Methodologies and Technologies for Rapid Enterprise Architecture Delivery


| Home | Courses | Projects | Papers | Contact Us |


Issue No 16:

 Outstanding Examples of Corporate and e-Business Portals 

Printable PDF Version


Portal Excellence Awards


PERTH, AUSTRALIA - July 9, 2001; The previous issue of TEN (TEN#15) discussed interest in the emerging field of Corporate Portals. Also called Enterprise Portals or Enterprise Information Portals, a recent prediction estimated that as many as 80% of the Global 2000 enterprises will use Corporate Portals by the end of 2001 (Meta Group). Whether this aggressive forecast is actually achieved or not, much is happening in the Portal market. TEN#15  discussed the Herman Miller mySIGN e-Business Portal: winner of the e-Business Portal Award in Digital Consulting Institute's Portal Excellence Awards. This issue of TEN continues our discussion of DCI's Portal Excellence Awards; it describes the Ford Motor Company's Internal Portal - winner of the Internal Corporate Portal Award - which highlights the business benefits of this technology.

Clive Finkelstein
TEN - The Enterprise Newsletter

Back to Contents.

Digital Consulting Institute (DCI), Imaging and Document Solutions, and Intelligent Enterprise Magazine sponsor the Annual Portal Excellence Awards. These awards recognize customer portal solutions that provide significant and measurable business benefits, and that make innovative use of portal technology. DCI announced the Annual Portal Excellence Award winners at DCI's Corporate and e-Business Portals Conference in San Francisco on January 24, 2001. Awards were presented in two categories:

Best Internal Corporate Portal: An internal corporate portal supports informed decision making by providing internal business users with a personalized and efficient Web interface to business content managed by intranet Web servers, business intelligence systems, office and document management systems, and front- and back-office applications.

Best e-Business Portal: An e-business portal enables an organization to optimize its business operations and business relationships by allowing external trading partners, key clients, and business users to collaborate and share business content via a personalized Web interface.

Many submissions were received in each category. Judging was done in two phases. In the first phase, all submissions were scored on:

  • Business Benefits and ROI

  • Architectural Design

  • Innovative Use of Portal Technology

The three entries in each award category that achieved the highest scores became finalists. The winner in each category was then selected from these finalists in the second phase.  

The winners (with their Portal software suppliers) were ...

  • Best Internal Corporate Portal: Ford Motor Company (Plumtree Portal)

  • Best e-Business Portal: Herman Miller (TopTier Portal)

We discussed the Herman Miller portal in the previous issue (TEN#15). We discuss the Ford portal in this current issue of TEN. The following submission was entered by Ford Motor Company and Plumtree for the DCI Annual Portal Excellence Awards and speaks for itself.

Back to Contents.


Plumtree is creating a new Web desktop for the biggest companies in the world. Global industry leaders like Ford Motor Company, Procter & Gamble and BP are deploying the Plumtree Corporate Portal enterprise-wide to deliver information and services from different business systems in a single, simple Web destination that employees and partners everywhere can use to build, sell and support products faster.

Plumtree offers Ford an expansive framework for its ambitious business-to-employee e-business strategy. The world's second largest automaker chose Plumtree to create a single, simple Web destination for 200,000 employees enterprise-wide to find and share the content and services they need to support customers and speed products to market. The Plumtree Corporate Portal is similar in appearance to a consumer Web portal, but with a directory of links to corporate documents, and Plumtree Portal Gadgets (tm)--embedded collaboration tools, e-business applications and Internet services--where one would typically see a sports scoreboard or a stock portfolio. From kiosks on the assembly line to laptops on the road, the Plumtree Corporate Portal will put business computing within easy reach of Ford employees everywhere.

Plumtree's Internet-based portal platform is helping Ford control a sprawling intranet, streamline content creation and publication processes, and drive collaboration and e-learning initiatives for hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide:


Ford is deploying the Plumtree Corporate Portal as part of an initiative to modernize the world's largest intranet,, which spans 800 Ford facilities and 150 manufacturing plants worldwide. Plumtree enables Ford to integrate the hundreds of thousands of Web pages that comprise in one enterprise-wide Web destination. The new, Plumtree-powered brings together more than one million documents on Ford networks and the Internet in a single, searchable directory of links to files, Web pages and reports. Now, Ford employees anywhere can draw on a common base of best practices, market news, product specifications, performance metrics, and policy and procedures for the information they need to make confident business decisions and act quickly on revenue opportunities.


