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1 August 2006

We are all familiar with the term 'portal'. A portal is an 'entrance gate' (and not a site in itself) for knowledge, information and data created usually elsewhere. This platform/application that can serve as a shared 'entrance' for information segments and applications from different systems and websites, to organize them smartly and thus create additional value which does not exist when these information segments are separate.

In the external internet world, the additional value is financial. The portal creates interest centers which attract surfers. The portal's activators translate this into profit by charging membership fees, advertisement, marketing activities, etc.

In the organizational world, added value is the worker's abilities in terms of accessibility, sharing, decision making, and performing based on a wide range of information and knowledge; all the above, regardless of their organizational affiliation, to where the information is created or the platform on which it is created.

So, what is a Vortal?

The term is an abbreviation of 'Vertical Portal'. Therefore, it is first and foremost a portal, which means every definition of a portal can be applied to the Vortal as well. Similarly to the portal, the portal too uses tools such as personalization, information externalization, advanced search functionality, "conversing" with other systems, sharing documents and managing content in order to enrich its target audience's knowledge and expertise. The difference between the two is their target audience and subject. While the portal might be intra-organizational or extra-organizational and usually includes information from different fields, the Vortal is (at least nowadays) only extra-organizational and focuses on specific industries and fields.

The business world is characterized by two types of communities:

  • Horizontal Industry: characterized by a very wide common denominator. For example, all Spanish speakers.

  • Vertical Industry: focuses mainly on certain field. For example, pharmaceutical manufacturers whose expertise is creating medicine for blood pressure.

Of course, these definitions are relative, not absolute. Are pharmaceutical manufacturers are a vertical or horizontal industry? According to current definition, they are a horizontal industry since pharmaceutical manufacturers are an industry which includes sub-industries and specialties. A portal addresses the needs of all communities, yet tends mostly to address horizontal communities (in terms of including more people into a shared portal); the Vortal on the other hand is more apt for vertical communities.

The Vortal is usually characterized by Business to Business communication (B2B) and provides its target audience with news, articles, statistics, tools, newsletters and other services in order to enrich their expertise and knowledge on a specific subject. This is the internet's way to do what virtual intra-organizational knowledge communities have done for organizations and create environments adapted for focused target audiences/interests.

An example of a Vortal is KMworld, which focuses on the niche of Knowledge Management

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