Buyer's Guideby Brian Westfall,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 10, 2018
Your business doesn’t operate in a bubble, so why should your business software? Depending on who you ask, different parties related to your organization are going to have drastically different needs with regards to your internal systems and information.
For example, if you have an ad agency on retainer, they need easy access to your marketing materials. Your distributors, on the other hand, need to be able to look up important product information at a moment’s notice. Employees need a comprehensive intranet to collaborate and direct themselves to various applications, while customers require a more tailored interface to do things like create an online account and submit support tickets.
If you’re having trouble curating the online experience for different user groups, consider investing in portal software. These applications can help you customize the “entryway” to your enterprise business systems.
In this Buyer’s Guide, you’ll learn what portal software is, common functionality, pricing information and more.
Let’s get started:
What Is Portal Software?
Portal software allows companies to customize the digital gateway through which different types of users access enterprise software systems. If first impressions matter (and they do), portal software helps your business make a great one on employees, customers, business partners and more.
Portal software is somewhat of a catch-all term for a variety of different software systems that cater to the needs of different end users. Here are some common examples:
- Employee portals, or intranets, allow workers to share and discuss information, read company announcements and log into different internal business applications.
- Customer portals allow patrons to create an online account, search through your knowledge base, pay bills and submit service requests.
- Client portals allow external users to securely access internal digital files, information and tools.
- Patient portals are designed for medical practices so patients can log in and perform tasks related to scheduling, billing and more.
- Board portals or board management software helps businesses with all aspects of corporate governance such as scheduling, content sharing, and other features.
Common Functionality of Portal Software Systems
Though web portal software can have wildly different functionality depending on the intended end user, there are a number of common core features that tie these systems together:
|Software integration||Integrate with other internal software systems (ERP, EMR, CRM) so users can access necessary functions securely through the portal.|
|Single sign on (SSO)||Users create a unique login and password to access a number of separate platforms at once.|
|System directory||Point users in the right direction for different business applications and functions.|
|Custom user permissions||Group users together and control the information and tools that each group can access.|
Benefits of Portal Software
When implemented properly, portal software can offer a slew of benefits to different organizations. If you’re having trouble convincing higher-ups to invest in a dedicated web portal system, consider throwing these benefits in your business case:
- Portal software saves precious time. According to a 2016 survey by Adobe, white-collar workers in the U.S. spend an average of 4.1 hours a day reading and answering emails. If you’re constantly emailing back-and-forth with customers or business partners, portal software can alleviate a lot of this workload by empowering users to find information or troubleshoot issues themselves.
- Portal software improves business relations. Self-service doesn’t just benefit internal users. In a Software Advice survey, we found almost three-quarters of customers first search for answers online when they encounter a problem. Another survey by ZenDesk adds that two-thirds of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative. Implementing self-service capabilities through portal software can let customers, clients, employees and more solve problems using their preferred method. This can eliminate inconveniences and improve relations.
What Consumers Do First When They Have Questions for a Company
- Portal software strengthens security. Handing external users access to sensitive internal materials is always a scary proposition, and user permissions preset in central business systems aren’t always up to the task of alleviating fears. Often times, these permissions can be too lax (giving users access to capabilities/information they shouldn’t have) or too restrictive (not allowing end users to do what they need). With portal software, companies get more options with regards to user access in order to better customize permissions for different groups and strengthen security.
How Much Does Portal Software Cost?
How much a specific portal software system costs and how often your business has to make payments depends on your preferred method of deployment. There are generally two different types of deployment models for portal software with different pricing structures:
- With an on-premise deployment, you pay one large fee upfront to host the software on your own servers. Portal software vendors typically offer different pricing tiers depending on how many users you’ll need (one tier for 2,000 users, one for 5,000, etc.). This upfront fee can range anywhere from $10,000 to more than $100,000.
- With a software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployment, you pay a month-to-month subscription fee for the vendor to host the software on their own servers for you to access via a web browser. In this model, the subscription fee is often based on each individual user your system has and can range from $5 to $15+ per user per month.
There may be other costs associated with your portal software as well, for things like setup, training or support. It’s important to note, however, that neither deployment option is necessarily better or cheaper than the other in most cases. Our Total Cost of Ownership Calculator shows that costs for each option tend to equal out over time.
Additional Portal Software Resources
The information found in the Buyer’s Guide is just a starting point. If you want to learn more about portal software, here are a few resources that can help:
- Find out what the best patient portals have in common. If you’re a medical practice overwhelmed by patient portal options, this helpful article talks about top features, implementation tips and more.
- Learn how portal software can improve the customer experience. We’ve barely skimmed the surface on how portal software can benefit your customers. This in-depth article goes into more detail on how these systems are crucial to the online customer experience.
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