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.
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.
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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.
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,"
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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.
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
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.
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.
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:
Your Mother's Portal for more information).
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.