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A new perspective on "portals- the optimal Knowledge Management", published in 2know's August 2002 issue

1 April 2010
A person typing on a computer

The article, published on August 2002, discussed the portal's content component and the optimal way to characterize a portal. According to this article, the portal must be focused on the worker's position and professional needs and not on the messages the organization wishes to convey. In other words, organizations should manage a Job-Related Portal and not a portal that displays the benefits workers are entitled to or the lunchroom cameras.

Despite this article published merely 8 years ago, it now seems that professional portals have always been there. However, the "professional portal" approach (previously defined as the Job-Related Portal) was groundbreaking at the time since in 2002 there weren't any professional portals, only organizational portals that were essentially electronic bulletin boards bearing information for workers.

What has changed since?

First of all, let me discuss what hasn't changed at all: we still believe that the portal must serve the workers' needs and reflect the data they require from the organizations' various tools and systems and enable them to reach them in the easiest, quickest and most comfortable way. Furthermore, the portal must assist in attaining organizational objectives- whether of the organization as a whole, goals of a certain department, or any other body for which the portal is set up- or any other Knowledge Management that suits them.

Besides this principal belief, a lot has changed:

  1. We now understand that an unequivocal statement as such as the statement presented in the article, is no longer relevant. We nowadays recognize various types of portals and know that they can succeed aside one another- as long as they answer the organization and its workers' needs: the organizational portal, which contains the welfare content, workers' rights and duties and is responsible for communicating messages from management to the workers can operate beside the professional portal which displays the content which the workers need to perform their The portal can be targeted at certain positions (such as a portal for investment personnel) or defined by organizational affiliation (portal for IT workers). In case of multiple portals (or other Knowledge Management solutions, such as Knowledge websites and communities, which are sometimes confused with a portal) it is vital for an organization to define to it workers what is the main gate to the organizational knowledge and also provide them with the most relevant data via said main gate or at least one click from it- in order not to create multiple data sources workers from which must be updated or search for the information.

  2. The world of internet and its users have changed and evolved. The Web 2.0 world has infiltrated the world of organizational internet and has greatly affected the nature of its portals. Professional lingo refers to this as Enterprise 2.0, and it is already here. Like internet websites, which don't base themselves solely on paid writers and referencing external articles. For example, the organizational portal contains all classic components: organizational news- received from organization management or headquarters, worker rights and duties, vital application such as an organizational calendar, vacant positions board, attendance reporting system, etc. aside sharing tools in which workers participate: surveys, professional forums (a tool in use for several years now) or social (which are gaining popularity), a comment component that allows users to respond to organization news, a picture gallery or story gallery containing workers' recollections of organizational activities and even workers' blogs. My experience shows that workers respond surprisingly positively to these requests: workers want to be seen and heard in the portal; this might be due to reality TV or perhaps it is social media. Whatever the cause, everyone wants to participate. An organizational Wiki is another initiative that gets workers involved. In this case, the organization must decide what means of monitoring it wishes to operate towards this knowledgebase: can we trust what the workers write? Should we allocate a professional factor to review the content? Should we review the content after it is published, or should it be a perquisite for publishing? Can we delete or change what the worker wrote or rather present the content plus out comments? This dilemma affects not only the organization but the workers' benefit as well- how to encourage them to keep on sharing and contributing and not embarrass them or hurt their feelings. This dilemma resembles a dilemma we faced years ago when the first forums were uploaded to the portal- how do we get the worker to ask without worrying of being perceived as someone who doesn’t know? How do we encourage them to ask via the forum instead of contacting us by phone?

  3. In an age in which we all view Google as the central and most available information tracking tool, workers want Google to be available in the portal as well. If in the recent past we invested a substantial amount of time in characterizing portal's navigation tree and organizing them correctly, the currently popular approach cites that organizations should invest more in choosing a strong search engine and defining search databases according to the portal's components and tagging its content. Not only is similarity to the internet world perceived by users as advanced and "real" and thus improves the portal's PR, improving search abilities enables quickly detecting the information required for work in one click, even when you don't remember where it is located. Other Knowledge Management tools, such as information directories, have always used this tool as a nearly exclusive information detection tool; it was only a matter of time till portals 'discovered' this issue.

A portal's success is measured by its ability to fulfill the organization and its workers' needs.

A good organizational portal is one prominent in the organization and can energize it- it reflects the organization's status, management views it as a central tool for transmitting its messages to workers and it enables generating healthy competition between organization units that wish to tell of their activities and successes.

A good professional portal is one that concentrates all the information workers need for fulfilling his duties. It serves as a first and last address for the worker to search and find information.

A good portal, regardless of its type, is one that provides the worker a place to express their voice, be it through forums, feedback tools or comment tools. This expression is still managed and monitored but is still a great opportunity for organization to evolve and advance.

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