Each user tailors the portal experience to his or her role by choosing from a menu of Plumtree Portal Gadgets(tm), plug-in components for embedding application and Internet services in portal pages. To assemble a complete view of business, Ford employees can select gadgets for embedding e-mail, real-time newsfeeds, stock reports, sales histories, personnel directories, and self-service travel booking, corporate expense reporting, and pay and benefits in personalized portal pages. In addition to job needs, the new portal is designed to address personal needs, and employees can customize gadgets for human resources and healthcare, add gadgets for stress relief tools, and embed links to support networks for everything from diversity to parenting.


In portal pages, Ford employees can embed Plumtree's eRoom gadgets, which integrate key services of eRoom Technology's eRooms, Web-based workplaces for drag and drop file sharing, multi-threaded discussions, real-time messaging and polling that Ford is deploying by the hundreds enterprise-wide. Now, paint shop workers from manufacturing departments on different continents can share skills and ideas easily, shortening development cycles and increasing product quality.


To foster collaboration, project managers at Ford will create community pages of content and services shared by entire business units.


Plumtree's distributed architecture helps ensure that can deliver dynamic content and services for employees at peak loads estimated by Ford at 10,000 hits per minute.


The Plumtree Corporate Portal synchronizes with Ford's existing LDAP directory of over 150,000 users, ensuring that employees see only the content and services that correspond to their specific roles and security profiles when they log in to

THE PROBLEM: Multiple Sources of Information, Fractured View of Business

Ford has been investing aggressively in intranet technologies, enterprise applications and Web services since the early 1980s, but many employees are still struggling to unlock the full potential of these resources for driving growth. As Ford took steps to meet the information needs of its global organization, employees increasingly lagged behind, lost in a maze of complex applications and hundreds of thousands of Web pages. To find the data they need to do their jobs, Ford employees faced the challenge of navigating the company's many Web-based systems, network file servers and intranet sites, as well as all the resources scattered throughout the Internet.

THE SOLUTION: the Plumtree Corporate Portal

Plumtree is helping Ford open backend systems to broader audiences, bridging geographic and functional boundaries with a simple Web experience that reaches from the factory floor to the boardroom to the field. Now assembly line workers and executives alike have a single desktop destination for the tools they need to work effectively and collaborate closely to drive sales. With a Web-based document directory for bringing order to corporate intranets, and an open architecture for integrating application and Internet services to popularize their use, the Plumtree platform empowers Ford to realize the full value of existing resources rather than deploying new ones.

THE BENEFITS: Focus, Collaboration, Growth

INCREASED ROI ON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: The Plumtree-powered organizes scattered intranet sites into a framework that everybody can use, anywhere, and broadens the audience for applications previously limited to specialists, increasing return on Ford's electronic assets. Ford will integrate multiple data sources into the Plumtree Corporate Portal, including Documentum, whose content management platform is deployed throughout the enterprise.

INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY: A single, personalized destination for corporate content and services helps focus everyone on company strategy, brands and competitors, increasing the impact of every employee. users know what is happening across the enterprise, and can stay on top of their customers, products and markets, driving sales. The portal is also the framework for a broad e-learning initiative to foster employee competency, leadership and advancement. Putting self-paced instruction at employees' fingertips in the portal reduces training costs by several hundreds of dollars per course, shortens time away from customers and speeds skills acquisition, improving service and increasing employee morale and retention.  

SELF-SERVICE SAVINGS: Ford is reducing transaction costs across the enterprise by putting human resources, healthcare, finance and accounting services in the portal. Now, secure compensation planning services, travel booking, paystub presentment and flex benefits enrollment are within a click of every employee online, reducing cycle times and costs, and increasing employee satisfaction. Putting support services online not only saves employees minutes spent searching, and management time spent answering questions, but also can save Ford many millions of dollars in publishing, distribution and administration costs, which can have a direct impact on shareholder value. For example, Ford is now saving several millions of dollars annually in paycheck distribution costs alone.

CLOSER COLLABORATION: Desktop access to digital workplaces is driving business-to-employee and business-to-business collaboration across Ford's global enterprise. Plumtree eRoom gadgets empower Ford employees to enter any eRoom to which they belong, send alerts to other eRoom members instantly, and easily track a personalized list of project deliverables and resources, including documents, Web pages and discussions, in any of their eRooms, speeding projects to completion. Now, Ford engineers can easily communicate with one another and with suppliers on product design, executives can conduct secure meetings across time zones and borders, and Covisint partners can share documents directly during online negotiations, reducing outside counsel fees and helping integrate supply chains.


