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The internet has several definitions of what a portal is but for this blog I mean “a page on the internet that allows people to get useful information," before the internet this would have also meant to allow access via a doorway into another world. For companies they can be used to invite customers into an internal world so that they can order, solve problems, check delivery status, check contracts and review data held about them.When building a portal it should be intuitive, point and click technology, and data should be able to be viewed and changed both securely and easily. In the days of the internet, the perception is that all programs will talk to each other but even today only 33% of software has a public API. With this in mind customer expectations are high and building an integrated portal is not without its complexity.

This is especially true in the UK where 94% of customers would prefer to buy the product and receive support online. Therefore the need to integrate external facing portals, websites, CRM and the Accounts package is a must in this digital age. The trick to making this happen is to ensure that the software selected can communicate both ways, to receive and send data. A single data base controlling the flow of data in these systems is a must, and this for us is SugarCRM. Why you ask?! Sugar for a long time has been recognised as the CRM package most developers would choose due to its strong API’s and good database schema. Understanding how your data is held and where is a legal requirement in the EU, and SugarCRM gives you the option to host your data where you need to. This means that we can connect applications together and still comply with the regulations.

It may be a necessity for security if you're going to transfer data between my account package, online buying portals and CRM to keep this behind a firewall and with Sugar you can.

We have built portals for many companies across a wide spectrum of industries and the data our customers have shared with us is staggering a 65% increase in sales for a distribution company of which 72% was companies ordering after the office was closed. Charity increasing online donations by 55% and support cases down by 42%, these numbers justify the investment and because these systems are self-service they have reduced costs in administration which means that the back office cost is reduced.

It is hard to believe that in this digital age software companies are still creating products that do not have a public API that can be used to communicate with other software. And that legacy software is still being updated and sold which can still only be used stand alone.

An example of one of the portals we've built at Enable Technologies:



This Portal has been built to provide services to the medial sector the company has a turnover of over a 100 million and employs 1200 people the portal is used by 65,000 customers externally and 800 internally. The above screenshot is of their User Homepage. From that page the users can track a customer's upgrade and interact with other members of staff.

Blog by David Bushnell at Enable Technologies.