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Profit Optimization


Private Portals

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.

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