Written by: Jonathan Goldstein, Senior Vice President, CG Infinity Inc.
So, when we were together last, we established a decision framework for selecting your customer portal direction. This week, we are going to populate that decision framework with potential portal solutions that might benefit your organization.
1. Build It Yourself.
Maybe you have been recently inspired by all the YouTube stars who like to do everything themselves, and you feel that the best thing for your firm is to have its own bespoke portal solution. All good. There are plenty of reasons to pursue this strategy.
The strategy around Build It Yourself could easily become its own blog entry, but let me at least leave you with a potential outline of things to think about:
- Cloud Strategy
- Identify Management Strategy
- Platform (typically, this aligns around whether you standardize on the Microsoft stack or a more open-source stack such as Java / Unix
- Database strategy – this will largely be dictated by what you select in #3 above.
- Middleware / Enterprise Integration strategy – shameless plug, I would encourage you to consider CG Infinity ’s Ignite platform…but the key here is to think about how systems will integrate from day 1. Likely the systems you start with are not the systems you end up with. The key thing we would advise is to engineer as loosely coupled an enterprise topology as possible. Instrument your vendor management practices into your architecture early on, so you have choices you can make later on.
2. Configure From a Framework.
Not everyone wants to build their house from scratch. Some people like the pre-built or prefab option. There are so many options in this category and equally no easy or one right answer. Recently, CG Infinity started working with a group that really rises to the top in this category, though; and that is Astral Tech. Hands down, this is the most plug-and-play portal framework we have ever seen. And, no, I’m not being compensated to name this firm’s name. Truly, though, if this is the path you are interested in, I would give these guys a call.
3. Unify CX/UX on Salesforce.com.
We would be remiss to discuss portals and not bring up the amazingly feature-rich eco-system that Salesforce has created. Additionally, the Energy and Utilities Cloud provides an impressive library of ready-to-be configured solutions specific to the energy industry, specifically around customer engagement, retention, and reduction in sales churn. There will still be an implementation cost to prepare your portal solution to be uniquely suited to how you approach Retail Energy. Still, you can rest easy that your front-end user experience has been engineered from day 1 to interface seamlessly with your CRM (assuming you choose Salesforce for your CRM platform). We are pretty big fans of Salesforce’s low code / no-code approach to enterprise solutions. Likely the future face of IT is made up of solution configurators instead of solution developers. Salesforce has monopolized and perfected this space, and their platform is second to none. Growing up in IT, the watchword used to be “no one got fired for choosing I” Now, no one gets fired for choosing Salesforce. It’s quick to market and a monolith in the marketplace; they are an organization that is here to stay. And much like IBM in our early years, Salesforce has earned their place in the market. There is no vapor here.
So, it looks like answers may vary? I think so! There is no right answer here, just the answer for you and your organization that is right for…well…you and your organization. Who are we to judge? The important thing to do is think things through to their logical end state and determine for yourself which of these options makes the most sense. Either way, you will be spending some capital to build your portal and the journey will be just a start, not to a finite endpoint, but to a user journey and experience that separates you in the market. Perhaps your secret sauce is in the pride of ownership in having built it yourself, or alternatively, it’s in leveraging ready-to-market solutions to meet your customers where they are. The better strategy is simply to go in eyes wide open and build the best REP you know how to build. So…what’s best for you?