Digital Transformation

Top 5 Most Valuable People on a Portal Project

Projects get done because people complete all tasks necessary to launch.  Projects get done on time because the resources assigned to a project are both accountable and competent.  A tpyical portal project can have something like 15-20 different roles.  When I name a top 5 it’s not because I don’t value the other roles, it’s because these roles are of particular importance in whether or not a portal project succeeds.  So without a lot more introduction, here are the roles I think extremely valuable.

  1. Project Manager
  2. Portal Architect
  3. User Experience Designer
  4. Portal and Content Management Developers
  5. Testers

Project Manager

A good project manager is worth his or her weight in gold.  A good project manager leads a project to success rather than simply tracking it.  I have seen more projects hit hard times due to poor project management than because of technical issues.  Here are key qualities I would look for:

  • Spends time leading, managing, and coordinating a project.
  • Does far more than just jotting down issues and risks on a piece of paper
  • Sits with architects and developers over lunch to understand their frame of reference and what is really critical
  • Understands the technology well enough to understand the dependencies
  • Acts immediately on issues with dependencies
  • Is forward looking and ensures that deliverables, environments, etc are ready before developers start working on them
  • Can translate a development issue to business language
  • Isn’t afraid to act like a business analyst
  • Uses collaboration and project tools to their best advantage.

Portal Architect

While we’ve gotten better at identifying who will make a good architect, that in no way lessens the importance of this role.  In many ways, a portal architect is the most well rounded of all the architects out there.  Think about it. A portal Architect has to know portal technology cold and then has to have a deep enough understanding of a whole host of other technologies to make the portal work correctly:

  • Search Engine
  • Web content management tool
  • Document management tool
  • Services layer like an ESB or other middleware
  • Various SSO tools from a lot of different vendors
  • User experience techniques that impact the overall architecture of the site
  • Development tools and standards like Eclipse, Visual Studio, Hibernate, JSF, Spring MVC, JSR 286, JSR 170, WSRP, etc.
  • Potential integration to ERP and a whole raft of enterprise systems

This demands someone who can go deep while at the same time climbing a ladder long enough to see the whole picture and make sure nothing is missing.  That type of person can be hard to find.

User Experience Designer

This is a portal. It’s all about the front end. It’s all about the user experience.  I’ve worked with too many companies where we are ripping and replacing the old site.  All too often, the main complaint is the horrible user experience foisted on their customers, partners, or employees.  Many times, the technology is to blame but without fail, a poor UI design contributed.  I’ve seen what a good UX person can bring to the final outcome and because of that, a UX designer gets my vote for the top 5.  So here is what a good UX Designer brings to your project:

  • By interacting with the actual users, you can actually figure out what’s most important and include that in your portal
  • Decent taxonomy
  • Good labels in your navigation and in your portal apps that actually make senses to the people who will use it.
  • Much less clunky look and feel for the apps you do develop
  • Significant cost savings when this approach catches what you need to do……….vs catching it during user acceptance testing.

Portal and Content Management Developers

Yes, competent technical resources remain a key component.  Many would probably put this at number one.  While I decline to say which is really the number one role on a project, these guys are hugely important.  (I’m actually not sure if there is a number one role. There’s too many inter-depencies for one person to be the lynch pin.)  So what makes a good developer?

  • A developer can code. If you are a portal developer, then you know an object oriented language WELL.  If you live in the Java world then you know how MVC works and can move from Spring MVC to JSF, to other ones easily. If you are a content developer then you understand logic and can pick up the logic constructs in .NET, jsps, php, etc.
  • Rolls with the flow.  Yes, things will change.  A good developer understands what’s important.
  • Not afraid to work.  It’s better to get something done and then re-visit the code than do nothing at all.
  • Learns from his or her mistakes.  They will occur.  a good developer doesn’t repeat the same mistake.
  • Has an arsenal of tools at hand and has taken the time to understand and incorporate them
  • Has some ability to pull out of tech speak long enough for a project manager to understand the issue and translate it for the business.
  • Can weigh pros and cons and work through the least bad approach.  Sometimes all you have are bad options.


In todays Agile methodology driven world, testing becomes more important than ever.  Not only is it more important, it’s now essential to start planning for it on day one and to begin testing as functionality is delivered rather than waiting for a testing phase.  If you have someone who understands this and gets a testing team going with the right tools and resources, your defect rate will go down while your business user satisfaction will go up.  Testing as early as possible is a key part of this as well.

Finally, testing involves not only functional but also load and performance testing.  Thou shalt release no site before you know what brings it to its knees.

So there you have it

Again, all the people on a project are important right down to the dba which spends a small number of hours (typically) on a portal project.  These top 5 people are definitely ones that can impact the success of a project.

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Michael Porter

Mike Porter leads the Strategic Advisors team for Perficient. He has more than 21 years of experience helping organizations with technology and digital transformation, specifically around solving business problems related to CRM and data.

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