Over the next few months, this column will discuss how the success of an enterprise portal depends on the degree of integration of an enterprise's front- end systems with its back-end systems. Success depends on how the portal is integrated into the architecture of the enterprise ­ its enterprise information architecture and enterprise architecture.

There has been great interest during the past two years in the emergence of enterprise portals (also called corporate portals). The terms enterprise portals and corporate portals evolved from a Merrill Lynch Re-port dated Novem-ber 16, 1998, on enterprise information portals (EIPs). In this report, Merrill Lynch indicated that EIPs provide companies with great competitive advantage. They said that corporate management was beginning to realize the competitive potential lying dormant in the information stored in enterprise systems. Merrill Lynch identified a new category for integration of systems in an EIP ­ with integrated applications that combine, standardize, index, analyze and distribute targeted, relevant information that end users need to do their jobs more efficiently and productively. They identified benefits that include lowered costs, increased sales and better deployment of resources.

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