Intranets, Portals and Dashboards, Oh My!

A couple of posts ago, Dashboard Spy readers debated the definition of a dashboard. Some stated that the dashboard metaphor as a layout pattern or navigation device makes for a perfectly fine dashboard – even if it didn’t contain business intelligence artifacts such as metrics or charts. Others insisted that dashboards as we study them here must tell you something about the state of your business. Similarly, we have debated the difference between a dashboard and a scorecard.

Today we look at the fine lines between intranets, portals and dashboards. If you adhere to the “dashboard as a layout pattern” argument, then there doesn’t seem to be muxh of a difference between a portal and a dashboard. Both are often single page / multiple tab constructs that add value to the user by bringing disparate information together onto a single screen. If you belong to the “dashboards show a summary of your business” school, then what do we call those applications that mix business metrics portlets with news feeds? Think of sharepoint dashboards – are they dashboards or portals? Take a look at this demo of a SharePoint marketing dashboard and you’ll see a mixing of portal and dashboard type content.

The best way to get a feel for what is what (and for that matter, whether it’s important at all to differentiate and names these various dashboard-like applications) is to simply visit examples and decide for yourself.

For example, let’s take a look at an intranet/portal/dashboard product. adenin Technologies offers the “IntelliEnterprise Intranet Suite” as an “unbelievably complete intranet suite”. The adenin Live Demo Site allows us to explore an intranet installation that includes enterprise portals, document management sites, dashboards, workflow and more. There’s a lot in this suite which is perfect for this discussion.

The demo starts with a gateway page that allows you to simulate various user roles:

Adenin Intranet Demo User Profiles

You should visit the demo and lead yourself through the various modules, but let’s take a look at a couple of screens that caught my eye.

Click on the images below to enlarge them.

Portal Page on the Corporate Intranet

Portal Page on the Corporate Intranet

The above screenshot is that of the corporate portal. It seems like a typical intranet page, with a web portal-style layout. But look at the right column and you’ll see a portlet titled “New Order Volume”. Ah!! – a business metric makes an appearance. So does this make this a dashboard? Or a portal? Or a corporate intranet with business intelligence sensibilities?

Now take a look at this: (click on the more link for the rest of this post)

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