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Taming Intranet Proliferation

A joint venture of Accenture and Microsoft is pushing a software/service combo as a way of turning multiple intranets into one portal.
Success breeds imitators, and in the case of intranets, things are getting crowded. More and more companies need a way to consolidate their intranet sites and present a universal interface to employees, clients, and business partners.

Enter Avanade Inc., which has introduced ACA.Portal, a software/service combination that uses Microsoft's Solution for Intranets to bundle a company's many intranets into a portal. Through ACA.Portal, Avanade consultants work alongside a client's IT department using Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server and other components of Microsoft Solution for Intranets, including SharePoint Team Services, Office XP, and SQL Server, to create a centralized data-management system. (Avanade is a joint venture of Microsoft and Accenture formed in March 2000.)

In addition to the ACA.Portal, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard have also developed services offerings around Microsoft Solution for Intranets.

There are a number of elements that factor into the cost of funneling intranet sites through a portal. Companies must consider the complexity of the portal's search functions, the number of back-end databases tied into the portal, the level of individual user customization, the number of user locations accessing the intranet, and the number of languages the site will support. Adam Warby, an Avanade general manager, says $100,000 is a good starting point for developing a proof of concept for a portal using ACA.Portal, with intranet development and integration projects running anywhere between $250,000 and $1 million.

Italcementi Group, a multinational maker of cement and building materials, is a pilot user of ACA.Portal. In January, Italcementi began working with Avanade to create an intranet portal that provides document management, search capabilities, and employee-collaboration apps. It also provides a central portal for accessing the company's different sites written in different languages for a number of nationalities.

After developing its own strategy for intranet integration, Italcementi hired Avanade to help implement the strategy, which includes a main intranet site in English that offers access to more specific sites in other languages, says Paolo Nusiner, the group leader of Italcementi's intranet project. One of Avanade's most appealing assets is its close relationship with Microsoft--in particular, its consultants' familiarity with SharePoint Portal Server, Nusiner says. The next major phase of the project will be to integrate intranet sites from Morocco, Turkey, and Thailand to the main portal early next year.

ACA.Portal is a part of the Avanade Connected Architecture, which also includes ACA.Mobile for the development of mobile applications. In late December, Avanade is expected to launch ACA.Net for Web services. Whereas ACA.Portal helps the clients rapidly build and integrate intranets, ACA.Mobile, which has been available for about six months, is an interface-development service for apps on mobile devices. ACA.Net is expected to provide a framework upon which developers can rapidly build XML-based Web services and apps.