For the entire history of the portal, when someone asked, “When should I use a portal instead of a content management system?”, the answer was easy.  When you have to login, surface applications, personalize the experience, and otherwise do more than simple content display, then use a portal.  However, that’s been changing of late.  This isn’t necessarily a new trend.  The Web Content Management (WCM) vendors have been moving towards this for a while now.  Think of the following example:

Interwoven’s Livesite let’s them do more than display static content and the personalization engine can be used much more easily.  It was a long time coming for Iwov but the addition of a run time gave them much more flexibility.

I think that represented a trend that the WCM vendors needed to take in order to survive.  Now let’s look at a list of functionality you see in Sitecore, Adobe cq5, and IBM’s WCM product:

  • Personalization
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Deep integration with web analytics include A/B testing with oob marketing suites or separate but related products
  • Sharepoint integration
  • Microsoft CRM integration
  • Out of the box web forms and integration to the web site
  • Data Provider abstraction layers
  • Wiki’s
  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Tagging
  • Ratings
  • Calendaring
  • Open Social containers for gadget or widget support
  • Surveys
  • Advanced workflow engines
  • WebDav integration
  • Drag and drop component libraries
  • Federated search

It’s a long list but you will see some similarities to portal.  You will also see some functionality portal products are now starting to deliver.

My View

So now the question about when to use a portal or a WCM system has a slightly more nuanced answer.  WCM system provide more functionality than they have in the past.  They make it easier to surface data and even interact with simple widgets and forms.  That said, they are not yet portals.  They don’t do application interaction yet. They don’t integrate personalization with both content and applications.  They don’t do as good a job in hooking to services layers and in creating other integrations to things like user repositories.

That said, you have more reason to do a full review of what you need before choosing to use either a WCM or a Portal.  Even with IBM, I’m seeing companies looking first to their WCM product and then to their portal product.

So my biggest question is how long it will be before portal and WCM merge? Or if they will merge?

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