The Plumtree-powered portal is being deployed for 200,000 employees worldwide. Currently, the portal is deployed for approximately 11,000 users in Ford's Process Leadership group. Over the next year, Ford will continue its phased business to employee rollout, implement strategies for marketing the portal internally and survey employees to gather feedback on the portal. Initially, Ford will focus on delivering a portal that spans its employee base horizontally, but plans in the future to integrate vertical portals for specific business units such as product development, manufacturing, marketing and finance. Ford plans to use Plumtree's technology for exporting portal resources to other platforms and devices via syndicated gadgets to distribute up-to-date information to the portals of specialists and suppliers worldwide.


The portal went into production in April 2000. After approximately eight months of development, testing and pilots, the portal was launched for 11,000 users in the Process Leadership group.

For the initial launch, the Ford portal project team integrated its proprietary Web Single Logon security application into the Plumtree platform, developed custom gadgets, tailored the portal interface and conducted usability tests, functional tests and load tests. Portal content is currently structured by a high-level directory hierarchy, to be refined with taxonomies for separate business units as the roll-out proceeds. Ford is in the process of upgrading to version 4.0 of the Plumtree Corporate Portal.

The "Millennium Portal" project team consists of an eight-person Portal Team that includes a project manager and Plumtree engineer; a two-person Web Infrastructure Technology Team; a three-person Enterprise Information Team; a three-person Governance Team; and a two-person Communications Team. An Infrastructure Planning and Support team, a QA and QC Testing team, a Technical Support team, and a Systems Integration team provided other assistance. Ford is working with Plumtree to implement training classes to prepare representatives from different business units to develop new Plumtree Portal Gadgets(tm) for


Document Directory

The Plumtree Document Directory automatically organizes links to documents, Web pages and reports in a topical hierarchy that users can search or browse. The Document Directory indexes over 200 desktop document types, and Web pages, database reports and messages from Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange.

The Plumtree Corporate Portal automatically maintains the directory, periodically scanning content repositories for new links. The portal organizes unstructured data in a text index, and uses an XML-based technology to standardize the metadata of documents created by different applications, providing a common basis for more precise document categorization and search. Plumtree attaches access control lists to every item in the index, precluding users from searching for links to documents that they are not authorized to see.

Text indexes support user searches, and facilitate the automatic categorization of document links in the taxonomy. To further automate document categorization, Plumtree has formed a partnership with Semio, a leading provider of content categorization engines.

Personalized Portal Pages, Plumtree Portal Gadgets

Picture a consumer portal, but with embedded e-mail, sales leads and inventory reports in place of sports scores or stock portfolios. Users of this portal assemble their own view of the business by embedding the most useful components of applications and Internet services as Plumtree Portal Gadgets(tm). Plumtree Portal Gadgets(tm) are plug-in components that represent the 5 percent of an application or Internet service used 95 percent of the time. Plumtree and its partners have developed hundreds of gadgets for integrating corporate content and services from independent software vendors, Internet-based business service providers and content providers, including Microsoft, IBM, Documentum,, Siebel, eRoom, MicroStrategy, Open Text, Interwoven, Business Objects, e.Piphany,, Savvion, SiteScape, Cognos, Actuate, NewsEdge and Nexis.

Communities and Collaboration

Business leaders create community pages of content and services to project a group view of business for distributed teams, departments and regions. Communities consist of gadgets and topics drawn from the document directory, but also feature collaboration services for document sharing, threaded conversation and task management.

Massively Parallel Portal Engine

To scale to meet the needs of great numbers of users with many gadgets, Plumtree has developed the Massively Parallel Portal Engine. The patent-pending Massively Parallel Portal Engine speeds portal deployments, harnessing the power of distributed computing for enterprise-strength scalability, reliability and performance. This revolutionary communications technology is based on a universally available protocol: HTTP. The engine is one of the first technologies to use HTTP as a server-to-server communications system, rather than simply as a means for a Web browser to connect to a Web server. The engine can retrieve content and services from a large number of gadget servers, preparing each gadget in parallel and optimizing the number of network sockets opened to communicate with the servers.

