By Tim Jenkins, UK Director, e-Spirit

Anyone who has ever dealt with an overloaded, slow and difficult to navigate internal information platform like an enterprise portal knows that accessing information and finding information are not necessarily the same things. The reason is that, more often than not, internal portals are more of a content nightmare than a valuable source of information. Huge volumes of – mostly outdated – content, complex structures that are hard to navigate, poor search engines – all this turns what should be a rich source of knowledge into the quest for the Holy Grail.

Enterprise portals are, of course, not to be confused with an intranet – they can be much more than that. They are platforms and forums for the workforce to access corporate data and tap into the knowledge and experience of their colleagues - from the board to the intern, across the whole company. They provide a unique transparency, opening up resources and information that would otherwise have been inaccessible.

When it comes to enterprise portals, transparency and usability are two of the most important features. Many organisations still underestimate their role and value and tend to under-invest in their efforts to develop them. Corporate portals should provide useful business applications and easy access to information to empower staff and help them to make their job more efficient.

A clearly structured site that is easy to navigate is a vital cornerstone for a successful internal portal. Content Management Systems (CMS) are a good way to ensure ease of use and a pleasing design of portals. This is not only important for front-end users but also for portal editors who have to update the sites. Apart from that, an integrated CMS allows businesses to create a portal in their corporate design that supports identification and makes employees feel ‘at home’. This includes the option to manage multi-lingual content and present content that is up-to-date and relevant for every employee in different regions.

Once the structure of the portal has been created, regular updating is key to avoiding clutter. In particular, platforms that have grown over time with little control or management, tend to get overcrowded with information quickly. It is essential to provide a positive user experience which is why regular audits and updates to the content are vital. Businesses should also make sure to have gatekeepers in place that control the amount and nature of content that is uploaded. Relevance, quality of content and topicality are the key cornerstones of the enterprise portal.

It is important to keep in mind that, done correctly, corporate portals can be used as internal knowledge databases that act as a “virtual colleague”. As such, they should be accessible at any time and from any device. With personal devices on the rise, enterprise portals need to deliver a positive user experience in different formats. Businesses need to make sure that their content is optimised and adapts to laptops, tablets, smartphones and mobiles. CMS systems can help to distribute content automatically to all devices, no matter if the portal is created in a responsive design, if there is a dedicated mobile channel or corporate mobile apps.

Finally, don’t allow your enterprise portal to sit in the corner and gather dust. If you have implemented a well designed structure that is easy to use and navigate, then regularily updating content should be simple and quick. For any portal updates make sure to consider feedback from its users to restructure the system, update the technology and add features or remove bits that are no longer needed. Delivering regular enhancements demonstrate that the corporate portal really is at the heart of the business. Also, keep in mind that it’s the workforce that uses the portal. And remember that you must ensure that it is designed according to their ideas and needs.

In a world where direct communication is more important than ever, and where flexibility is key, a modern enterprise portal must live up to the standards of topicality, accessability and most of all, relevance. If businesses succeed in creating a corporate portal that opens up a host of information to employees and helps to unlock resources and streamline processes, then they might just end up finding the holy grail after all: greater profits!