By: Omar Abdulhafiz
In this article series, we will be discussing the various applications of web portals and how they can enhance the way we do business. But first, let us briefly talk about what a web portal is.
So, what is a web portal?
In simple terms, it is a web-based platform designed for certain people (such as employees, customers, vendors, etc) with a single, easy-to-use access point to information.
A web portal can also be used to enhance communication among different teams/parties and improve overall business interaction. And with this definition, let us take a brief look at how a web portal can serve the enterprise sector.
Web portals for the Enterprise
Generally speaking, when we talk about the Enterprise sector, we can refer to many different things. For example, things like Human Resources, Supply Chain, Marketing, areas that are common to most businesses all fall under the wide umbrella of the Enterprise.
And in the case of web portals in the Enterprise sector, we generally talk about two main types: the Intranet portals and the Extranet portals. Let us discuss each one in some detail.
What is an intranet portal?
Judging by its name, an intranet is a type of portal that serves a certain set of purposes strictly within an organization. In other words, it works and lives exclusively inside an intranet. That said, an intranet cannot, and should not, be accessed from any other party outside of the organization in which it is established. An intranet portal’s main purpose is to facilitate internal communication within a certain organization. And internal communication can take many forms.
For example, an employee may wish to apply for a vacation. In this case, s/he can easily access their employee portal and use it to complete this process with ease. This type of communication typically involves that employee’s direct manager as well as the Human Resources department.
Personalized information on intranets may include:
- A personalized profile displaying all their personal information
- Employee training material such as video tutorials, etc.
- Company policies and guidelines
- Scheduled tasks, meetings, events, etc.
Another scenario would be that the employee needs to communicate with a different department, and they can easily do that through the intranet portal as well. For example, the intranet portal may enable the employee in one department to file some form of ‘ticket’ addressed to the head of some other department requesting a certain task, and so on.
What is an extranet portal?
Opposite to an intranet, an extranet is a type of network that is accessible by third-party partners, giving them exclusive privileges. Therefore, an extranet portal works typically inside of an extranet. It is designed to serve certain groups of people who are outside the organization and would like to interact with it to perform certain tasks or access certain information. And these tasks or information can vary depending on the organization and people or external party that this portal is meant for. But in general, they can be summaries in three main categories: business partners, vendors, and customers.
Business partnerships are basically a type of relationship between two companies where the two entities establish some form of alliance between them. That said, in many cases, business partners even tend to commit not to ally with other third parties. And to facilitate their partnership, business partners agree to share certain information among one another that are vital for the success of their partnership. And this is where the web portal can come in handy. In this case, we are talking about the partner portal.
And since a partner portal is typically password-protected, it enables you to share proprietary data with your partners. Such data may include, marketing resources, sales information training materials, and technical support to mention a few.
Vendors play a vital role in any business since they are responsible for providing it with the resources it needs. A factory, for example, depends on its vendors for obtaining the raw materials that go into the manufacturing process, and so on. So, how can a portal make vendors’ work easier?
To mention one example, a vendor portal enables vendors to access up-to-date information regarding your inventory. This would allow them to know what resources and raw materials you are currently running low on, and can thus easily arrange an order to provide you with them.
Another important party that can greatly benefit from having a portal dedicated to their needs are your customers. A customer portal can make your customers’ lives much easier by putting everything they may be looking for in one place, served to them on a silver platter.
Some of the main things a customer portal would allow them to do are:
- View products: It can feature a fully-fledged product catalogue with in-detail information about all the items you have for sale.
- Compare prices: Your customers can easily look at all the prices, compare between them so they can choose what best fits their needs and budgets.
- Place orders: Upon deciding on what to buy, your customers can then place an order.
- Track order status: After making the order, a customer portal would then enable your customers to track the status of their order to its successful delivery to their doorstep.
As you can see, the web portal can in fact be a great asset to an organization by providing it with a smooth and unified platform of communication on both the internal and external levels. In the next article, we are going to take a look at what the web portal can do for the Education sector.