Online Portals: Product or Service - or Both?

Technology Updates

By Matt Van Sanden, 22 March 2021

Secure online portals are making waves across many sectors, from investment management to data protection. Look beyond the final products and you’ll often find custom solutions that have been tailored to specific client needs, backed up by expert long-term support.

 

Managing Director Matt van Sanden explores the topic and highlights the intersection between product and service.

 

Give the customer what they need

 

If you’ve been online during the last few days, chances are you’ve accessed a service via an online portal. From day-to-day banking to financial services, government services and subscriptions, portals are increasingly providing both B2C and B2B customers with the regular information and services they need.

 

The acceleration of portal use is no accident. A well-designed and functional online portal achieves two principal objectives: customers are able to access services and information at their convenience, without the need for physical journeys or phone calls, while businesses and government organisations benefit from the efficiencies and extra resources provided by a self service approach. But just as portal use is no accident, the in-depth work that goes into creating them is no accident either.

 

Customise for the customer

 

As with the majority of our work, portal development projects begin with an identified end-user benefit, and our client’s desire to deliver that benefit to their customers. Our clients thrive when their customers experience a service that feels customised to their individual needs - and we take the same approach when developing portal solutions for those clients. Every organisation is different and provides services in unique ways, giving us the opportunity to build unique solutions from the ground up.

 

In practice, we consider a broad range of underlying technologies and frameworks, all suited to online portal architecture and all able to stand alone or interact in a joined-up system. We might consider:

 

  • Software architectural design for user interfaces, such as .NET MVC;
  • Reactive frameworks such as Angular and React, providing consistent and smooth user experiences across devices;
  • The right programming languages for the job, such as PHP or Java; and
  • Robust custom APIs that bridge the gap between disparate systems, creating a single platform experience.

 

The ultimate customising aim is to achieve identified objectives, whether the user base is an external one, an internal one, or both. Our work with Jersey Office of the Information Commissioner, for example, included highly tailored integrations of off-the-shelf software alongside bespoke portal development, linking internal and external users at exactly the right touchpoints, at their convenience.

 

From one function to many

 

Whether they’re designed for internal or external users, portals can range in size and function. One portal might provide a single solution to improve customer service, while another might tie several strands of an organisation’s operations together through the integrations of several technologies. It’s often the case that a portal is designed to replace an essential operation or process that has become outdated.

 

A case in point: the Guernsey Marketing and Tourism Department. We worked closely with their team to design and build a new CRM process to handle the registration and management of Accommodation Permits on the island. Our approach was to combine best-in-class solutions, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Portals, with bespoke processes using SQL Server Reporting Services and PowerBI.

 

While long-term flexibility provides many benefits, the process highlights a vital ingredient: the client’s technology partner must invest heavily in their discovery phase, taking time to understand the long-term project outlook and laying the foundations for future flexibility and evolution.

 

Create a product, provide a service

 

At the end of the day, a customer using an online portal sees a digital product. But the expertise underpinning that product is often the result of knowledgeable, experienced and adaptable service provided by a technology partner. The end-user benefits from enhanced service via an excellent client experience, while the business providing the portal benefits from expert service and support over the portal’s entire lifecycle.

 

Get in touch

 

If you’re looking to enhance your business operations or your customer service through online portal development, we might be the partner you’re looking for. Get in touch with Matt van Sanden on 01534 780183 or email mattvs@corefocus.co.uk, and we’d be delighted to learn more about you and your business.