PwC Extends Business Portal Offerings

Consulting unit's business-to-employee practice combines managed hosting, security and access.

PwC consulting has begun a new practice area designed to help broaden employee portals for businesses looking to decrease costs and improve services for their workers.

PwC Consulting, the management service unit of Pricewaterhouse- Coopers, is combining multiple alliances with major portal providers, security companies and e-learning companies into its business-to-employee practice. The practice area includes managed hosting, security and access services.

"Were opening up B2E to other stakeholders ... vendors, suppliers and even customers," said George Bailey, senior partner for global B2E marketing at PwC Consulting, in San Francisco. "This is a Web-enabled environment where employees, customers and suppliers can work with each other in real time."

Portals are hot as a B2E communications tool, said Nate Root, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. "That is where the lions share of the portal market is. Its easier to see the [return on investment] in putting business processes online behind the firewall."

At the same time, Web application server providers such as Oracle Corp. are beginning to bundle portals for free, so "the money gets made in providing services," Root said.

The PwC practice area is based on three categories of deliverables. PwC creates the business case with clients, outlining what areas provide the greatest benefit. "For example, moving human resources transactions online, moving product information online. We provide a road map that says, Heres the kind of return you should get, and heres the right order," Bailey said.

The second deliverable is the architecture. As part of that, PwC helps the client select the vendors with the necessary components and provides "governance on how the whole B2E environment will be developed [and] led and the business decisions that have to be made. We show them how to manage it and be successful," Bailey said.

The third component of the service is the implementation stage.

"We make sure it can handle remote users and stay on course to make sure the business benefits from the business case are reached," he said.

In its focus on using portal technology to solve business problems, such as high cost for operations, the practice area addresses key issues around governance and decision making. Companies dont often get the full return on their investment because "employees dont use the full capabilities" of a portal, Bailey said.

Bailey said PwC Consulting implemented an e-learning portal for the U.S. Army. "Army personnel can get course work done in a variety of disciplines from anywhere in the world," he said.

Toward that end, PwC is extending its B2E practice into e-learning.

"It enables you to equip people with the latest tools and knowledge without having to send them around the world," Bailey said.

The cost to implement B2E portals depends on how much an implementation leverages existing investments. It can range from a few million dollars to as much as $40 million, Bailey said. But most companies in todays economic climate are opting for smaller, incremental projects that can be implemented in 60 to 90 days and can quickly pay for themselves, he added.

In the security arena, PwC Consuling is leveraging its alliances with Netegrity Inc. and Oblix Inc. to offer single-sign-on capabilities so that "the right people get the right information," Bailey said.