Network vs Portals

Published on 04 March, 2016 by Graeme Perkins

Understanding the benefits of networks in business tends to be a lightbulb moment when we speak to potential Rundl customers. It’s not a difficult concept to get your head around as most of us are already looped in to an online network in our personal lives thanks to social media and therefore intuitively understand how they operate and the benefits of being part of one.

The other type of software our potential customers are often already hooked into is enterprise applications. Whether it’s basic tools like email, calendar and contacts, or for transactional work, a CRM, ERP systems, or some other line of business application. They depend on these to get their jobs done and know them well.

The good news is networks like Rundl complement transactions that are already managed in enterprise applications. Rundl connects the siloed transaction community, makes the process visible to everyone involved, promotes secure collaboration and sharing in context, and enables a greater customer experience.

But there is an anti-pattern we’ve recognised. Instead of investing in networks, many businesses are turning to portals to extend the value of their internal enterprise applications outside their four walls. So here’s our case for networks vs portals.

Starting with portals

Portal solutions give people a starting point for accessing the applications, tools or data they depend on. Of course portals are incredibly varied. With respect to business transactions, we’re usually talking about customer portals. These allow customers access to information and services via an online solution, usually a web application.

When a business wants to transition to digital service delivery they can approach the problem with varying degrees of ambition. Imagine a well-resourced company. It sets up a portal for its customers to sign in and interact with them. It gets complete control over the branding, who’s allowed in, and what’s available for everyone to see and do. So far so good.

But this organisation’s customers and partners don’t just interact with it alone. They may end up dealing with multiple organisations’ portals, even for one single transaction. Each portal requires its own credentials, and works a bit differently to the next. And each portal requires investment in ongoing maintenance and support. As the organisation grows it may need to support new types transactions, requiring extra development or even additional portals.

Of course the barrier to entry is too high for some organisations. These continue with a workflow primarily based on email, phone calls and/or face-to-face meetings. With portals, it turns out there’s significant variation in how everyone ends up working together on each particular transaction. In fact, in this model the value to each participant in a business community is actually decreasing with each investment in a portal.

The case for networks

A more forward thinking business turns to an open business network:

  • The network is operated by a neutral, trusted third party that is responsible for ongoing maintenance and support, freeing up the organisation’s IT resources.
  • The organisation only pays for the transactions it hosts. Unlike SaaS, with transaction-based pricing there’s no per seat licence fee so anyone in the organisation can be included at no extra cost.
  • The network supports any type of transaction, so as business requirements change the organisation can easily adapt.
  • The network is open: the company can invite in all their partners and customers to any transaction for free, without limitations.

Unlike the organisation to consumer hierarchy of a portal, actors in a network can both provide and consume services. The forward-thinking organisation can also connect with any other organisations as a customer on the same platform. It gets one consistent interface, one set of log-ins and an aggregated view of activity across all transactions. Importantly, as more of its customers and partners join the network, the value to the whole community actually increases. It’s a win-win.


Hopefully you’ll agree the case for networks vs portals is clear. We designed Rundl as an open business network because we wanted to create the most effective model for communities to form around business transactions, and one that keeps getting better over time. If you want to evolve your business, go to to get started.