If I understand your question correctly, I think you're asking whether or not we'd advocate a rapid application development or Agile approach to portal applications. The answer to that question is that yes, we absolutely advocate that approach because portal fits well into the paradigm. That said, it's important to take a more traditional approach to your first implementation so that you gain experience with the technologies. Don't get bogged down in long and drawn-out requirements processes. For the first implementation, define a pilot that can be well understood and built within a reasonable timeframe. Most pilot projects in my experience take about four months -- mostly due to the infrastructure work that has to be put into place before you can start development. Once you've got the infrastructure in place and your pilot is successful, then you can evolve the pilot in short iterative development cycles (4-6 weeks typically) evolving the applications as your understanding of the requirements evolves. Because you're building a bunch of true components (portlets), which should, by the way, be kept as simple as possible and also be designed to interact with each other (pass data to each other), if you have to throw away some code it's not that big of a deal.
Another thing that I like to stress is that you don't have to be a J2EE expert to write effective portlet applications. The portal provides a great deal of the foundation and encourages you to keep things simple. You will need to understand Java and design patterns such as model-view-controller work. But the wizards that Rational Application Developer (RAD) provide, which comes with Portal at no charge, generate base code structures that follow best practices that I highly encourage you to use. Remember it's not a "code generator"; believe me, we all hate those. It's simply a set of foundation code that follows best practices. As you go through the wizard, you choose options which either include or not include additional bits of code for accessing things such as the Credential Vault. At the end of the wizard you've got a working portlet that you can extend to your heart's content.
The Portal Technology Team at IBM has lots of best practices that we are happy to share with our customers upon request.
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