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Using WebSphere Portal for Your Intranet Framework

Using WebSphere Portal for Your Intranet Framework

In the past, corporate intranets were built from the ground up with various tools and technologies. Some companies hoped to establish a solution that would not only address a current problem but be flexible enough to handle future expansion. Unfortunately, building a flexible infrastructure for your own intranet while addressing the business needs of users is difficult to do. Fortunately, IBM has developed the WebSphere Portal product, which offers a framework that allows you to focus on content and business issues rather than structural and navigational issues. Companies can leverage this established, but flexible, portal framework for administration, searching, content management, and application integration.

So why use a portal? Portals unify a wide range of information, projecting a comprehensive view for your users, thereby acting as a single entry point for all information. This allows users to do their jobs more effectively, increases productivity, and improves timely access to data. Homegrown intranets typically patch together various pieces of functionality over time; a portal framework will allow for a consistent look and feel to various applications within the environment, along with a unified security model.

Portals should be built to make users' lives easier. Successful portal solutions will ensure that the end users have bought into the value of a portal and use it throughout their day. End users tend to focus on the importance of content and streamlined access over qualities such as style, look, and feel. Including user input in the introduction and piloting of a portal, and focusing on the following best practices will aid in acceptance of the new technology:

  • Leverage a variety of search technologies within your portal to ensure easy access to data.
  • Implement a suite of personalization services to help your organization get information to the right people at the right time.
  • Leverage "single sign-on" technologies to simplify the authentication process for various resources within the environment.
  • Integrate your internal and external applications; a portal framework should allow for straightforward integration of these assets in a manageable fashion.

    IBM's WebSphere Portal, in conjunction with various Lotus collaborative applications, offers companies a fully functioning portal framework that incorporates best practices for usability, integration, enhanced collaborative functionality, and administration. WebSphere Portal incorporates a simplified look and feel by leveraging the use of places, pages, and portlets throughout the framework. Places represent the higher navigational elements of the portal, while pages represent the container for portlets containing value-added business data that users ultimately access. This consistent navigational strategy allows streamlined access to various types of data. There are numerous portlets that IBM offers (newsfeed, CRM, SFA, etc.) that can be downloaded easily and incorporated into a portal.

    WebSphere Portal is based on J2EE standards, allowing easy integration of other J2EE and Web-based applications into the framework. Applications can integrate into the portal environment without modification. However, for those applications that need integration services, there are a variety of tools available - provided by IBM or purchased from other vendors - to take applications and "portletize" them to ensure functionality within the portal framework. Incorporation of Web services and LDAP-compliant applications can also be done within the portal framework.

    The collaborative elements that Lotus offers are tightly integrated into the overall WebSphere Portal solution. Lotus Sametime, QuickPlace, Discovery Server, Dom.Doc, and Extended Search are ideal elements that can add significant value to your WebSphere Portal solution. This will allow you to add contextual collaboration and Sametime-enabled elements into your portal via the Lotus suite, leading to increased ease of access to data and human resources that drive ROI for your portal investment. The ability to incorporate these elements into your portal - along with the single sign-on, enhanced search, and personalization capabilities that are inherent in the product - is a significant reason to consider WebSphere Portal. While streamlining the user experience, IBM has also incorporated a straightforward common interface to the underlying administrative functions of WebSphere Portal. Administrators log in to WebSphere Portal with specific administrative rights granted through a role-based security model, and are presented with the tools necessary to maintain the environment.

    My personal preference is to stay away from proprietary portal solutions; a company's best bet is to focus on a framework that leverages standards. IBM's J2EE-based WebSphere Portal incorporates best practices into its framework and integrates with other Web-based and J2EE applications, along with Lotus' best-of-breed application suite, ensuring a high value proposition for your portal investment.

  • More Stories By Roger Berger

    Roger Berger is a director and cofounder of Rave Software Solutions, a division of Computer Generated Solutions (CGS), Inc. Roger has been instrumental in defining and executing CGS's strategies around its portal, collaboration, messaging, and wireless offerings. Along with hosting the IBM WebSphere Innovation Center in New York City and its Virtual IBM WebSphere Innovation Center, CGS delivers a broad range of solutions in the e-business, application development, learning, and help desk space.

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