Enterprise CMS portal solutions come in all shapes and sizes.
It can even be referred to by a different name - an extranet!
The type of portal, the number of users, the design, the functionality, the content – no two portals are the same.
They all, however, exist to bridge the communication and information gap between organisations and their stakeholders, in a secure and scalable way.
Effective portals provide a central resource hub for users to easily access via self-service functionality, when they want it, and where they want. This enables them to get their tasks done quickly and without needing to contact your team, freeing up your internal resources to focus on more high value tasks.
Given that they serve the same overarching purpose, there are several enterprise portal features and capabilities that can be found in the most successful enterprise portal implementations. Here are the top 15 features and capabilities you should know about, and the questions you need to ask yourself to get it right.
1. Homepage Features
The homepage is the most important page on your portal - it can be the difference between your end users exploring the rest of the portal or deciding not to log in to the portal you have spent valuable time and resources building.
- What functionality do end users need and want? For example, the homepage of a community portal, member portal, training portal or school portal will be vastly different as they serve different audiences who use the portal for different reasons.
- What features can you include?
- How flexible is it for your needs?
- How strong is the design? Does it reflect your corporate brand? Does it reflect your corporate evalues?
- Is there a good display for news and video?
- Is there a library of widgets you can choose from to add functionality?
- Should you add in a quick links menu if you have a lot of content to display.?
2. Ease of Information Access
Think: Less clutter, simple design.
- Can the important information be seen straight away or do users need to scroll down the page? Consider using accordion design to reduce information overload (users can click a button to hide/show content).
- How much actual content for each section e.g. news feed is shown, and does this need to be reduced?
- Do you need an additional right or left hand menu with links to important resources?
3. Content and Documents
Content is at the heart of your solution. Your portal needs features and capabilities to properly support and simplify the content management process.
- Is the interface intuitive for non-technical users?
- Can you restore previous versions of the page?
- Can you add a start date and expiry date to articles and documents?
- Can you notify users when a document is created, updated, needs to be reviewed or expires?
- Can you tag content and create widgets to display new published content automatically to specific pages?
Findability is critical for portals as its purpose is to provide information quickly and easily!
- How effective is the out-of-the-box search and does it allow you to make improvements such as adjusting weightings and adding best bets?
- Can you exclude specific folders and other content that shouldn't be found by certain end users?
- Can you refine search by categories and tags?
- Can you refine by multiple categories and tags at once?
- Can you integrate with existing search software? Some solutions also enable you to configure search for all content or only content in specific folders for added security.
5. Bulletins and News feeds
A bulletin or news feed can be the focal point of portal content. They can be used to aggregate various content.
- Can you create multiple bulletins and news feeds to aggregate news, blog posts, announcements, reviews, changes to products/services, useful how-to guides and other kinds of useful content?
- Are these bulleting and news feeds presented in an easy to read way?
- Can this be personalised according to departments, teams and locations.
Notices are also a great way to get important information to users such as new forms to fill out or payments to be made.
- Can you display notices?
- Is the notice displayed in an obvious way?
- Can you link notices to other pages or additional information, particularly in cases where the end user needs to action something?
- Can it be personalised to the specific user.
Acknowledgements enable you to request the user consent to, agree to or acknowledgement a message. You can request their consent to your new terms and conditions, to new compliance policies etc.
- Can you personalise the format of acknowledgements e.g. displayed as a a dropdown bar, a pop up message, an article etc.
- Can you display different messages to a specified audience e.g. end users in a specific location, department etc.? You can also access detailed reporting and tracking of acknowledgements such as users who have and haven't acknowledged articles.
8. Forms and Workflows
Forms and workflows for portals are incredibly powerful capabilities for simplifying and automating previously manual and time-consuming tasks. Online forms save countless hours in having to manually capture data, enter it into systems and follow up with the necessary people. As yourself:
- How easy is the form tool to use? Does it have a point and click form creator tool with the ability to drag and drop default and custom created fields into these forms.
- Does it allow staff to quickly create and publish forms without technical input?
