AND CORPORATE PORTALS
Extract from "Building Corporate Portals
by Clive Finkelstein and Peter Aiken,
McGraw-Hill (Sep 1999) [ISBN: 0-07-913705-9]
Copyright © 1999,
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
"I know the data is there,
but I can't get the information I need!" How many times
have you heard this cry from management? But you are not alone;
the same cry has been expressed in most languages around the
world. It is a common problem: the data is in the computer, but
cannot be located readily; or it is not in a format that is
suitable for use by management. So what do you do?
Corporate Portals, also called
Enterprise Portals (EPs) or Enterprise Information Portals (EIPs),
are based on Data Warehousing technologies, using Metadata and the
Extensible Markup Language (XML) to integrate both structured and
unstructured data throughout an enterprise. Metadata, XML and EPs
will be vital elements of the 21st century enterprise. This White
Paper briefly introduces basic concepts of metadata, XML and
Enterprise Portals. It is an extract from: "Building Corporate Portals
by Clive Finkelstein and Peter Aiken, published by McGraw-Hill in
September 1999 [ISBN: 0-07-913705-9].
Structured data exists in databases
and data files that are used by current and older operational
systems in an enterprise. We call these older systems legacy
systems; we call the data they use legacy data. In most
enterprises, structured data comprises only 10% of the data,
information and knowledge resources of the business; the other 90%
exists as unstructured data in textual documents, reports or
email, or as graphics and images, or in audio or video formats.
These unstructured data sources are not easily accessible to Data
Warehouses, but EPs use metadata and XML to integrate both
structured and unstructured data seamlessly, for easy access
throughout the enterprise.
1. What is
IT staff in most enterprises have a
common problem. How can they convince managers to plan, budget and
apply resources for metadata management? What is metadata and why
is it important? What technologies are involved? Internet and
Intranet technologies are part of the answer and will get the
immediate attention of management. XML is the other technology.
The following analogy may help you outline to management the
important role that metadata takes in an enterprise.
Every country is now interconnected
in a vast, global telephone network. We are now able to telephone
anywhere in the world. We can phone a number, and the telephone
assigned to that number would ring in Russia, or China, or in
Outer Mongolia. But when it is answered, we may not understand the
person at the other end. They may speak a different language. So
we can be connected, but what is said has no meaning. We cannot
Today, we also use a computer and
the World Wide Web. We enter a web site address into a browser on
our desktop machine -- a unique address in words that is analogous
to a telephone number. We can then be connected immediately to a
computer assigned to that address and attached to the Internet
anywhere in the world. That computer sends a web page based on the
address we have supplied, to be displayed in our browser. This is
typically in English, but may be in another language. We are
connected, but like the telephone analogy -- if it is in another
language, what is said has no meaning. We cannot share
Now consider the reason why it is
difficult for some of the systems used in an organization to
communicate with and share information with other systems.
Technically, the programs in each system are able to be
interconnected and so can communicate with other programs. But
they use different terms to refer to the same data that needs to
be shared. For example, an accounting system may use the term
"customer" to refer to a person or organization that
buys products or services. Another system may refer to the same
person or organization as a "client". Sales may use the
term "prospect". They all use different terminology --
different language -- to refer to the same data and information.
But if they use the wrong language, again they cannot share
The problem is even worse. Consider
terminology used in different parts of the business. Accountants
use a "jargon" -- a technical language -- which is
difficult for non-accountants to understand. So also the jargon
used by engineers, or production people, or sales and marketing
people, or managers is difficult for others to understand. They
all speak a different "language". What is said has no
meaning. They cannot easily share common information. In fact in
some enterprises it is a miracle that people manage to communicate
meaning at all!
Each organization has its own
internal language, its own jargon, which has evolved over time so
similar people can communicate meaning. As we saw above, there can
be more than one language or jargon used in an organization.
Metadata identifies an organization’s own "language".
Where different terms refer to the same thing, a common term is
agreed for all to use. Then people can communicate more clearly.
And systems and programs can intercommunicate with meaning. But
without a clear definition and without common use of an
organization’s metadata, information cannot be shared
effectively throughout the enterprise.
Previously each part of the
business maintained its own version of "customer", or
"client" or "prospect". They defined processes
-- and assigned staff -- to add new customers, clients or
prospects to their own files and databases. When common details
about customers, clients or prospects changed, each redundant
version of that data also had to be changed. It requires staff to
make these changes. Yet these are all redundant processes making
the same changes to redundant data versions. This is enormously
expensive in time and people. It is also quite unnecessary.
The importance of metadata can now
be seen. Metadata defines the common language used within an
enterprise so that all people, systems and programs can
communicate precisely. Confusion disappears. Common data is
shared. And enormous cost savings are made. For it means that
redundant processes (used to maintain redundant data versions
up-to-date) are eliminated, as the redundant data versions are
integrated into a common data version for all to share.
2. What is XML?
Much effort has earlier gone into
the definition and implementation of Electronic Data Interchange
(EDI) standards to address the problem of intercommunication
between dissimilar systems and databases. EDI has now been widely
used for business-to-business commerce for many years. It works
well, but it is quite complex and very expensive. As a result, it
is cost-justifiable generally only for large corporations.
Once an organization’s metadata
is defined and documented, all programs can use it to communicate.
EDI was the mechanism that was used previously. But now this
intercommunication has become much easier.
Extensible Markup Language (XML) is
a new Internet technology that has been developed to address this
problem. XML can be used to document the metadata used by one
system so that it can be integrated with the metadata used by
other systems. This is analogous to language dictionaries that are
used throughout the world, so that people from different countries
can communicate. Legacy files and other databases can now be
integrated more readily. Systems throughout the business can now
coordinate their activities more effectively as a direct result of
XML and management support for metadata. We discuss XML fully in
Chapter 11 of this book: "Building Corporate Portals
XML now provides the capability
that was previously only available to large organizations through
the use of EDI. XML allows the metadata used by each program and
database to be published as the language to be used for this
intercommunication. But distinct from EDI, XML is simple to use
and inexpensive to implement for both small and large
organizations. Because of this simplicity, we like to think of XML
EDI for the Rest of Us"
XML will become a major part of the
application development mainstream. It provides a bridge between
structured and unstructured data, delivered via XML then converted
to HTML for display in web browsers. Together with metadata, XML
is a key component in the design, development and deployment of
Enterprise Portals. We discuss XML for Business Reengineering in
Chapter 12, and for Systems Reengineering in Chapter 13, of this
book: "Building Corporate Portals using XML". We show
how Data Warehouses evolve into Enterprise Portals in Chapter 15
of the book.
3. How Is
Metadata Used with XML?
Metadata is used to define the
structure of an XML document or file. Metadata is published in a
Document Type Definition (DTD) file for reference by other
systems. A DTD file defines the structure of an XML file or
document. It is analogous to the Database Definition Language (DDL)
file that is used to define the structure of a database, but with
a different syntax.
An example of an XML document
identifying data retrieved from a PERSON database is illustrated
in Figure 1. This includes metadata markup tags (surrounded by
< … >, such as <person_name>) that provide various
details about a person. From this, we can see that it is easy to
find specific contact information in <contact_details>, such
as <email>, <phone>, <fax> and <mobile>
(cell phone) numbers. Although we have not shown it here, the DTD
also specifies whether certain tags must exist or are optional,
and whether some tags can exist more than once -- such as multiple
<phone> and <mobile> tags below.
Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd
Figure 1: An example of
an XML document with metadata tags (surrounded by < … >)
identifying the meaning of following data
Metadata that is used by various
industries, communities or bodies can be used with XML to define
markup vocabularies. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has
developed a standard framework that can be used to define these
vocabularies. This is called the Resource Description Framework (RDF).
It is a model for metadata applications that support XML. RDF was
initiated by the W3C to build standards for XML applications so
that they can inter-operate and intercommunicate more easily,
avoiding the communication problems that we discussed earlier.
