Plumtree Fuels Growth With New Corporate Portal Product

  • Written By: L. Talarico
  • Published: November 17 2000

Plumtree Fuels Growth With New Corporate Portal Product
L. Talarico - November 17, 2000

Event Summary

Corporate portal vendor Plumtree Software, Inc. has enjoyed extremely high revenue growth in its first two years of operation. The recent release of Corporate Portal 4.0 is sure to support further growth as corporate portal technology captures the attention of the Global 2000, and as products in this market support a larger number of business applications.

Corporate Portals Defined
TEC describes corporate portals (also referred to as Enterprise Information Portals or EIPs) as web-based technology used to disseminate business information to employees and other constituents of an organization. Each individual constituent receives only personally relevant business information. Corporate portals can pull information from internal business applications as well as from external data sources, including automated web searches. The following diagram illustrates a generic corporate portal architecture at a high level.

Figure 1.

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Both the business constituents and the data sources can be internal or external. The typical portal technology consists of; middleware, a personalization engine, security, and automated Internet search agents. Other servers and data stores may fall between the data sources and the portal technology.

Middleware is a key component to the portal because it provides the links between the numerous data sources and the user's web page. Plumtree calls its middleware components "gadgets," and there are over 250 gadgets commercially available with the release of Corporate Portal 4.0. The gadget is responsible for providing the user with a carefully chosen subset of the functionality of a specific business application. A Plumtree representative told TEC that 90% of users typically use only 5% of the functionality provided by a business application. The gadget provides that 5% of the functionality through a browser. Figure 2 is a screenshot of the list of gadgets in a user's portal web page. The gadgets are the sub-windows titled, "Threaded Discussion," "Task List," "Document Management," "Plumtree Telephone List," etc.

Figure 2.

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Plumtree's extensive gadget development is made possible by partnerships with business application vendors and content providers. Plumtree remains independent of any particular vendor. Over 20 technology partners have entered into agreements with Plumtree, including the likes of Siebel, Onyx, Microstrategy, IBM, and iSyndicate. Plumtree also has over 25 channel partners that provide custom gadget development and implementation services in addition to co-marketing Corporate Portal 4.0.

Another feature of Plumtree Corporate Portal 4.0 is syndication over Plumtree's Portal Network. Syndication allows gadget output to be distributed outside the organization or to other web platforms. This technology can be used to distribute gadget content to wireless devices or to a partner's intranet. Plumtree software does not need to be installed on recipients' systems for them to receive syndicated content. The Portal Network is a virtual space for customers and partners to share information regarding Plumtree product development, implementation tips, usage tips, or other related information.

Market Impact

Competition in this market generally comes from three groups of vendors. The first contains pure play portal vendors, which include Plumtree, Viador, and InfoImage. These firms focus exclusively on corporate portal products and remain independent of any large business applications vendor (i.e., CRM or ERP vendors). The second group has Business Intelligence or Knowledge Management vendors such as Sybase or Hummingbird that have developed a portal product. These firms have expertise in some of the technologies used in corporate portals, but do not focus all of their resources on portal development. (Note that Viador was a Business Intelligence vendor in the mid-1990s when it was called Infospace but currently focuses all of its development on its portal product.) The last group of vendors is large business applications vendors that have developed portal products, such as Microsoft and Oracle. These vendors include portal products in a wide array of offerings.

The independence from other business application vendors that pure play portals enjoy may provide some advantage over the competition. By developing only portal products they can provide middleware support like Plumtree's gadgets for virtually any business application vendor. Business application vendors face issues of supporting competitors' products, which potentially limits the value of their portal software. The challenge for pure play vendors is their relative lack of resources compared to the competition. Plumtree and Viador are less than five years old, each has generated less than $10M in revenues in 3Q00, and each has fewer than 200 employees. Vendors such as Microsoft, Oracle, and Sybase will be able to devote considerably more resources towards portal products if (or when) they feel there are high growth opportunities.

User Recommendations

Global 2000 organizations considering the implementation of a corporate portal should consider Plumtree Corporate Portal 4.0. The product may prove valuable for improving employee productivity and increasing the ROI of installed business applications. If the goal of your corporate portal is to provide better collaboration or maximize the efficiency of corporate assets, you may want to consider other portal products (see: Not Your Mother's Portal for more information).

The corporate portal market is very young, market acceptance is still low, and dominant players have yet to be determined. Plumtree is certainly among the top competitors and they have a sound business strategy, but they are small and unprofitable. TEC estimates that in 12 months time dominant vendors in the corporate portal market will emerge. If your corporate portal initiative is a high priority Plumtree should be on your shortlist. If your IT strategy is more risk averse consider waiting to see how the market shakes out.

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