One-stop learning Featured

9:45am EDT July 22, 2002

Imagine that you had the equivalent of Yahoo! or Lycos on your desktop, but instead of searching the Web, it only searched the knowledge in your company. If you didn’t find what you were looking for, the search could be broadened to industry publications or general Web sites.

This is becoming reality with the deployment of Enterprise Information Portals.

“An EIP is a single gateway to all the information assets of an end user or an organization,” says Rodney Bienvenu, president and CEO of SageMaker, an EIP developer. “It’s a single point of access for your information requirements.”

A hardware store owner might need information on hammers, such as competitor pricing, supplies, industry trends, new products or nationwide demand. The owner needs the knowledge to make various business decisions.

“In order to do that, the person needs to know a lot about how to find and extract information from various sources,” says Bienvenu.

This may mean navigating Web sites, filling out membership information, then being issued a password; then another search within the site begins to extract the information needed.

“There has been no actual work done yet other than searching for the information,” notes Bienvenu. “You skip all that with an EIP. It simplifies the whole process to a single step.”

This is made possible by all data being tagged with information that tells a computer what it’s about. It’s essentially a card catalog entry, with a subject, author, how often it’s updated and other data. EIP companies have run into problems in some areas, because, for example, net income in the United States is calculated differently than net income in the United Kingdom, so there’s no universal comparison.

As a result, EIP firms have evolved along industry specific lines.

SageMaker has set up its EIP software to filter all the information from Web sites and elsewhere into a set of basic page designs so you don’t have to learn to navigate each new source of information.

Passwords to proprietary content have also been streamlined. Once you sign into the SageMaker system, you have access to all the sources you are paying for without having to enter each individual site and remember the password for each of the possible 7,000 information sources.

The product can also be customized, so once you decide what is most relevant to you, that vital information will appear on your start-up page so you don’t have to search for it each time.

Users have the option of paying only for the sources they need, and SageMaker subscribers range from individuals to large corporations with thousands of users. Internal company data can be coded in the same fashion as general data to be included in any internal search.

Systems can also be set up to alert you of certain occurrences. For example, the owner of several stores could have employees entering in specific data from several locations. If a certain number of “no sale” transactions exceeded the average for that store, an e-mail warning would be sent to the owner.

“A portal is only as good as the content and applications available,” says Bienvenu. “It is only a container. It comes to life only when you have useful content.”

How to reach: SageMaker, www.sagewave.com

Todd Shryock (tshryock@sbnnet.com) is SBN’s special reports editor.