With XML, many applications that
were difficult to implement before -- often due to metadata
differences -- now become possible. For example, an organization
can define the unique metadata used by each supplier’s legacy
inventory systems. This enables the organization to place orders
via the Internet directly with those suppliers' systems, for
automatic fulfillment of product orders.
XML is enabling technology to
integrate structured and unstructured data for next generation
E-Commerce and EDI applications. Web sites will evolve to use XML,
with far greater power and flexibility than offered by HTML.
Netscape Communicator 5.0 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0
browsers both support XML. Most productivity tools and office
suites will support XML. For example, Microsoft Office 2000 uses
XML to maintain the internal formats and styles used by Word,
Excel and PowerPoint when converted to HTML, so that those HTML
documents can later be opened again by the same originating source
products without losing relevant formatting detail. Business
Intelligence and Knowledge Management tools will support XML. XML
development tools are also being released so that XML applications
can be developed more easily.
The acceptance of XML is
progressing rapidly, as it offers a very simple -- yet extremely
powerful -- way to intercommunicate between different databases
and systems, both within and outside an organization. How well an
organization accesses and uses its knowledge resources can
determine its competitive advantage and future prosperity. Use and
application of knowledge will become even more important in the
competitive Armageddon of the Internet, in which we will all
The tools are coming, but a greater
task still remains to be completed. This is the definition
of your own metadata, your common enterprise language for
intercommunication, so that you can use these tools effectively.
The definition of metadata depends on knowledge of data modeling,
previously carried out by IT people. But this is not just a task
for IT. As it is vitally dependent on business knowledge, it also
requires the involvement of business experts. Not by interview,
but by their active participation.
While data modeling has until
now been a technical IT discipline, business data modeling is not.
It can be learned by business people as well as IT staff. It
is based on strategic business planning (discussed in Chapter 2),
data modeling (Chapter 3), strategic modeling (Chapter 4) and
decision early warning (Chapter 5). This uses Forward Engineering
techniques to identify metadata, based on management information
needs for the future. Metadata is also extracted from legacy
databases and systems using Reverse Engineering, and is discussed
in Chapters 6 - 10.
4. The Impact of
One thing we are not short of
today, is information. We are swimming in it! Our information
comes from traditional printed sources such as books, magazines,
newspapers, subscription reports and newsletters; from audio
sources such as radio; from video sources such as free-to-air
television or cable TV; from email and from word-of-mouth. The
saving grace with these information sources -- apart from radio
and free-to-air TV -- is that they are limited only to those who
have subscribed to receive that information.
Not any more. Even today, and
certainly more so in the future, each of these sources is moving
to the Internet. They are offered as free services, where the cost
of preparation is paid not by subscription but by advertising.
Even word-of-mouth, previously a reliable source of information
from people you knew personally and whose opinion you respected,
has moved to the Internet in newsgroups and chat rooms -- but with
opinions offered by people, perhaps in another country, who are
totally unknown to you. Both accurate and inaccurate comment now
circle the globe not at word-of-mouth speed, but at electronic
Email is the killer application of
the Internet; even more so of the corporate Intranet. Enormous
knowledge is retained in corporate email archives -- much to the
chagrin of Microsoft, with certain email messages used by
government prosecutors in the Microsoft Antitrust trial as smoking
guns to illustrate alleged abuses of monopoly power. Corporate
email is a knowledge resource that is of great value, yet until
now it has been largely inaccessible.
Text searches on the Internet by
traditional search engines are largely ineffective; a simple query
can return thousands of links containing the entered keywords or
search phrase. Only a small fraction of these may be relevant, yet
each link must be manually investigated to assess its content --
if relevancy ratings are not also provided.
The problem is no less severe with
enterprises. We are inundated with information. To the credit of
the Information Technology (IT) industry, at least this
information is being organized and made more readily available
through Data Warehouses. Most information in Data Warehouses is
based on structured data sources as operational databases used by
older legacy systems and relational databases. Data Warehouse
products are also now becoming available that use Internet
technologies. These valuable information tools can be used
within an enterprise across the corporate Intranet. The
information is thus more readily available.
