A private portal is a virtual space where companies manage B2B
relationships. Unlike a corporate (EIP) portal, a private portal
is target to support a particular kind of B2B relationship. The
targeting requires a good understanding of the relationship and
much richer relationship management and process management tools
than are found in typical EIP packages. The aim of the portal is
to simplify the work involved in a complex B2B relationship by making
the right information (documents or data from applications) quickly
available to exactly the people who need it. A successful private
portal can vastly increase the efficiency of the work done to maintain
the relationship and significantly increase the velocity of any
activity they undertake.
The paradigm private portal is at Johnson Controls (the automotive
seat supplier), where program management is done using a private
portal. Program management is automotive jargon for development
of a module for a model of car. The Johnson Controls private portal
allows customers and suppliers of Johnson Controls who are involved
in a particular program to track the progress of others, register
their own progress, trade documents, find the right contacts, etc.
This portal should the launch of the module, a process that now
takes 3-4 years.
There are two software companies that have made a successful business
out of one kind of private portal: Comergent and ClickCommerce.
Both companies do channel management, an area where private portal
technology gives considerable leverage. Many other tool companies,
such as Verity and, before the acquisition, Top Tier, would benefit
if the idea of private portals takes hold, spreading to other areas
besides channel management.
Private portals seem to be a good idea any time a company has
a relationship with other companies that involves a lot of messy
interaction-many people, frequent contact, considerable document
sharing, and the need to access somewhat confidential data. Private
portals have been announced or are in production in the areas of
product development (Johnson Controls), contract negotiation (GM),
channel management (many companies), insurance management. They
are needed, but have not really emerged in the areas of constituency
management (shareholder and public relations), quality management,
regulatory compliance (B2B), or mergers and acquisitions.
The benefits are substantial and measurable: companies expect
reductions in time-to-market, improved customer scorecards, lower
SG&A, and lower purchasing costs. The large ERP/CRM companies
should see the emergence of private portals as yet another challenge
to their claim on the corporate desktop, because the portal technology
they are working on is well behind what is required for a successful
private portal and will thus be superseded.
For other Short Takes, see our archive.