView works best for employee or customer portals.
"We're using it for a physician, staff, patient portal, and those are a relatively limited number of people," Ragan says.
OptimalView also comes with a directory for storing some content and for allowing users to personalize their portals. The product ships with a Web server, but can leverage existing third-party software, such as IBM's WebSphere or BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic, for serving up Web pages.
OptimalView sells for $25,000 per server on Windows NT, and $50,000 per server on Unix.