Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers two questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to [email protected]
Question A: How should we decide when portal technology is an appropriate solution to a business problem?
Our advice: Portals work best for business problems that require large volumes of data to be customized and delivered to large numbers of customers. Some examples where portal technology is desirable include not only the obvious news services and channel sales, but transaction services, customized content delivery, self-help kiosks, and other types of processes that fit the high-volume and customized data profile.
Web-sales portals represent the most visible aspects of online sales. Amazon, eBay, and other well-known sites with millions of transactions a day are the retail leaders, but there are thousands of smaller Web storefronts. For smaller retail operations, there are many off-the-shelf turnkey options, but for anything more complex, plan on spending both money and resources to do it right. Don't forget the need for trusted and integrated security.
While the principal buzz in the business community is the spectacular success of companies such as Yahoo and Google, which are purely portals, Web portals can serve many business functions beyond just another sales channel -- content aggregation, application integration, and search services, to name a few.
Hundreds of companies have used portal technology to advance client relations, create supply-chain linkages, and profitably deliver content to their global customers. Many companies have turned to portals to manage employee-benefit packages. While portals can be expensive, complex, and difficult to maintain, when properly implemented they can effectively reach large numbers of customers and deliver highly customized content.
Content-delivery portals are proliferating as companies figure out how to delivery personalized content securely and profitably. Content-delivery services range from training videos to archival document and information services such as ProQuest and Hoovers. The technology behind these large, sophisticated content-delivery sites requires integrated databases, transaction processing, identity management, and network security, as well as high availability and fail-over capabilities to insure good customer experiences and repeat business.
When considering portal services for your company, look at the type of content that you're planning to deliver, and how the user will access it. If your business objectives require delivering highly customized data to a large customer base, then Web portals should be part of your IT planning.
-- Beth Cohen
Question B: What factors are important to consider in selecting a CRM vendor?
Our advice: As with any business-transforming project, it's essential to understand how the CRM solution will fit your business and IT environments.
What are your business needs and what type of CRM solution do you want to implement? Without a clear understanding of the end goals and objectives, the project will be set to fail.
First Things First
Some things to consider in planning the project include:
To Get Started
After you've settled on your basic approach, you then need to analyze the organizational environmental factors you're operating in. Some questions that should be addressed include:
Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT-delivery organizations from user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future. Her specific expertise includes building scaleable, robust IT architectures, operating systems, desktop support, process improvement, program management, IT and business alignment, security, and integration of networks, applications, and systems.
Sue-Rae Rosenfeld, TAC Expert, has more than 20 years experience as an IT project manager and business analyst, primarily in the financial industry. She has special expertise in data analysis, data modeling, and converting systems into new platforms, including mainframe to Internet and intranet server environments. In addition, she trains IT professionals in project-management fundamentals and Project Management Professional exam prep. She is an active member and volunteer for the Project Management Institute.