So you want to build a portal. You’ve defined your website portal’s purpose (i.e. to provide a faster and more efficient way for individuals from different agencies, offices and departments to coordinate and communicate), users (Customers/Patients?, Partners?, Employees?) and their various groups/teams.

Your next step is to determine exactly what information these users will need to find/upload (company branded templates, training and/or webinar videos, marketing & sales collateral, order/request forms, HR documents, etc.) and how all of this will be presented to them.

Easy, right? Not really. Building a portal may seem like a daunting project at first, but by reviewing and heading off the challenges others have met during these types of projects, you can set yourself up for success.

Some of the main challenges you will face include the following:

  • Identifying the comprehensive list of key portal functionality
  • Minimal or unstructured documentation of current business logic
  • Collecting disjointed information from various data sources

Key Portal Functionalities

Users should be accessing portals with specific goals in mind:

  • What’s new?
  • What are some upcoming events I should be aware of?
  • How do I find the latest copy of a specific product/service white paper?

Keeping their needs top-of-mind will enable you to form a portal strategy that will lead to engaged users and help you achieve your objectives for building the portal which most likely include things such as:

  • Consolidating vital data in one convenient, searchable place
  • Achieving greater productivity by making it simple to find critical files
  • Securely and easily distributing internal company news without the use of an overwhelming amount of emails
  • Creating an exclusive, work-focused social network

Some functionalities to consider include the following:

  • Global/Company-wide News and Announcements
  • Department Dashboards
  • Search: this is essential
    • Site-wide
    • Filters (i.e. Types or Categories)
  • Collaboration
    • Discussion and Message Boards
    • Forums
    • Polls and Surveys
    • Wiki
  • Integrations
    • User registry
    • Social Media
    • ERP systems
    • Links to legacy applications

Defining Business Logic and Workflows

Evaluate current problems facing your organization and how a portal can be used to solve them. You want to automate manual business processes with workflows and online forms. A helpful solution is to create process flow diagrams for things such as:

  • Approval process for Contracts, Requests, etc.
  • New Hire/Onboarding process
  • Alerts/Notifications to users/groups when specific files have been uploaded/updated

Collecting Data, Documents, and Assets

If you have documents and multimedia assets that you wish to include in your portal stored all over the place, don’t freak out– you’re not alone. This is common across most organizations and is more justification for why the process of implementing a portal is so important. Here’s what you should do:

  • Consolidate them all in one place. Yes, this will take quite a bit of time, but trust the process – you’ll be happy you did it.
  • As you’re going through this arduous task, identify the most critical assets and also think about which documents might be better served as data-fill forms to help capture information that can be used in automated workflows rather than simply have users print, manually enter information and hand to appropriate personnel. Remember, one of your main goals is to eliminate as much physical paperwork as possible.
  • Identify where your videos are currently being hosted (i.e. YouTube, Vimeo, Brightcove, internal server folders, etc.)

While pulling all of this information together, think about what your portal’s MVP (Minimum Viable Product) should be. Feel free to list and discuss “nice-to-have” features with the team developing the portal so that they can build any foundational back-end requirements for them, but understand that these can and should be phased-in during future iterations of the portal.

Once you have an initial version of the portal up and running, you will also want to collect feedback from users that will provide you with valuable information regarding which current features they value most as well as which they’d like to see enhanced and/or added. This will help you prioritize future enhancements and also ensures that the portal will truly met their needs, creating a sense of ownership and shared commitment to the success of the portal.

Other Considerations

  • Take a look at your current brand guide. This information can help you assess what needs to be included in the portal as well as what the core topics/areas should be.
  • Develop a hierarchy. Again, start with the most important information and assets and work your way down a list of prioritized items. This will help organize the portal’s site architecture (navigation) in an intuitive way. It will also provide guidance to designers for wire-framing and overall layout and design.
  • Involve your internal IT team. They will be able to provide your development firm with information that helps with the technical requirements of the portal, including whether single sign on (SSO) can be implemented to facilitate user registration and login processes, where and how the portal will be hosted, etc.

At emagine, we have a Portal Questionnaire that can both help guide you through the planning phase of this type of project as well as initiate the scope of work that will ultimately allow your development team to provide a project quote. Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll send it over!