We discussed earlier that
structured data represents only 10% of the information and
knowledge resource in most enterprises. The remaining 90% exists
as unstructured data that has been largely inaccessible to Data
Warehouses. Text documents, email messages, reports, graphics,
images, audio and video files all are valuable sources of data,
information and knowledge that have been untapped. They exist in
physical formats that have been difficult to access by computer --
as if they were behind locked doors.
The technologies are now available
to open these doors. XML is one technology, as we have briefly
seen. XML enables structured and unstructured data sources to be
integrated easily, where this was extremely difficult before.
Organizations will develop new business processes and systems
based on this integration, using Business Reengineering and
Systems Reengineering methods. They will at last be able to break
away from the business process constraints that have inhibited
change in the past.
Technologies in The Industrial Age
Most organizations today still use
processes based on principles that are no longer effective. They
were designed using the process engineering "bible".
Here is a short quiz: which book are we referring to? Who was the
author? When was it published?
Was the process engineering bible
written by Michael Hammer, acknowledged by many as the
"Father" of Business Process Reengineering [Hammer
1990]? Was it [Hammer
& Champy 1993]? No, it was before them …
Was it written by Ed Yourdon, Tom
deMarco, Ken Orr or Gane and Sarson -- all giants of the
Structured Software Engineering era, which was process-driven?
No to all of these …
Was it written by Edwards Deming,
regarded by many as the "Father" of the quality
movement? No, not him …
What about Peter
Drucker, considered the "Father" of management
gurus? Not him, either …
Was it Henry Ford, the
"Father" of the assembly line?
No, not him …Yet all of these
giants have contributed in their separate ways to improve the
design, operation and functioning of enterprises and of
information systems. We owe them all our thanks; we are in their
debt. They contributed greatly to the theory and practice of
management, of organization and process design, of systems design
and development. We draw on their works many times throughout this
No, the process engineering bible
was written long before each of these esteemed gentlemen.
We are in fact referring to
"The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith, written around
1776, published most recently in [Smith 1910].
This has been the basis of most business processes used in
Expressing what he wrote, but in
today’s terminology, Adam Smith took complex processes and broke
them down into simple steps. These were then carried out using the
technology of his day -- a workforce that was largely illiterate.
He showed that people could be trained to carry out these simple
process steps, which they repeated endlessly. He then combined
each of these steps in different ways to build complex processes.
While we have greatly simplified above what he wrote and
translated it into today’s environment, essentially this was its
impact. For these became the processes that fueled the Industrial
Organizations grew as complex
processes were built in this way. Manual technologies also used
other technologies to supplement them. Mechanical technologies,
electrical, electronic and other technologies lead to
corresponding engineering disciplines: mechanical engineering,
electrical engineering etc. Yet the basic principle behind all of
these processes was the work done by Adam Smith.
Henry Ford made a great
contribution, with the assembly line. But still essentially the
same approach was being used to design processes. And as these
processes were automated, they were implemented on computer in
much the same way as the processes were carried out in the
enterprise. The computer was used basically to do the same tasks,
yet faster and more accurately.
The processes referred to relevant
data. Each part of the enterprise maintained its own copy of the
data that was required. As the processes were automated, the data
was also automated. The same data was implemented often in
different versions, redundantly. The Information Engineering (IE)
methodology, developed from 1976, was designed to address this
problem -- evolving in the mid 1980s into Enterprise Engineering
(EE) [Finkelstein 1981a, 1981b,
By the late 1980s, the inhibiting
factor in the effectiveness and operation of processes in many
enterprises was seen to be due to this evolutionary approach to
business process design. The Business Process Reengineering (BPR)
revolution of the early 1990s began to address these problems.
This was largely started by Michael Hammer in his landmark paper,
provocatively titled: "Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate,
Obliterate!" [Hammer 1990].
XML and Enterprise Portals offer
technologies that will progress these methods further. We discuss
their impact on Business Reengineering and on Systems
Reengineering in Chapters 12 and 13 of this book: "Building
Corporate Portals using XML".
