Introductory Portal Strategy Questions

December 4, 2007 at 1:26 pm | Posted in portals | 1 Comment

I was recently pulled in as an advisor to a portal strategy consulting project and came up with a quick five-minute questionnaire to get a feel for the situation before our first meeting.  I thought it would be helpful to post these questions up as anyone being thrown into a portal strategy project should have these answers lined up before the initial meeting or get to them in the first five minutes. 

There are tons of question one could ask of course, but in my experience these are the ones that result in the most useful answers most often.  So if I only have five minutes to do a kind of end-user portal request for information (RFI), this is what I would ask.  Once I have the answers to these questions I can engage in a useful conversation about any number of portal strategy dimensions (product selection, infrastructure impact assessment, portal timing and roadmap, portal requirements gathering, portal pricing, portal consolidation and rationalization, portal business justification, etc.).

For information gathering about a portal strategy project I want to know:


  • What do you mean by portal? To Burton Group, portal products are website factories that aggregate a wide variety of content to deliver dynamic, contextual websites. They provide their users (website builders) with a common set of back-end integration and front-end contextual, dynamic displays that can be used to quickly create websites on a similar foundation. All the websites will share the same infrastructure integration, look and feel, development tools, and management UIs. (from the CCS document “Communication and Collaboration in Portals: Half the Battle”)


  • What is the scope of the portal in question (e.g., just intranet, just a dealer extranet, just as a front end for Oracle Applications, intranet for Division X, intranet for the whole company except our subsidiary ABC which was just acquired) and where does it fit into the other portals the company has?
  • What is driving you to revisit your strategy at this time? Pain points? New initiatives that need to be supported?
  • How much funding have you been given to support the new strategy? Or is the current project being undertaken to determine the funding required?
  • Are there specific metrics that you are aiming to improve? Have they been benchmarked before starting on this project?
  • What products are currently in use today (describe what each is being used for and number of users) and which are being evaluated for the future?
  • What is the timeframe for the portal project (or is determining the timeframe part of this project)?
  • Is this project dependant on any other projects underway or being planned? Do other projects underway or being planned depend on this project?
  • Is there a need to build Web 2.0-type end-user content creation and feedback loops into the portal?


  • How are the portal products you’re currently using working? Are there problems?
  • Portals pre-integrate with a collection of infrastructure services that are surfaced through the portal UI.  These services include security/identity (authentication and authorization via single sign-on and directory), content management (document management and web content management at a minimum), search, business process management and workflow, and application server and development environment (J2EE server or .NET). What do you currently use for these infrastructure services and are they expected to change? 
  • What is the political context that drives usage of the portal products (particularly with regard to overlapping capabilities of multiple incumbent products) and may affect attempts to change the mix? Are there certain products that must automatically be on the shortlist or are not allowed on the shortlist?
  • What is the mix of development skills (Java, .NET) available for the portal effort?
  • Of the many features that portals can provide or integrate (e.g., collaborative workspaces, discussion groups, document libraries, workflow, access to enterprise applications, search, document management, end user web content creation), which are being used? Which are needed for the future?
  • Personalization and context are a foundation of portals. What are the main categories of roles that the portal addresses? Will need to address? How is personalization utilized?
  • Which enterprise applications will need to be surfaced through the portal?
  • Are mobile or offline capabilities important for your user population?
  • Where do you stand with service-oriented architecture?  Composite application development methods?

1 Comment »

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  1. I would recommend you to look at following comments as a part of your portal strategy project

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