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10 Keys to a Successful Portal Project

  • By Scott Nelson
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There have been many projects where the risk was rated too low because product documentation stated that a feature was supported, where it was later discovered that there is a large gap between "supported" and "easily implemented." If ROI is as highly user driven as you are assuming (well, I am, at least), there are few things more user-vicious than to promise a feature and not provide it.

Any item that is high risk should given a practical test, or developed as a fully functional proof-of-concept before committing to delivering it. The POC will provide a better understanding of both risk and effort, and improve ROI because a feature that fails to work as expected requires extra work on the part of QA staff, development staff, and analysts. The saying "there is never enough time to do it right but always enough time to fix it" leaves out one important factor: It costs more to fix it than to do it right.

10. Know What to Reuse or Replace

Even though almost all developers tend to be optimistic, they are pretty divided on their preference of either reusing what already exists or building everything new. They also tend to follow this preference single-mindedly. Because many development managers were once developers, their tendencies often become the culture. This is not always a bad thing, because such cultures often evolve to where they can deliver consistently with their chosen preference. If the delivery is not consistent, it is important to develop an approach for evaluating existing assets for each project and make a dispassionate decision whether reuse or replacement will server the project best. Although the development team must be part of this decision process, it is best to have it facilitated by someone outside the team, preferably someone who doesn't have their own tendencies in this area.


One common theme of all ten keys to success is that the user's needs must come first. If you want the user to need something for your profit or savings, it must be provided in a way that gives the user a benefit.

Creativity is also important to a successful portal project. It should be fostered from the earliest stages of the project and encouraged at each stage. Creativity is not limited to coming up with features to deliver, it can (and should) also be applied to making compromises between business needs, technical considerations, and usability.

Finally, more than one key to success is clearly a matter of finding what works for your particular project rather than a panacea path to portal project perfection. This also means that actively looking for more than ten keys is the eleventh key to success.

About the Author

Scott Nelson is a Senior Principal Consultant with well over 10 years of experience designing, developing, and maintaining web-based applications for manufacturing, pharmaceutical, financial services, non-profit organizations, and real estate agencies for use by employees, customers, vendors, franchisees, executive management, and others who use a browser. He also blogs all of the funny emails forwarded to him at Frequently Unasked Questions.

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This article was originally published on September 2, 2008

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