Technologies in the Information Age
Our focus in this book is on Data
Warehouses and Enterprise Portals. Data Warehouses provide access
to structured data as discussed earlier. We introduce Enterprise
The term "Enterprise
Information Portal" (EIP) we believe was first used in a
report published by Merrill Lynch on November 16, 1998. A summary
of this report is available from the [SageMaker]
web site. The full report can be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat
Portable Document Format (PDF) file from this same web site. The
Merrill Lynch summary and report define EIPs as:
Portals are applications that enable companies to unlock
internally and externally stored information, and provide users
a single gateway to personalized information needed to make
informed business decisions.
Enterprise Information Portals
(EIP) are an emerging market opportunity; an amalgamation of
software applications that consolidate, manage, analyze and
distribute information across and outside of an enterprise
(including Business Intelligence, Content Management, Data
Warehouse and Mart, and Data Management applications."
... Merrill Lynch: Nov 16, 1998 [SageMaker]
The Merrill Lynch report and
summary highlight the emergence of Enterprise Information Portals
as an investment opportunity for their clients and others.
InfoWorld presented a summary of the report as a Front Page
article of the January 25, 1999 issue. A copy of that article is
available from the [InfoWorld] web site.
A financial summary of the potential of the EIP market from the
Merrill Lynch report was provided in the InfoWorld article. This
is reproduced here as Figure 2. The summary states:
have conservatively estimated the 1998 total market opportunity of
the EIP market at $4.4 billion. We anticipate that revenues could
top $14.8 billion by 2002, approximately 36% CAGR (Compound
Annual Growth Rate) for this sector."
As Figure 2 illustrates, software
is required for Content Management, which is projected to grow
from a market worth $1.2 billion in 1998 to one worth $4.7 billion
in 2002. Products in the Business Intelligence EIP market are
expected to grow from $2.0 billion to $7.2 billion. The Data
Warehouse and Data Mart EIP market is projected to grow from
nearly $1 billion to $2.5 billion, while the Data Management
market will grow from $184 million to $360 million. The total EIP
market therefore was projected in the Merrill Lynch report to grow
from $4.4 billion to $14.8 billion over the period 1998 to 2002.
Discussing the potential of
the EIP market, the authors of the Merrill Lynch report
believe it will "eventually reach or exceed the
investment opportunities provided by the Enterprise Resource
Planning (ERP) market." They give three main
"Enterprise Information Portals will
emerge from a consolidation within and between the Business
Intelligence, Content Management, Data Warehouse, Data Mart
and Data Management markets:
- EIP systems provide
companies with a competitive advantage: Corporate
management is just realizing the competitive potential
lying dormant in the information stored in its
enterprise systems. … EIP applications combine,
standardize, index, analyze and distribute targeted,
relevant information that end users need to do their
day-to-day jobs more efficiently and productively. The
benefits include lowered costs, increased sales and
better deployment of resources.
- EIP systems provide
companies with a high return on investment (ROI): The
emergence of ‘packaged’ EIP Applications are more
attractive to customers because they are less expensive
than customized systems, contain functionality that
caters to specific industries, are easier to maintain
and faster to deploy. … EIP products help companies
cut costs and generate revenues.
- EIP systems provide
access to all: The Internet provides the crucial
inexpensive and reliable distribution channel that
enables companies to make the power of information
systems available to all users (employees, customers,
suppliers). Distribution channels include the Internet,
Intranet and Broadcasting. … Companies will need to
use both "publish" (pull) and
"subscribe" (push) mediums to ensure the right
information is available or distributed to the right
people at the right time." They go on to say that
they: "envision the Enterprise Information Portal
as a Browser-based system providing ubiquitous access to
business related information in the same way that
Internet content portals are the gateway to the wealth
of content on the Web."
Enterprise Information Portal Market.
[InfoWorld] and [SageMaker]
The Merrill Lynch report and the
InfoWorld Front Page article triggered a flurry of articles in
other publications. Software companies in these markets scrambled
to refocus their software development plans to deliver products
for the new emerging market that had been identified.
