Liferay's Thoughts on the 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals

If you haven’t heard the news yet, Liferay has been named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals for the fifth year in a row, and we’ve placed second only to IBM—and well ahead of SAP, Microsoft, and Oracle. We’re really excited about our placement in this year’s report, and so are our partners and customers. At our annual user conference, many people shared that the report validates the choice they made to commit to the Liferay platform for their portal and website initiatives.

You can check out the report here. Here are some thoughts on the broader report and what it says about the market. 

Why WCM Vendors? It’s all about Customer Experience

First, the inclusion of WCM vendors and the emphasis on digital marketing in some vendor offerings points to the overall trend toward personalized online experiences. Nobody thinks of websites, customer portals, and mobile experiences as just channels for pushing out information anymore. Customers expect to interact with companies through these channels, and that’s a huge opportunity for companies to listen to what they’re saying—and respond. 

But the heritage of WCMs is to push information to people, so WCM vendors have needed to add in portal-like capabilities to make content relevant to a person’s context. WCM vendors will continue to try to retrofit portal capabilities to strengthen their ability to deliver content in context, but it’s a lot harder as an afterthought, and without a credible solution for enterprise integration, WCM-based experiences will be limited to the content in their repository. 

As portal vendors like Liferay steadily round out their own content management offerings with content targeting and analytics, we’ll be able to meet digital marketing and customer service needs with websites and portals that provide rich experiences enhanced by information from ERP, CRM, and other enterprise systems. 

More importantly, portal vendors like Liferay are uniquely suited to address the entire customer lifecycle, from prospect to close to customer service. A lot of WCM vendors have completely different approaches to a user when they’re anonymous vs. logged in; Liferay’s vision is to have continuity across both anonymous (traditionally WCM/digital marketing) and logged-in (traditionally portal/customer service) experiences. In a world full of information noise, companies that streamline experiences to save customers time and frustration will win their loyalty. 

Liferay: the Lean UXP

Gartner also comments on the trend toward UXPs and Lean Portals, noting that Liferay is more on the lean side of the house and is favored by technical people. That analysis works for now—our goal at Liferay is ultimately to be a “Lean UXP” that incorporates everything you need to create and manage rich multi-channel experiences without the bloat of “full UXP” platforms, which can add too much cost and complexity. On the other hand, the problem with just being “lean” is you can end up skimpy. “Lightweight” portal vendors don’t always have a story for the long haul. What do you do after you build that snazzy website with a great UI but no deep integration? Can you add more robust elements like order fulfillment, inventory control or issue resolution that require talking to systems of record? 

But if the lean vendors have gotten one thing right, it’s that portlets and the traditional boxy portal are definitely not the right paradigm anymore for delivering great online experiences. So at Liferay we’ve been building a lot of great stuff for our next release that embraces the trend toward mobile, internet-enabled devices, and independent web applications built on Javascript frameworks. And we’re also responding to business needs like Digital Marketing and Customer Experience Management with features like Audience Targeting that take us well into UXP territory. 

The Trio of Portal Use Cases

Finally, the report rounds out its market analysis with mention of the Social Intranet as a core focus of many portal vendors. It used to be that the employee intranet was a vehicle for downward communication—messages from executive management and company announcements, for example—or for individual transactions like employee onboarding and benefits enrollment. But now we realize that we’ve been missing the voice of the employee, and making our intranets social and collaborative brings that missing voice into the picture. 

Gartner thus reaffirms the core use cases of the portal: public websites (Digital Marketing), service portals (Customer Experience), and employee intranets (Productivity and Knowledge). What all three have in common is that they rely on knowing who your users are and what they need, and they benefit from connecting people with systems and other people to accomplish a goal—and those are the things portals have always tried to do well. 

What's Different This Year?

You may be curious how the 2014 report differs from 2013. New this year in the inclusion criteria that Gartner used to select vendors for the MQ is “search and navigation,” described by Gartner as a function that allows end users and portal administrators to find and discover content and services available through the portal. In addition, vendors must now support clients in more than two industry verticals, adding on to the requirement last year for more than one industry vertical. The requirement for revenue also rose this year, with vendors needing to have achieved at least $6 million in revenue, a higher bar to meet than the $4 million in revenue required last year.

Absent in this year’s market overview is the push made by Gartner last year for the cloud to become a part of portal vendor’s strategies. Last year’s report gave the call: “ ... the cloud is becoming an unavoidable part of the environment upon which portals must provide their services.”

Gartner noted in 2013 that many vendors were targeting business leaders, and this year Gartner seems to validate those efforts. Business leaders are becoming more influential as portal users and decision makers, the report notes. 

An Exciting Time

Looking back on several years worth of Magic Quadrants, perhaps the most exciting thing about 2014 is the sheer breadth of vendors included in the report. In 2010, the portal market was represented by just ten vendors, at a time when we were still thinking the old way about portals: stagnant, contrived dashboards that became information graveyards. We’ve since realized that the internet has completely changed how we interact with each other, and portal technology is one very good way to help companies make customer experiences much more personal. 

You can get the report to read for yourself here. We’d love to hear what you make of this year’s Gartner MQ for Horizontal Portals.

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