Portal software is a type of development tool used to create a portal (starting point) on a company's intranet so that employees can find a centralized starting place for access to consolidated enterprise-related functions, such as e-mail, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, company information, workgroup systems, and other applications. The package may be customized to varying degrees of enterprise or individual specificity. Portal software is similar to intranet software, but the end product typically features more complexity, automation, organization, and interactivity. Although the end product is sometimes referred to as an intranet portal, it is usually called an enterprise information portal.
Portal software packages generally fall into one of the four following categories: digital dashboard, pure-play, application, or infrastructure portals. A digital dashboard portal package creates a centralized starting point for various applications and provide a summary of information pertaining to those applications, just as a car's dashboard provides centralized access to summarized information about various aspects of the car's critical details. A pure-play portal package concentrates on creating a portable interface for a specific portal offering across multiple platforms. Pure-play provides more functionality than the digital dashboard in a centralized access point for various business productivity applications, such as e-mail, collaboration tools, and resource planning tools. An application portal package includes a wide variety of tools - such as workgroup software - that have been adapted to go with a portal interface. Most common applications now fall into this category, since most are built to work in a portal environment. An infrastructure portal package is similar to a pure-play package, but is specifically geared towards technologies developed within the company rather than towards portability; for example, Oracle's portal product is geared toward Oracle technologies.
Corechange, Epicentric, Hummingbird, and Plumtree are among the leading portal software vendors. Most major software companies have released some type of portal software. Although the current generation of portal software is oriented towards the enterprise itself, it is likely that applications will increasingly encompass enterprise-customer interactions as well.