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Business Requirements

As with any other e-business system implementation, for an e-portal implementation to be a success, you must consider the organizational and e-business strategy, goals, and objectives that the e-portal will support or help to achieve. It's important to identify who the key stakeholders of the organization are—employees, customers, business partners (suppliers, distributors, warehouse managers), shareholders, and so on—and what the organization hopes to achieve by providing them with an e-portal:

  • Does the business want to reduce the cost of sending/receiving invoices, orders, and so forth to its suppliers/customers by using XML rather than EDI or paper/fax?

  • Does the business want to make electronic transactions more accessible to its smaller suppliers using XML, as that's so much cheaper for them to use than EDI? If so, it's worth exploring whether true collaboration on business processes is also required—or advisable.

  • Does the business primarily want to make its employees more effective by providing them with more relevant, up-to-date, and timely information at their fingertips? If so, does such information already exist within the organization—simply needing to be brought together into an e-portal? Or is it necessary to commission new data feeds from external suppliers? Or to provide data in new formats?

  • What do the different classes of users need/expect from the portal in order to carry out their roles effectively and efficiently?

  • Are the different classes of users in different geographical locations, and does each geographical location have a mix of all user classes? How many of each user class? How many at each location? Is there a "business owner" at each location who can make decisions about the e-portal's implementation at that location? There should also be an overall business owner who makes decisions that apply to all the e-portals—a "portal czar" who has the full power and authority of the board behind him or her to make e-portal implementation a success.

  • Does each geographical location expect its own e-portal, or is the intention to have one main e-portal accessed by all?

It's important to capture all the requirements of the e-portal. Business requirements of e-portals typically include the items detailed in Table 1.

Table 1 Typical Business Requirements of E-Portals

Category

Requirement

User Management

  • Registering new users

  • Building profile information on existing users

  • Access controls via groups/roles

Personalization

  • Capability for users to change colors/fonts/layout

  • Capability for users to change content selections

Marketing Features

  • Marketing/targeted marketing features such as banners, special offers, and pop ups

  • Features that encourage stickiness (return visits by users), such as setting the portal as the default site in the browser, shortcuts/speedlinks to the portal from the browser, and regularly updated information feeds

  • Rating facilities (supplier scorecards, voting/polling systems, etc.) to encourage regular participation in the site

  • Branding via graphics/look-and-feel of the site

Collaboration Features

  • Email groups

  • Chat rooms

  • Discussion groups

  • Shared processes, workflows, and document flows

Information Management

  • Content-management features that allow users to upload content but ensure that content is authorized (where necessary) before it appears onsite, and is archived, version controlled, and/or backed up regularly

  • Enterprise applications integration (EAI): integrating data and transactions from different parts of an organization or across organizations, typically using XML, WebEDI, or database middleware

Internationalization, localization

  • Facilities allowing content translation

  • Portal support of different character sets

  • Portal support of different date formats and time zones

Security

  • Encryption of key data as required (such as encryption of sensitive data held within the LDAP or database, or data passed between the browser and the web server via SSL)

  • Access control, restricting access to data and documents to those authorized to view them

  • Cross-authentication or single-sign-on mechanisms to prevent users from having to log on multiple times to access many sites/data sources

Other Requirements

  • Browser compatibility, PC configurations, screen resolutions to be supported

  • Search technologies

  • Newsfeeds functionality

  • Access to web services

  • Mobile/wireless computing

  • Openness (ability to integrate with many platforms and data sources)


It's essential to fully understand the requirements at this stage. Work through them with the client and users. Prioritize the requirements and gain consensus on which requirements are needed when, and by which user classes. Get the client to agree on which content gives the most added value.

The flip side is to determine which possible issues could reduce the effectiveness of the e-portal and its content, and put measures in place to reduce the impact of such issues. For example, make it clear that the more up-to-date and timely the data, the more likely that users will return to the portal to look for newer information. If strong content-management procedures are implemented that mandate a number of levels of authorization before new content enters the site, it could delay the introduction of new information to the site and thus compromise this potential benefit.

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