Syndicated Gadgets

The Plumtree Corporate Portal can distribute gadget content to other Web platforms and devices via syndicated gadgets. Plug-in modules known as Plumtree Transformers modify the syndicated output as required by the subscribing system, transforming XML into such formats as Wireless Markup Language (WML) for wireless devices or Voice Extensible Markup Language (VXML) for voice access, empowering Plumtree customers to syndicate content from local systems to mobile devices, standard telephones and other Web sites.

Hosted Gadgets

The portal's ability to integrate Plumtree Portal Gadgets(tm) hosted anywhere on the Internet allows customers and partners to share services. Partners such as, a provider of business news, and customers such as, an employee benefits service, are hosting gadget servers open to any Plumtree customer. Plumtree customers can register for services available from the Plumtree Portal Network for use within their own deployments, greatly increasing the range of services available out-of-the-box for each deployment.

Open, Extensible Platform

The hallmark of the Plumtree architecture is its extensibility, which empowers Plumtree's customers and partners to develop plug-in modules for integrating new types of content and new types of services into the platform.

CONTENT: By developing plug-in modules called Plumtree Portal Accessors, Plumtree and its partners can extend the document directory to scan new types of repositories and to index documents in new formats.

SERVICES: Any programmer can create gadgets to extend the Plumtree platform, which is based on open standards and a distributed architecture. Gadgets can be developed in any programming environment, from PERL to J2EE to Active Server Pages. To support the creation of gadgets by customers and partners, Plumtree offers Gadget Development Kits for developing PERL- and Java-based product extensions, which include code samples and documentation.

SECURITY: Plug-in modules called Plumtree Portal Authentication Providers synchronize users security profiles from other systems, allowing the portal to support LDAP and to broker access to the wide range of secure resources available to each user via different profiles. In a recent Microsoft benchmark, the Plumtree Corporate Portal was proven to be able to import one million users from an Active Directory with its LDAP synchronization capability.

SEARCH: Plug-in modules called Plumtree Portal Search Providers open different search indexes to the portal's search capability, empowering users to search simultaneously the repositories indexed in the Plumtree Corporate Portal as well as indexes maintained by other search engines on the Internet and the corporate network.

MEDIA: Plug-in modules called Plumtree Portal Transformers syndicate the content assembled in the portal for distribution to other platforms and other devices, including wireless devices and telephones.


Ford is using the Plumtree Corporate Portal as the framework for a far-reaching and forward-looking strategy to foster personal growth and professional leadership in its employees, increasing morale and individual impact on business.

E-SURVEYS: To gauge job satisfaction and determine employee needs, Ford regularly conducts a series of surveys through the portal:

  • Pulse Surveys: Questionnaires for "taking the pulse" of the employee base.

  • 360 Surveys: Feedback from an employee's managers, work partners and peer group.

L2E INITIATIVE: To increase business acumen, cut training costs and improve customer service, Ford is hosting e-learning classes through its portal. To date, nearly 1,100 courses have been taken online, and over 11,000 pages of e-books read. Ford believes that its innovative e-learning strategy will help it recruit and retain "Generation X" and "Generation Y" workers, and speed technology acceptance by all its employees.

MODEL E: To foster competency and communication, and to support telecommuters, Ford is providing home computers and Internet access for all its employees worldwide at a nominal fee. Currently implemented for North America, the Model E initiative helps ensure that all Ford employees have anywhere, anytime access to online courses, certification exams, pay and benefits query tools, travel booking and company news.

 Back to Contents.  


Further information about Plumtree Portals is available from TopTier was recently purchased by SAP, and is now called SAP Portals, Inc. Further information about TopTier (now called the SAP Enterprise Portal) is available from

Back to Contents.



TEN Archive
Contact Us





Clive Finkelstein is the "Father" of Information Engineering (IE), developed by him from 1976. He is an International Consultant and Instructor, and was the Managing Director of Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd (IES) in Australia. 

Clive Finkelstein's books, online interviews, courses and details are available at

For More Information, Contact:

  Clive Finkelstein
59B Valentine Ave
Dianella, Perth WA 6059 Australia
Web Site:

(c) Copyright 1995-2015 Clive Finkelstein. All Rights Reserved.

| Home | Courses | Projects | Papers | TEN Archive | Contact Us | [Search |

(c) Copyright 2004-2009 Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved.