Ford launches massive corporate portal

Ford launches massive corporate portal

After working on the massive IT project for a year, Ford Motor this week unveiled a corporate portal that contains more than 300,000 Web pages accessed by more than 200,000 users from about 1,000 locations worldwide.

The portal, aimed at boosting employee productivity by making access to information about the sprawling corporate empire easier to get, was designed to be simple. And it was put together under strict project management guidelines put in place by the automaker, according to Martin Davis, portal program manager at Ford.

To start the project, Davis invited each of four top portal vendors to submit project plans and to guide Ford developers through a three-day evaluation session.

"Forget the smoke and mirrors," said Davis. "From a glossy sales presentation, you can believe that anything is possible. The whole purpose [of the evaluation] was to let our people loose under the covers and see how difficult it would be to implement the portal."

One of the evaluation criteria was for the vendors to demonstrate how to integrate the portal software product's authentication service with Ford's extensive existing user authentication software.

Davis wanted to provide Ford's users with single sign-on capability, allowing them to log on to both Ford's intranet and the new portal in one step. And the evaluation also addressed regrouping content and adding electronic services.

Ford chose portal software from Plumtree Software and took a minority equity stake in the company last June. The cost of the project wasn't disclosed.

While Ford expects "soft cost" reductions because it can now deliver electronic services through the portal, its main goal is to increase employee productivity by allowing easier access to corporate information, such as news clippings, stock price and annual reports.

The portal also allows users to create personal home pages on which they can store links, frequently used Web pages and business services.

Among those services is electronic paycheck presentation, a service that could trim Ford's printing bills by millions of dollars per year by obviating the need for providing paper checks to employees. Another service is text-paging, through which employees can use their PCs to locate and page any Ford employee with a pager at any location.

Both services existed already on Ford's intranet. But Plumtree personalisation features enable users to put services on their home pages, said Glenn Kelman, vice president of marketing at Plumtree.

An architecture that allows companies to continually add new services and content is essential to a portal, said Charles Luce, an analyst at The Delphi Group.

One such augmented service is being developed for Ford's Land Department. This service will allow the Land Department to retrieve building details, such as security access codes and loading dock capacity, from the portal.

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