Digital Transformation

Horizontal Portals vs Vertical Portals, Managing Content

Red rating for vertical portals and content management

Yes, this is a continuing series.  I’ve covered a number of topics already. This is the fifth in the series.

  1. User Interface
  2. Backend Integration
  3. Search
  4. Multisite support

Feel free to check them out.

So what about Content?

So any site these days demands serious content management capabilities.  Most companies these days want a fantastic portal with a good content management system that allows for campaigns, SEO, publishing without IT, etc.   They usually want content available to both anonymous and logged in users.  There are plenty of third party content management systems out there that could cover the web content need rather well. However, the CMS vendors don’t provide the integration, personalization, great security model, and a host of other services.  That’s why people look to portal vendors in the first place.

That means that portal must integrate both transactions/data along with web content.  Both have to be searchable. Both should be able to appear on the same page and in context.  Both should allow for personalization.  Here’s your account record.  Here’s an ad targeted to what type of customer you are.  Here’s content related to what you’ve done.  For example, if you belong to the diabetes community, we might point you to content related to that.

One last point, when I say content management, I really mean Web Content Management (WCM).   I do not mean document management, team collaboration around documents or really anything to do with documents.  I refer to html.  Yes, an html page may deliver up a document but it typically won’t just display a library of documents with nothing else.

Vertical Portals and Content Management

Red rating for vertical portals and content management

Vertical portals have the same problem they have with other, non-vertical related features.  They probably have some capability but they don’t have a full solution. If they do have a solution, that solution won’t have all the features you expect.  Think about what companies expect just a a baseline web content management system:


  • Allow the business to publish
  • Configurable and agile workflow
  • Expiration date
  • Publish date
  • Versions and rollback
  • Work in projects while allowing day to editing to occur
  • Support multiple languages
  • Support SEO
  • Integrated search
  • Support things like blogs and wikis
  • audit trail
  • etc.

Individually, each of this shouldn’t be that hard to support.  Taken as a whole, the web content management capabilities of a portal represent significant investment on the part of the vertical portal vendor.  When you add in the the WCM system should be fully integrated into the portal, then it gets to be a bit hard.  Take IBM or Microsoft for example, both have integrated web content management systems.  Both took multiple major releases to integrate the CMS capabilities into the portal.  These are vendors with billion dollar R&D budgets btw.

So yes, take a close look at a vertical portal vendor’s content management capabilities.  I suspect that in this case, they will fall short.

Horizontal Portal and Content Management

Light green rating for horizontal portal and content management

Horizontal portal vendors rank a light green for content management.  Frankly, not all the horizontal portals do an equally good job on web content management in their portal. Some are better others and perhaps in another setting, I’ll compare them. But all of them have WCM systems in their portal and they all have integrated them.

You may ask, then why aren’t they ranked dark green?  The reality is that for all the horizontal portal vendors do in this portal / wcm area, they still aren’t as good as some vendors like Adobe CQ5 or Sitecore.  Of course, I’m only referring to the actual managing and display of web content.  Standalone WCM vendors tend to fail miserably when it comes to transactions, data, and processes.  It’s also a pain to integrate standalone WCM tools with portals. (not impossible, just a pain.)  So while they have good WCM capabilities, horizontal portal vendors have room for improvement on the WCM side.  That’s especially true when marketing comes to play.  More and more often, large horizontal portal vendors are having to bring in their portal, web content management, web analytics, and campaign/segmentation tools to meet the entire need of a company with customers as end users.   Of course, at least the large vendors can bring these tools to bear.

Combined Portal and Content Management

Light green rating for horizontal portal and content management

Because a vertical portal based on a horizontal platform can reuse the existing WCM systems, they also rank a light green.  I have one caveat though, if you have needs for the whole enchilada that includes web analytics, market analysis, campaigns, segmentations, etc; then you will soon have to deal with both the horizontal portal vendor and the combined portal vendor.  Just take a close look at what they do with content management and how it’s integrated before you leap.

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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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