Digital Transformation

Horizontal vs Vertical Portal: Backend Integration

You may be interested in my other posts in this series

  1. Kickoff
  2. UI

In this post, I want to focus on the back end integration.  No portal can act on its own.  Most portals need to make calls to various backend systems.  Some do it better than other.

Vertical Portals with Integration

Vertical portals have the possibility of getting a strong rating here.   That assumes that the vertical portal has already taken the time to integrate to some industry standard product.  If they have already done this then it’s more a matter of configuration rather than the analysis of data, creation of web services etc.  If this type of portal has done the work for you then you can see significant costs savings in your implement ion.

However…………………… you must look closely at what data and transactions you wish to surface.  What we tend to see is that vertical vendors provide less flexibility when things are out of the box.  If they integrate to two of your three core systems but lack integration to the third, it could get quite costly.  It all depends on what kind of support they give to create new interfaces and whether they will do it ($$$$$) or you can do it ($$).

Horizontal Portals with Integration

At first glance, it looks like horizontal portals score worse than a vertical portal.  IF the vertical portal has already developed the integration then yes.  However, keep in mind that a horizontal portal was built to integrate to third party sources.  The second you get to custom integration, a horizontal portal will win.  I believe they provide better integration in the non out of the box scenario is two fold:

  1. Horizontal portals already support a wide range of standards. This support makes it easier to call a RESTful service, web service, CMIS , or WSRP portlet.
  2. Horizontal portal resource already think in terms of going and grabbing the data.  That mindset counts for a lot.  You don’t have to convince someone that it’s ok to go grab the data or about the best practices involved in doing so.   These types of people also think through the enterprise implications of high availability and scalability.

Combined Portal with Integration

For the same reason as the horizontal portal, a combined portal scores well but not the best.   Of course, I assume a combined portal that puts a vertical portal on a vendor like IBM, Liferay  or SharePoint is a bit further behind the product maturity curve than a a straight portal vendor.  Like everything else, there exists a certain number of caveats.  A vertical portal on a horizontal platform means the platform already supports a wide range of standards that will make your life easier when doing custom implementation.  If you’re lucky, maybe this vendor has already created some out of the box integrations.

Bottom Line

Like anything else, it pays to dive into the details.  Based on what I’ve seen from various portal vendors, I think a horizontal or combined vendor approach has the best long term economics and flexibility.  But that all depends on how much customization you need and what extra integration should occur.

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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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