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Forrester Research Launches Enterprise Portal Server TechRankings

Forrester Research Inc. today announced a new addition to its eBusiness TechRankings. Enterprise Portal Server TechRankings is to become the seventh category and aims to help companies select the best enterprise portal server products for their needs.

For this new TechRankings, Forrester has defined enterprise portal servers as software that gives employees a single customized interface to the online resources they need by both integrating and organizing applications and data. It has indentified the Top 10 purchasing factors through assessing user needs.

To identify the most common user needs, Forrester initiated a product testing and evaluation process with major companies in this market. With its partner Doculabs Inc., enterprise portal server offerings were evaluated from six participating vendors: BroadVision's InfoExchange Portal, Epicentric's Foundation Server, iPlanet's Portal Server, Oracle's Oracle9iAS Portal, Plumtree's Corporate Portal, and TIBCO's ActivePortal.

Enterprise software products are evaluated through laboratory-based product testing, research and user interviews, and analysis of global vendor offerings. As each enterprise information portal deployment is unique, clients use online tools to customize the research and product evaluation rankings.

The impetus for creating new category has arisen from developments in the enterprise portal server industry. According to Forrester, portal market veterans such as Epicentric and Plumtree, are facing a maturing market validated by new entries from application server vendors, such as iPlanet and Oracle, integration experts such as TIBCO, content management players like BroadVision, and several enterprise application builders.

''The portal server market is broad and confused,'' said Nate L. Root, analyst at Forrester and principal researcher for the new category. ''But all these products are still maturing, and no single offering is free of shortcomings. The recent spate of acquisitions, partnerships, and product rewrites will give rise to better products in the long run but is simply confusing companies now.''

According to Forrester, vendors with very different software experience are entering the market by tweaking existing products which has created a diverse product landscape. After assessing over 900 unique product evaluation criteria, Forrester believes that those products that offer integration with back-end applications, followed by search and performance capabilities, are the strongest positioned in the marketplace.

Before evaluating portal servers in the lab, Forrester interviewed IT executives at 49 Global 3,500 companies to discover their portal needs. Forrester found that firms want portal servers that help employees use the applications and information they need to do their jobs. Most firms indicated they want a portal that focuses on employees and takes a year or less to launch. The majority of firms said they rely on their IT groups as the sole source of portal funding, while many companies said they find it difficult to build consensus on portal features and funding across the entire organization.

Based on these interviews, Forrester created a list of the top 10 factors to consider when choosing an enterprise portal such as: Will the portal handle complex business transactions? How will portal users interact with each other? What development expertise does IT have?

Since the eBusiness TechRankings launch in October 2000, Forrester has released seven TechRankings categories: Enterprise Portal Server, Marketing Automation Application, Integration Server, Customer Service Application, Application Server, Content Management, and Commerce Platform. Existing TechRankings categories are updated regularly with new information, new vendors, and new releases.