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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.