About a year ago I remember listening to contributing editor Tim Reason talk about a story he was working on for CFO. The article was about financial portals. Back then, financial portals were being touted as the back-office equivalents of E-Trade: sites where finance managers could access analytic tools, get market information, and conduct secure company transactions. Add free cake and it’s pretty much a perfect world.
The problem was, things were far from perfect. As Reason explained, few of these megahyped virtual gateways were actually up and running. Despite assurances from PR managers that the sites were conducting transactions, most of the portals were still in beta. Others had yet to go live.
Many never did. When the funding for new-economy ventures vanished, so too did a lot of these financial portals. Those that survived were eventually acquired; few have remained as stand-alone entities.
Which brings us to “Behind the Green Door,” Reason’s latest take on the world of financial portals. What’s interesting now is that the definition of what constitutes a financial portal has changed. Rather than an outside destination for conducting transactions, portals are now Web-enabled gateways inside a company. That is, portals provide easy entry into software and databases located across various servers and departments.
In short, portals are the Wonderland of the desktop, except that there’s no little bottle labeled “drink me” and no side effects. With one click on an icon, a finance employee can look at numbers in the HR department. Click another icon, and that same employee is looking at accounts receivable numbers.
I won’t go into how this neat trick is accomplished (Reason explains the technology behind portals in the article). What I will say is that some serious software vendors, including SAP, PeopleSoft, and Oracle, are getting very serious about the portal business. And that means corporate portals are probably here to stay.
For a detailed look at financial portals, read “Behind the Green Door.”