Enterprise Information Portal Directions
The market potential had been
identified, the software vendors had begun to develop products,
but there was no clear definition of the EIP market apart from
general directions in the Merrill Lynch report. And there was no
technical guidance that would help software vendors and their
enterprise customers to build these Enterprise Information
The report also affected ourselves:
your authors. We had been writing a book on Data Warehousing. Our
purpose was to publish a book that would to help enterprises move
their Data Warehouses and Data Marts to the Internet, Intranet and
Extranet. We felt that this would provide benefit to the
enterprises, their employees, customers, suppliers and business
This was a difficult task to do, as
another author who we respected had found. Richard Hackathorn had
published "Web Farming for the Data Warehouse" [Hackathorn
1999]. He was writing this around the time when the
groundswell of support for XML had begun to build up following its
acceptance as a recommended standard by the W3C Committee in
February 1998 [W3C].
As discussed earlier in this
chapter, XML is an technology that enables many applications and
databases to overcome the great constraints of legacy systems and
databases that had evolved as redundant data versions. We saw it
also as an important component to move Data Warehouses and Data
Marts to the Web. The Merrill Lynch report identified the market
potential that justified what was, until then, just a "gut
feel" for us. It highlighted a glaring omission; the absence
of clear technical direction on how to build for this new
environment. As authors, we do not pretend to have all of the
answers. But this is our field; having built many Data Warehouses,
Data Marts, Web Sites and Electronic Commerce applications as
consultants, instructors and webmasters over many years.
We will share our knowledge with
you in this book. The three of us, together, will discuss problems
and solutions. And there will be others after us who will add
more, based on their experience. They will also write, or consult
or teach: this new discipline will further evolve -- that is the
nature of the Information Technology industry.
Enterprise Portal Terminology
A number of terms have emerged
along with the growing interest in Enterprise Information Portals.
Internet Content Portals such as NetCenter (Netscape), MyYahoo
(Yahoo), MSN (Microsoft) and AOL became popular in 1998 as a
central point that could be visited by millions on the Internet --
as a gateway or jumping-off point to other locations on the World
Wide Web. Some of these are content providers; others are search
engines. The terminology differs, but we feel a general term
describing all of these is "Internet Portal". This is
the term we will use in this book for reference to WWW consumer
In the many articles that have
appeared since publication of the Merrill Lynch report and the
InfoWorld article, the terms "Enterprise Information
Portal" (EIP), "Corporate Portal" (CP) and
"Enterprise Portal" (EP) have been variously used.
Portal", being the first used, is the obvious term. But we
find many articles are using "Enterprise Portal" and
"Corporate Portal" as equivalent terms to refer to an
EIP. This is a new field and the terminology has not settled yet.
So we will use all three terms interchangeably in this book to
refer to portals for all enterprises: large Corporations; Small or
Medium Enterprises (SMEs); Federal, State or Local Government
departments; and Defense departments.
Enterprise Portal Concepts
We will introduce some of the basic
concepts of an Enterprise Portal in this section, with related
concepts covered later in this chapter. The remainder of the book
will progressively introduce you to the concepts and methods that
can be used to build Enterprise Portals.
In Part I: Enterprise Portal
Design, there is a great parallel with Data Warehouse design. Part
II: Enterprise Portal Development also parallels Data Warehouse
development. Our focus in these two parts is therefore mainly on
Data Warehouses and Data Marts.
In Part III: Enterprise Portal
Deployment we cover XML in Chapter 11. XML is an enabling
technology that offers great benefit for Business Reengineering
and Systems Reengineering. These are covered in Chapters 12 and
13. Many enterprises are struggling to move out from under the
weight of legacy systems and processes that are not appropriate or
responsive enough for the Information Age. Enterprise Portals and
XML will enable these enterprises to transform themselves more
effectively, without first having to throw all those legacy
systems away and develop new systems at great cost. Chapter 14
addresses quality in these transformed enterprises.
Finally, in Chapter 15 we will
return to discuss the central role of Enterprise Portals,
summarizing the main points from the book.
Figure 3: Enterprise
Portal Concepts. Source: [InfoWorld] Web
The main concepts of Enterprise
Portals are illustrated in Figure 3, from the InfoWorld article on
the [InfoWorld] web site. The focus of
Data Warehouses is Structured Data, shown in the top part of
Figure 3. Source data is drawn from online transactional databases
such as ERP applications, legacy files or other relational
databases. Source data may also be point of sale data. This source
data is first Extracted, Transformed and Loaded by ETL and data
quality tools into Relational OLAP databases and/or the Data
Warehouse. Data marts take subject area subsets from the Data
Warehouse for query and reporting. Analytical applications carry
out OLAP analysis using OLAP tools. Business Intelligence tools
also provide analytical processing, such as EIS and DSS products.
Data mining tools are used to drill down and analyze data in the
warehouse. Warehouse management operates to manage the ETL and
data quality stage, the Relational OLAP databases and Data
Warehouse and the analytical applications.
The bottom part of Figure 3 lists
Unstructured Data sources that are used by Enterprise Portals. In
Chapter 11 we see how XML can use metadata tags to integrate
unstructured data sources with the Structured Data sources above.
These unstructured data sources are managed by a Content
Management Repository as Content Management Applications and
Database. While they are conceptual in Figure 3, we will see these
referenced as XML databases later in the book. Enterprise Portals
extend Data Warehouses to the Intranet and Internet. But unlike
Data Warehouses which are data-driven, Enterprise Portals are also
process-driven. They enable organizations to change their business
processes and workflow practices in dramatic ways. We introduce
some of these ways when we discuss reengineering in Chapters 12
and 13. We cover many more changes and opportunities in Chapter
5. The Next Few
In discussing the move towards
Corporate Portals over the coming years in "The Portal is the
Desktop", Gerry Murray - Director of Knowledge Technologies research at
International Data Corporation (IDC) [Murray
1999] - says:
"Corporate portals must
connect us not only with everything we need, but (also)
with everyone we need, and provide all the tools we need to work
together. This means that groupware, e-mail, workflow, and
desktop applications -- even critical business applications --
must all be accessible through the portal. Thus, the portal is
the desktop, and your commute (to work) is just a phone
"This is a radical new
way of computing. It's much more effective for companies than
traditional approaches, since they can outsource the entire
infrastructure as a monthly service." He makes the
point that: "Corporate Portals will provide access to
everything from infrastructure to the desktop, so portal vendors
will be the Microsofts of the future."
He discusses four stages in the
evolution of Corporate Portals:
- Enterprise information portals,
which connect people with information
- Enterprise collaborative
portals, which provide collaborative computing capabilities of
- Enterprise expertise portals,
which connect people with other people based on their
abilities, expertise, and interests
- Enterprise knowledge portals,
which combine all of the above to deliver personalized content
based on what each user is actually doing.
He then goes on to describe a
number of products that are starting to appear in each of these
Corporate Portal evolution stages. His complete article is
available on the Internet [Murray 1999].
Application Service Providers
We are beginning to see the early
moves into the portal environment described above by Gerry Murray,
with the emergence of Application Service Providers (ASPs). Early
ASPs will typically also be Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
They will not only provide ready access to the Internet, but also
offer access to much of the software that you need from your
desktop, as well as to other products such as Enterprise Resource
Planning (ERP) systems from SAP and others.
This will be the true realization
of Network Computing. Not by using Java as a portable language as
promoted by Sun and Oracle. But by outsourcing hardware, servers,
networks and network management, software and software management,
help desk, maintenance and other Total Costs of Ownership (TCO) to
ASPs. This is a radical move that will transform desktop computing
as we know it. It will provide ubiquitous computing through the
Internet and the intranet. And with a move to wider bandwidths on
the Internet -- with higher data rates available also through
wireless computing via PDAs or mobile phones that access the
Internet for email and browsing -- we will soon be able to work
not just from the office, but from anywhere. In a few short years
these ASPs will become Information Utilities for the future.
