Manufacturing Portal Features and Trends (Part 2)
Shailesh Kumar Shivakumar, Technology Architect, MFG-ADT Online, Infosys
In my previous post, I discussed about the current trends in intranet portals. Let's look at the trends in external portal here.
Trends in Extranet portal
Extranet or external portals cater to the entire online world including customers, web users, partners, vendors, suppliers for the organization.
- Sales and Marketing Focus: Most often the extranet portals among manufacturing clients are sales and marketing focused to achieve goals like ease of business operations, to provide greater control to sales/marketing community and enabling the business community for quickly and effectively design campaigns.
- Search centered experience: Search is assuming greater importance among wide variety of manufacturing clients. Some of them have even positioned search as a primary and preferred form of navigation and as a key entry point. Search centered experience mainly involves things like search enabling key functionalities and providing optimal search experience (context-sensitive, highly relevant search results) from all pages.
- Analytics enablement: Track user activities using Web analytics tools to get deep customer insights and optimize the user experienced based on it.
- Social Media: This is acting as a key driver to engage and collaborate customers and partners. Most of the manufacturing clients are planning to integrate with external social media platforms and provide features like feeds, blog, user communities. Involving and engaging customers translate into key business benefits including increased customer loyalty, promoting brands and creating brand awareness.
- Channel Integration: As mobile devices and tablets are increasingly becoming popular for web access, the web site should support access over all these channels. Mobile enabling the sites and providing native mobile apps as required is gaining momentum.
- Digital Marketing: This involves social media based marketing, micro-sites for seasonal campaigns and continued engagement with digital customers.
You need to consider various other things while designing an enterprise portal strategy and road map. I have discussed few of them below:
- Performance: This forms a critical aspect of any external portal which involves performance optimization at multiple levels:
- Optimized functionalities: The key site functionalities like search, shopping cart need to be optimized to deliver good user experience.
- Client side aggregation: Maximize the client side functionalities leveraging AJAX based partial page rendering to improve page load times
- Web performance optimization: Adopt performance best practices like merging & minifying JS/CSS files using CSS Sprites etc. to improve page load times.
- Content delivery networks: Geographically distributed sites can leverage popular CDN networks like Akamai to provide to maintain strict SLAs
- Localization: The portal should support localization to enhance customer reach. A more intuitive way is to automatically redirect the user to localized site based on user's browser locale or previously stored user's localization preference.
- Real time monitoring: Use monitoring tools like Gomez, IBM Tivoli to actively monitor the applications in real time and effectively respond to production outages. These tools also help in analyzing performance bottlenecks and other performance issues.
- Personalization: This is one of the primary portal use cases which involves both explicit personalization (based on user's preferences) and implicit personalization (based on user behavior).
- Search engine optimization: Provide relevant information of the page so that relevant pages are properly indexed by search engines to ensures that site gets relevant internet traffic.
- Disaster recovery environment: Involves maintenance of a mirror site in case of unforeseen natural disasters. Mirror site and data center will be in a different geographic location than the original production servers.
- Intuitive User experience and information architecture: External portal should enable the user with relevant information discovery with ease and convey consistent user experience. The user interface should be responsive (minimal time for completing the requested operation) and interactive (rich UI features like drag and drop etc.)