Industri-Matematik Joins The Portal Market

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Industri-Matematik Joins The Portal Market
S. McVey - March 20, 2001

Event Summary

Industri-Matematik has announced a new portal application for companies that want to collaborate with trading partners over the Internet by enabling access to its VIVALDI suite of supply chain execution products. VIVALDI Portal delivers information from CRM, fulfillment, order management, and warehouse management components of IMI's suite through a Java compatible, Web platform into the hands of customers and suppliers as well as internal distribution, sales, and customer service personnel.

According to Ingemar Billstrom, strategic development manager at Telia Systems, a leading Nordic communications company and one of Portal's first users, "VIVALDI Internet portal software would in the first step help us get closer to our suppliers by allowing two-way communication of time-sensitive logistics information, faster and on a broader scale. This provides great potential to improve our suppliers' service level and delivery accuracy to Telia and our customers."

Market Impact

VIVALDI Portal is not the first pure Internet client to hit the market but is evidence that vendors are working hard to address customers' collaboration needs. The best portals carry strong value propositions by virtually eliminating client software installation while still giving users both visibility and control over their part of the collaborative enterprise. As long as issues such as security, bandwidth, hosting, and of course pricing, are understood by prospects and properly addressed by vendors, there would seem to be little to worry about. On closer inspection, however, many of these portals compare unfavorably to their application-based predecessors. VIVALDI Portal has received high marks from Telia, but other vendor offerings have not fared as well.

PeopleSoft 8 provides a good example of a less-than-perfect portal design. Some prospective customers who have seen the new Internet UI in demonstrations use words like "complicated", "flimsy", and even "ugly" to describe it. For starters, the browser-based client lacks the cohesiveness and predictability of the application-based version. Users have become accustomed to application GUIs that respond to mouse clicks in timely fashion and the browser often fails to load quickly or accurately. Perhaps more disappointing is that the PeopleSoft 8 Web interface seems to have lost the intuitiveness that is a hallmark of past releases. The natively supplied menu is difficult to navigate for novices and even PeopleSoft presales representatives are reluctant to use it, preferring instead to streamline their demos by setting up Internet Explorer-like "favorites" in advance.

Another complaint is the search feature that seems to wipe out the users' work environment while in use rather than appearing in a frame or separate dialog window. To be fair to PeopleSoft, such shortcomings have been reported in other vendor demonstrations and will likely persist for the next few releases until the vendors can manage to rectify them.

User Recommendations

Ease of use is an important consideration for all users regardless of their level of expertise and should play a prominent role in selection of portal solutions. In spite of the current state of many new portals, we expect that, after the "mad rush" to market subsides, vendors will refine their solutions to make them less cumbersome to use. The nice thing about navigation efficiency and ease of use is that they can be readily evaluated in a product demonstration, unlike less visible components such as workflow configuration or business process match. Prospective buyers of VIVALDI Portal and other browser-based clients should make these demonstrations part of their selection processes.

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