The 2009 Portal Excellence Conference just began. I'm sitting here in the opening general session. The room is pretty full. With most conferences and events having lower attendance due to the economy, it is heartening to see so many people here. And so many people I know. It's kind of like a family reunion. As I walk through the halls, I don't get very far before I shake a hand or wave to a friend. This is my favorite conference.
The topic for the opening session is "The Future of Portals." It is a fun topic and one that really defines my job. As a project manger, I'm always working on the "next" version of portal. I've heard it said that "I like to talk about the future since we're going to spend so much time there". That really is true for me and my role in IBM. Product strategy is a key part of a product manager's job. Most of my customer meetings are about helping customers use portal technology to solve their business problems. They aren't looking for just a quick fix. They want a solution that meets their current and future needs. So they want to know what the future holds for portals.
There is a lot of good stuff in the presentations. IBM is #1 in Gartner's Magic Quadrant again. IBM is #1 in portal market share again. WebSphere Portal customers have 300 million named users. So 1 in 6 internet users worldwide is a WebSphere Portal user. It is great that Bob Picciano, the general manager of Lotus and WebSphere, is here giving the keynote. I think that is a first for the portal conferences. Larry Bowden, the Vice President of Portals and Mashups, also was speaker. The portal demo presented by Dan Makuch was awesome. Very impressive.
I see some of the future of portal here in the room. The guy sitting next to me is using his iPhone. It looks like he is on Facebook. Social networking is one of the hot trends in consumer web sites. But social networking isn't just for consumer sites. It is also on the the hottest trends in IT. Enterprises are looking to leverage social networks to enable employees to collaborate more effectively, to better communicate with partners, and to build loyal communities of customers. Portals can complement social software by promoting the community, driving users to join the community and injecting social network collaboration into the content, applications and information that users come to the portal to get.
So my guy is now typing an e-mail. I can't see all of what he's typing, but I did see the words WCM. I'm going to guess that means web content management.
Some people see web content management and portals as competitive technologies. They are both technologies that can be used to build a web site. Sometimes when I talk to people about portals, they say "I don't need a portal. I just need a web site." But portals and web content management are used to accomplish the same thing--to deliver exceptional web experiences. Portals are about providing secure, role-based personalized access to information and applications in the context of the task or business process of the user. Web Content Management is more than just organizing content. It is about using the web to influence people--things like delivering a brand message, delivering marketing messages in an engaging manner, creating and managing multi-channel marketing campaigns. Delivering the best web experience for your customers, partners and employees requires both portals and web content management. Using them together is much more effective than pitting them against each other and then duplicating functions of one in the other.
The guy to my right is typing on his laptop. In fact, there are a bunch of people in the room working on their laptops (me included!) They are trying to get more done with less. More work. Less time. I'll bet some of them are checking on their portal servers. Maybe they are the system administrator of a portal site that just went live and they want to make sure that everything is going ok. They're probably bringing up their portal site in their browser. When it comes up quickly, they are happy--relieved. But what they really want to see is how those back-end applications are doing. Because those back-end applications integrated into the portal are the weakest link. If those connections go down, the portal will be "down" or at least not fully functional. But he won't know until the portal page doesn't come up. Most back-end applications have to be integrated at the API level. Any instrumentation of those servers is hard work. So it doesn't get done. Too low on the priority list. Too high on the cost list. But Web 2.0 integration methods could make it easy. What if that back-end application provided operational data in the form of a feed? What if the server memory usage, database connection pool status and average response time where delivered via a WSRP service? And what if that data could be assembled together into a mashup running on the secure, scalable enterprise portal that was accessible in a secure way through the internet on a web browser. That would make it much easier for the system administrator to do his job. Do more with less.
So maybe we don't need an eloquent speaker to tell us the future of portal. The future is sitting right here in the audience. And right here in this portal community. What do you think is the future of portal?