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| Corporate Intranets - Part 1 of 3
- by Al Doran
(This article is one in a series of articles on how to set up an HR Corporate Home Page. This article concentrates on managing an internet/intranet project).
This past week Edward Yourdon, a leading expert in the filed of information technology was in town talking about "Implementing Intranet/Internet Across the Enterprise". Those who have been involved in information technology for a few years may remember Yourdon as the guru of structured programming in the early '80's and of object oriented programming in the 90's. Well now he is applying his expertise to the Internet.
Yourdon has been conducting a massive research project related to corporate intranet/internet projects and has found that over 30% of these projects have no budget allocated! Many of the projects are small with little or no analysis, design, planning, tracking normally associated with a traditional Information Technology (IT) project. Much of this can be explained by the experimental and evolving nature of the internet. Some would say there is also a backlash against the traditional methods of getting projects "pushed" through the IT maze and now that there are tools that almost anyone can use, functional managers and line managers are developing their own solutions almost overnight.
Some compelling arguments are made for getting onto the Intranet/Internet bandwagon. Here are some of the things that may happen if you do not get involved:
You will be less efficient than your competitors
You will not be able to communicate with a growing percentage of your "remote" employees, customers, suppliers, partners, etc.
(sometimes called "extranets")
You will not be able to attract the "best and brightest" new employees to work for you. "Selling" an intranet/internet application to senior management is generally a lot less threatening than many of the major IT projects they are accustomed to hearing about at the board room table. Some arguments in favor: You can start small¼ a large web site is not required to handle a few basic functions, even if world wide.
You can probably avoid major costs of most of your target audience are already wired to the internet.
You can usually avoid most security concerns if your intranet application is totally internal to one physical site.
The project can be characterized as an "experiment" and will be seen as less threatening by senior management. Although Business Process Reengineering (BPR) has lost a bit of its luster over the past few years, intranet/internet applications have tended to bring it back, as finally there are some tools that enable the technology changes that are required. Some BPR opportunities: BPR often hinges on cultural change, but new technology is often the catalyst for BPR improvements.
Common objective of many BPR projects: reducing cycle time for a business process, especially those that require direct interactions with external "customers" (including employees).
Intranets are usually associated with "internal" BPR process improvements. Setting up an Intranet, what is needed? A Web Server
Web browsers for client users
Web publishing tools
Various Web Utilities
Web database tools
Who is allowed to publish information?
What information is allowed for retrieved and/or accessed?
Who is responsible for content?
Who is responsible for "look and feel"?
Who is responsible for data quality?
Where should the web project be located?
Where is the budget?
If an intranet is being developed just because its "the cool" or its the "new thing to do" it runs the risk of being eliminated because it provides no business value. The main value will usually occur because it changes the way people carry out important business processes. A successful Intranet project usually hinges on doing a good BPR analysis of existing processes, to see where the greatest improvements could be achieved.
Basically, an Intranet application is like any other system:
you have to know who your (potential) users are
the users (might) interact with the system
to supply inputs and process data
and cause actions/processing to be carried out. Content Analysis and Content Issues: You cannot build an Intranet unless you have a good understanding of the content the user will see
how the user will navigate through the system
Hence planning for an intranet requires a careful data model before design begins The Development Life Cycle of an Intranet Project: BPR: Why are we doing this project? What are problems with current processes? What organizational changes are required to support new processes?
Requirements Analysis: what user-data requirements and user- processing requirements do we need to support?
Design: hardware, software, architectural are critical for Intranet application.
Implementation: in HTML, CGI/PERL, Java, ActiveX, etc.
Testing: like any new system, we must find out if it works.
Maintenance: ongoing, frequent changes will be required. Integration issues: Users are beginning to expect seamless integration of e-mail, Web Browsing, HTML creation, etc. in the midst of their conventional work.
Many office automation applications have already started this, e.g. Microsoft Office '97. Intranet Project Management Best Practices: Do make sure that the users and developers share a common vision.
Do provide visible active leadership throughout the project.
Do ensure partnership participation between all levels of the organization.
Do provide proper team training.
Do follow an appropriate development methodology with emphasis on Joint Application and Design (JAD) sessions.
Do ensure that you have flexible teams because this will continue to evolve.
Do include emphasis on continued quality improvement. Edward Yourdon equates web technology today to where client/sever technology was in 1987. Success and growth in Intranet applications will depend on push from vendors like Microsoft, Netscape, Oracle etc. and pull from Fortune 500 companies that demand better solutions.
Hot Site of the Week:
Edward Yourdon's Home Page:
-Al Doran is President of Phenix Management Int'l, a Richmond Hill, Ont. management consulting firm specializing in HRMS issues. He is co-author of a new book published by Nelson Canada, Human Resource Management Systems. He may be reached at: aldoran(at)pmiHRM.com and his home page is http://www.pmihrm.com/
COPYRIGHT - Al Doran - March 16, 1997
Phenix Management Int'l
10520 Yonge St., Unit 35B, Suite 217
Richmond Hill, ON, Canada L4C 3C7
phone: 416-505-6204 fax: 416-352-7456