A portal is software that presents customized information and transactions to end users through a Web browser. Think of it as a wrapper that hides the innards of your systems from the user, or a template that lets you, or users, plug in the information or applications you need. Unlike an intranet or extranet, which only help companies distribute information on the Web, a portal also lets users run applications, such as checking the status of an order in a supplier’s ERP system.
Portals attract labels. A vertical portal addresses one aspect of a business, such as a human resources site that lets employees sign up for training classes and view pay stubs. A process portal provides access to information and applications that support specific business processes.
An enterprise portal gives end users access to multiple types of information and applications through a standard interface: e-procurement software and the accounts payable system for company buyers; order status and accounts receivable applications for the customer service reps; time and attendance records for everyone. Save the stock ticker for when the economy improves.