Local market looks to enterprise portals

While the global enterprise information portal market is booming, local companies are only just warming to the idea. However, vendors are predicting significant growth in the near future.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  May 25, 2003

|~||~||~|The enterprise information portal (EIP) market has grown steadily in the past few years, despite the economic downturn. Meta Group estimates that 20% of enterprises currently have an EIP, while 85% of Global 2000 companies should have selected a portal platform by the year 2004. Research from Gartner Group backs this up and the analyst house estimates that new portal license revenues will grow from $709 million in 2001 to $2 billion in 2006.

The Middle East market, however, will account for only a small portion of the overall EIP market as local businesses remain reluctant to embrace the technology, which promises better knowledge management and project collaboration. Ayman Abouseif, marketing director for Oracle Middle East and Africa, says this reticence is, in part, due to the local belief that EIPs can be developed inhouse.

“Building your own portal does work, but it takes more time to develop and because you are building your application from scratch, you also have to keep a tab in terms of integrating it with all the other data sources within your organisation,” says Abouseif.

He cites the example of Qatar Petrochemical Company (QAPCO), which built its own portal three years ago as development tools and programmers were cheaper than a vendor solution and it could include all the functionality that it required.

“At that time, portal software was not as mature as it is today,” explains Abouseif. However, QAPCO later moved to a readymade portal from Oracle so that employees who were tied up in developing features for the portal could be better utilised to enhance content connectivity.

“The functionality is part of the product; so instead of trying to create security authentication between their portal and business applications that comes as a feature in our portal. QAPCO said they could free up their development time and use it to develop smarter reports for their managers and provide employees with better insight into their business,” explains Abouseif.

Expanded functionality has become the key business reason for implementing portal software. According to analysts at Delphi, nearly three-quarters of customers believe portals should be deployed with functions such as search, content management, collaboration and single sign on.

A similar survey conducted by portal vendor Plumtree shows that nearly 50% of its respondents indicated interest in purchasing content management, collaboration and single sign on. According to the report “interest levels would likely have been higher if many respondents had not already licensed these technologies.”

“Smart people look for single sign on,” says Abouseif. “Once an employee signs onto their portal in the morning, they can launch all their applications at one go,” he adds.

Most businesses also look out for business intelligence features. “Portal technology gives each employee a personalised view of its services with logical organisation and grouping of information that leads to increases in productivity,” explains Lara Kayali, marketing & media manager, Sybase Middle East. For instance, by using an EIP, a company’s management is able to quickly access an enterprise wide view of its day to day activities.

Several large enterprise businesses in the Middle East are gradually beginning to warm up to the idea of deploying portal software for integration and collaboration purposes. Microsoft, which is scheduled to launch its new Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server v2.0 in the Middle East by Q403, says it already has customers piloting the software.

“These should be ready to deploy once the final code is released,” says Mazen Shehadeh, product marketing manager, Microsoft South Gulf. ||**||

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