- Does it offer structured authoring which creates articles based on form responses, using a pre-defined article template?
Adding a workflow component to forms allows users to design and implement complex approval processes.
- How sophisticated is the workflow? Does the workflow send forms onto different paths for different users to approve based on form answers, or the profile of the user who submitted the response?
- Can you receive emails when a new form comes through?
- How flexible is the workflow? Can you re-assign the approver to another person? Can you re-open a closed workflow?
9. Personalisation and Customisation
The portal experience and the content provided needs to be relevant to attract continual usage. Personalisation and customisation features will help. This will also reduce information overload.
- Can you target news and other relevant content to end users e.g. content personalisation to improve customer engagement based on their location or solution?
- Can the user define the elements of the homepage or choose which content they would like to see? It can be as simple as giving users the ability to move elements such as calendars, news widgets and frequently used forms around the homepage, so the most important information is shown first.
10. Collaboration and Social Features
Modern portals offer collaboration tools and social networking that improve communication and collaboration between end users, as well as with your organisation.
- What social tools can you access? The range of tools can include the ability to rate and comment on content, blogs and wikis, activity streams, polls, social profiles and the ability to follow other users.
- What functionality do these tools offer to improve user experience? Can you search through activity streams to find links or other information quickly? Can you set up access levels so only select users can see certain user-generated content?
- Can you set up private and public online/team workspaces focused on bringing together people based on a topic or location? This enables them to securely discuss and share information.
11. Integration with Existing Systems
As previously mentioned, a portal provides a gateway to other systems and processes, and it also involves cross- organisational departments, unifying the experience for all audiences that interact with your organisation.
A good portal needs to be able to talk to other systems like your CRM, information management system or learning management system (LMS). For example, sales data for a store or location.
- Does your portal come with built-in integrations to popular platforms like Microsoft Office 365, Active Directory, Salesforce etc.
- What does the built-in integrations look like? What information is pulled through into the portal? How is it displayed?
- Are you able to build directly on top of the platform, and add additional custom functionality and integrations as needed? This is where an API/SDK connector is imperative.
Good mobile portal support is essential given the increase in mobile and tablet usage.
- What is the user experience like on smartphones and tablets?
- Is the design responsive or adaptive?
- What does the portal look like on different screen sizes?
Portal success and continuous improvement requires a data-driven approach. Your portal should provide a dashboard that reports on user behaviour including engagement with content.
- Does it include elements such as the number of comments on blogs, most popular documents downloaded or other metrics that are important to you?
- Is it flexible enough to report on the page, microsite or site level over different periods of time?
- Does it work with your existing analytics package? Using this information improves the portal experience for your end users so it continually meets their needs and provides real value for them.
A portal must be easy to manage, with rules and policies that can be centrally applied and enforced.
- Is it easy to control permissions and access levels for user groups? What access levels are available?
- Can you easily track user activity including publishers? Is there an audit trail of changes made to sites and content?
- Do you have a granular view of your site’s users and their security permissions and access levels.
- Do you have a high level view of your site’s users and their security permissions and access levels e.g. specific security groups you have set up.
15. Single Sign-On (SSO)
With SSO web portals, users don’t have to log in separately to different systems. SSO connects authentication credentials via a network of standards and protocols including SAML and corporate directory services like Active Directory.
For example, by using SSO and Active Directory, you can automate the user process. This means when you add a new user in Active Directory and assign them to a group such as the HR department, an account for that user will automatically be created in your portal and they will be placed in the related group, ensuring they see the right content and have the right permissions and access level.
- Does your portal play nicely with the SSO solution you’ve chosen? Does the solution work with other systems your organisation is using?
- Who is responsible for managing SSO?
- What does the user experience look like when using this functionality?
- Can users change their passwords without contacting technical support?
- How secure is the SSO solution?
These top 15 capabilities and features are a great starting point to keep in mind when considering enhancing your existing solutions or implementing a new solution.
This is by no means an exhaustive list - Deciding on the right enterprise portal capabilities and features will depend on your business needs, specific objectives and audience.
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