ERP vendors are embracing the idea of portals, though they cannot agree on exactly what they are.
Oracle late last month revealed plans for a portal that will blend its ERP applications, Oracle8i database, and Web tools with other ERP applications.
The vendor's portal plan scorns consumer-style features in favour of insights from its ERP applications, databases, and analytical templates, which can also analyse data from competitors' modules. Though it will concentrate on custom-assembling portals hosted by users, by the end of 1999 Oracle will also host its own portal as part of its Web-based outsourcing strategy, Business On-Line, one official said.
The vendor is travelling along the same road as rivals J.D. Edwards, PeopleSoft, and SAP, while other ERP players consider their options. However, it seems they are all taking the one approach - it does not matter what the portal does, just that it is called a portal.
"These vendors are throwing things up against the wall - a dozen different things - and seeing what sticks," said Mark Huey, an analyst at the Meta Group.
Though "portal" has many definitions, the common denominator is a Web site that provides a personalised interface to useful information, such as news headlines, sports, stock quotes, weather, and maps.
ERP vendors hope to combine all of that with self-service access to the applications that run their customers' organisations, such as confirming when a special order will be built and shipped. Many also propose commerce functions, such as downloading software or buying books.
"The real power of portals comes from role-based computing. It allows organisations to feed information to employees based on their role or function," said Marty Gruhn, vice president and service director at Summit Strategies.
Oracle defends anti-portal stance
by Ellen Cresswell
SYDNEY - In light of a recent IDC report that claimed enterprise portals are being beaten out of proportion and are merely "fragments of a solution", Oracle has decided to go it alone.
According to Frank Prestipino, Oracle Australia's marketing manager, applications, the vendor has decided to pass on the portal bandwagon and has no intentions of developing a portal strategy.
"Portals are designed for transactions, bill and pay strategies," Prestipino said.
"There's no need for that because Oracle can provide self-service capabilities. They [vendors with portal strategies] have a market strategy that says 'Get into e-commerce with an architecture that is not Internet-compliant technology'.
"They have to add a layer to allow e-commerce to take place. With Oracle, that happens internally," he said.