Seeing the potential threat to its
desktop monopoly that is presented by Corporate Portals and by
ASPs, Microsoft has decided that it will adopt a win -- win
strategy by also becoming part of this ultimate move to Network
Computing. The release of Internet Explorer 5.0 and Microsoft
Office 2000 provided some support for this capability. With Office
2000, Microsoft Office Web Server extensions for Intranet servers
within the enterprise support collaboration and other groupware
applications. But Microsoft will also make these extensions
available to ISPs to help them become ASPs. In the future, many of
these ASPs will enter into license agreements with Microsoft; two
initial ASP licensees were announced with the release of Office
2000. ASPs will be able to offer rental access to their customers
so they can use Microsoft and other applications. These will be
rented for a fixed monthly or annual fee, or on a pay-for-use
basis. So Microsoft will benefit both ways -- not just from new
product sales and upgrade sales as we have today, but also from
license fees that are paid by ASPs to Microsoft.
With the use of XML and the
emergence of Corporate Portals (Enterprise Portals) over the next
few years, we will see radical changes in the way we use
computers. The Internet and intranet will become more and more a
part of our daily work lives. Instead of commuting by road, rail
or bus to work, increasingly we will be able to telecommute from
wherever we are via the Internet or intranet. The Corporate Portal
will be our desktop, available anywhere we log-on to our
personalized portal page. From there we will have access to all of
the software, systems and other knowledge resources that we need
to do our job -- with XML integrating these various data,
information and knowledge resources seamlessly across the
internet, intranet or extranet.
Finkelstein, acknowledged worldwide as the "Father" of
Information Engineering, is Managing Director of Information
Engineering Services Pty Ltd in Australia. He is the Chief
Scientist of Visible Systems Corporation in the USA and is
Managing Director of Visible Systems Australia Pty Ltd. He is a
member of the International Advisory Board of DAMA International
and has over 38 years' experience in the Computer Industry.
This paper is
extracted from Chapters 1 and 15 of: “Building
Corporate Portals with XML”, co-authored with Peter
Aiken, published by McGraw-Hill (Sep 1999). An extract can be read
online at http://svc004.bne009i.server-web.com/catalogue/visible/default.shtml.
Click on the Read Extract link, below the image of the book
front cover on the Home page.
has published many books and papers throughout the world including
the first publication on Information Engineering: a series of six
InDepth articles in US ComputerWorld in May - June 1981. He
co-authored with James Martin the influential two-volume report
titled: "Information Engineering", published by the
Savant Institute in Nov 1981. He wrote two later IE books: "An Introduction to Information Engineering",
Addison-Wesley (1989); and "Information Engineering : Strategic Systems Development", Addison-Wesley (1992). He has
contributed Chapters and Forewords to books published by
McGraw-Hill ["Software Engineering Productivity
Handbook" (1992) and Foreword: "Data Reverse Engineering: Slaying the Legacy
Dragon", Peter Aiken (1996)], and by Springer-Verlag
["Handbook on Architecture of Information Systems"
His latest book is:
for Integration: Rapid Delivery Methods and Technologies”,
by Clive Finkelstein, Artech House, Norwood MA (March 2006)
focus helps organizations to evolve from Data Warehouses and Data
Marts to Corporate Portals (also called Enterprise Portals) using
the Extensible Markup Language (XML). These provide a central
gateway to the information and knowledge resources of an
enterprise on its corporate Intranet and via the Internet.
Enterprise Portal, XML and related technologies and products will
rapidly become available over the next 2 – 5 years. Enterprise
Portals will be the central computing focus and interface for most
enterprises in the 21st century.
Clive writes a
monthly column, "The Enterprise" for DM Review magazine
in the USA and also publishes a free, quarterly technology
newsletter via email: "The Enterprise Newsletter (TEN)".
Past issues of TEN, and of the DM Review Enterprise column, are
available from http://www.ies.aust.com/~ieinfo/articles.htm.