Microsoft Online Properties
advantage of Microsoft in the portal
is that Microsoft has itself created many of the web's top portal sites, and it has
them largely on Microsoft's own technology. Examples include Expedia for online travel, the online
salon slate.com, and the sister portal MSNBC for news. This set of web properties has provided an amazing laboratory and proving ground, stress testing web sites, personalization,e-commerce, collaboration, and other
services. Three sites stand out as Microsoft portals that
best practices: microsoft.com, the Microsoft corporate intranet, and the Microsoft Network (MSN).
Microsoft's web site microsoft.com is a portal in its own right, and one of the most popular and successful portals at that. It has been the laboratory for improvements in the successive generations of operating systems, web servers, search engines, and other elements of the web platform.
For instance, Content Management Server has been deployed on microsoft.com, providing
real-life input to the product team. The Microsoft intranet has also been the proving ground for Commerce Server, SharePoint Portal Server, SharePoint Team Services, BizTalk, and other elements of the portal platform. For instance, ad hoc
at Microsoft built hundreds of SharePoint Team Services sites with the version 1 STS product.
Microsoft has long advocated a policy of using its own tools and products even before they
them loose on the world. This approach, picturesquely described as "
your own dog food," means that internal Microsoft users are extensions of the beta software program. The dog food menu includes portals as well as other tasty entrees.
The Microsoft employee portal had a design goal of dramatically cutting the use of paper and consolidating the number of electronic forms as well. Therefore, Microsoft
use the intranet to order business cards, change payroll tax
, check their retirement plans, reserve conference facilities, order conference meals and hotel accommodations, and buy items from the company store.
A part of the Microsoft intranet called MS Expense (www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/itsolutions/MSIT/Finance/MSExpTCS.asp) is an impressive case study in its own right. The intranet-based solution handles all employee expense reports to the tune of about 200,000
with expenses of over $210 million per year. The solution is built on the .NET Framework, with a web frontend and an SQL Server backend. It
a pastiche of Excel spreadsheets and paper forms, with manual data entry by clerks. Microsoft estimates that the cost per transaction has been cut from $21 to $8 per report, saving the company $4.3 million each year. The system is integrated with American Express data to enhance its reporting capabilities. Another benefit is the employee satisfaction of being reimbursed much more quickly than with a manual system. Employees
money to their
, and corporate travel expenses can make it difficult to pay credit card bills on time.
The Microsoft Network (MSN)
The behemoth among Microsoft portal properties is one of the world's leading portals, the Microsoft Network (MSN). While MSN has not unseated America Online (AOL) as the dominant home user Internet portal, it has
a prodigious number of users and proliferated a great deal of content. MSN provides a large-scale testing ground similar to microsoft.com for testing new product innovations and developing best practices for site management, content management, and workflow.
back Microsoft flirted with offering the software used to power MSN, with special enhancements to Microsoft's web server software Internet Information Server (IIS), to its customers, but no such offering exists today. Some of the concepts from this offering live on in the Microsoft Solution for Internet Business (MSIB), a solution offering that combines products with prescriptive architectural guidance and best practices. See www.microsoft.com/solutions/msib/default.asp for more details.