A good and in-depth article by Stéphane Crozier was posted to Intranet Lounge this past weekend, and it focuses on the use and development of multiple or 'composite' technologies to create the best possible intranet and business information systems.
Mapping the idea out with a "composite content platform 'decalogue'" (pictured, click to enlarge), Crozier writes:
The last decade saw a war between Portal and CMS frameworks, in which one had to choose between application integration and collaboration tools vs. information lifecycle management (from authoring to versioning) and Web publishing frameworks. With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies such as discussion forums, wikis, blogs, document spaces, microblogging and the increased use of mobile devices, boundaries among content, composites, contexts, and contributors are rapidly vanishing.
The convergence of content stores, portal frameworks, combined with powerful context-aware publishing systems and social interactions, is pushing traditional ECM, WCM, Portal, and E2.0 vendors to rely upon a new generation of integrated “Composite Content Platforms” (also called “Content–enabled Enterprise Portals” or “Content Application Servers”).
This is certainly something we're seeing more in our intranet consultancy work and something I wrote about earlier this year for E Content. The demand for traditional content management capabilities is being matched by the desire for additional functionality including social tools, dynamic data integration, true enterprise search and more, all with the ambition and ability to theme and skin this variety of applications and software suites, to provide the much vaunted unified and seamless user experience.
Beware of marketing
Yet, even with significant improvements to major CMS products and 'portals' (shiver), there's little doubt that the best overall intranet functionality overall will very likely be provided by a mixture and integration of products, not a one-size-fits-all tool. In the E Content column I used the two examples below.
At the smaller end of business sizes (500 people, global), IDEO's award-winning intranet, The Tube, features a central CMS (Thoughtfarmer), a blogging platform (Moveable Type), LiveLOOK, a Google Search Appliance and numerous other formats, databases and software languges. From the front-end, it all looks the same, dressed in a superb visual design that's consistent throughout the site, whether writing a blog post, contributing to project pages, or checking a colleague's availability.A further award winner from 2009, and a larger organisation by employees numbers, is CRS Australia. This example was noted for the exceptional way in which it integrated key SAP, workflow, and business intelligence data and tools into easy-to-read dashboards, checklists and a directory application, all within a custom-built intranet platform.
In both examples, the user would rarely know they're engaging with multiple systems, which is as it should be. Yet the tools and capabilities provided are among best-in-class, and are more suitable, effective or customisable than the equivalent tools that may be available as tacked on or custom-developed CMS modules.
At an individual application level, we're also seeing much progress made in the integration of document management systems, HR and employee self-service (ESS) suites and kiosks, and finally a lot more organisations are getting to grips with the concept of online forms and automated back-end processes (hey, it's only 2010!).
The more intranet designers can provide consistent, familiar and easy-to-use systems, the more we focus on the user experience and not just on presenting raw functionality and data, the better these sites will become.
The message here is two-fold:
- Composite content platforms are definitely on the rise.
- You don't necessarily need to buy a huge portal or adapt and customise the hell out of a content management system's in-built tools, to get them to work how you want. There could be much better, more flexible, and quite possibly cheaper options out there to plug in.
QuestionHow are you working to integrate and provide the best tools and UX for your intranet and related platforms?
[via Intranet Lounge]