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Archive for the ‘Intranets’ Category

 Tunard Garden

To plant is but a part of landscape composition; to co-ordinate is all.
Christopher Tunnard
(1910-1979)

 

My youngest sister is a freelance landscape architect in London, and so I know a little about this area.

As such, I have heard of Christopher Tunnard, a Canadian-born architect and academic, who in the early part of his career practised as a landscape architect. In 1938 he published Gardens in the Modern Landscape which married the influential modernist ideas then current within architecture with the discipline of landscaping.

Working in Britain at the time, the effect of Tunnard’s writings were short lived in Europe as the coming of the Second World War fostered a move towards more socially responsible design. Yet in 1939 he moved to Harvard where his theories later became the catalyst for what can be termed as the Anglo-American modernist movement in landscape architecture.

And in viewing a garden in the United States that showed his ideas in practice – sadly, the only surviving example of his landscaping work in America – I was struck by how similar planning in landscape architecture is to the visual processes that we employ within web development. 

Tunnard Garden - design

Tunnard's Garden: design plan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Site Mapping and Concept Modelling for Information Architecture

While anyone working in web development knows about the composition, usage and value of site maps, by contrast the related use of concept modelling is a relatively new and unexplored discipline (as applied to IA).

Basically, concept modelling is about conceiving and presenting an abstract representation of the informational ideas and their relationships found at any level within a site. [1]

As Dan Brown in his excellent book, Communicating Design (Peachpit Press, 2007), explains: concept models illustrate how different ideas relate to one another, representing the building blocks of the idea as nodes and their relationships as lines between them.

The diagram below from the book shows a concept model for a website selling musical instruments.

Concept Map - Muical Instruments

© Dan Brown, Communicating Design (2007)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Brown says:

While this concept model doesn’t show any more of less detail than the others, it does deal with a specific concept. Instead of representing a broad view of the website, it shows all the different kinds of data on the site and how they relate to each other. This concept model illustrates the different ways of categorizing an instrument (the categories of categories) and associated metadata for each instrument. This concept model represents the relative importance of each concept by varying the size of the circles.

And the principal value of such concept models lies in their flexibility as a planning tool to tease out the underlying relationships between nodes.

Essentially they enable people to visualise (and then discuss) the multiple and complex relationships found between users, nodes (as areas, content types, and metadata, etc.) and the contextual links found in a complex system. 

Thus, they can be used in formulating an approach to designing a site structure, and should be used early within an information architecture process.

By contrast, a site map is more focused on defining the eventual structure of the information found in a website, and illustrate a part-whole relationship where an item lower in the map belongs to a higher level item.

And although they can be very different in presentation the traditional site map often looks very much like an org chart: a system of boxes representing pages, connected by lines representing links with their placement and linkages representing the hierarchy. 

Site Map

© Dan Brown, Communicating Design (2007)

Thus, a site map more often tends to the presentation of the end result of an information architecture (often expressed as a single A4 page in a hierarchy represented by uniform squares and links in tiered structure).

By contrast, concept models offer a flexible and dynamic approach to site map planning and may be used as a tool to assist in the construction of an information architecture, which will probably be turned into a site map for the final solution design.

Therefore, in effect, site maps represent the visual specification of a site, and are often used as part of a solution design document. While concepts maps are a tool that assist in the generation of such an information architecture specification.

  

Visual Mapping in Practice

Just recently at Storm we have started to use concept modelling in our own SharePoint projects.

Their value is of especial importance when one is having to consider the migration and re-design of an existing site structure in an attempt to improve the user journey.

Now this sort of “migration” scenario is a very common one in a SharePoint Intranet project, where an organisation might be considering one of two possible solution paths:

  • Version migration: A site migration from one version of SharePoint to another; or
  • Improving site structure within the same version: Examining and then improving a site structure – possibly badly conceived in the first place – within the same SharePoint version.

At Storm we are working on two such projects at the moment.

And the one that I have chosen to demonstrate the application of concept mapping is one that deals with version migration.

The project setting is a Scottish public body that has a large number of external stakeholders, for whom we are working on migrating (and improving) the design of an existing SharePoint Intranet while simultaneously planning the migration from SPS 2003 to SharePoint 2010.

Here the aim is to transition from a “file share” SharePoint approach that was adopted in SPS 2003 to delivering a higher-level Communications & Information Portal in SharePoint 2010, while simultaneously looking to use the features of 2010 to support and enhance the overall functions of the site.

As such, we are taking a large and relatively chaotic information domain (where all staff members may contribute) and seeking both to rationalise and re-organise it so that it becomes a more centralised and managed tool for information management for the organisation in question.

  

Project Process

Following James Robertson’s Enterprise IA methodology we started the design process for this particular project through generating an Intranet Development Roadmap (note: a 2 page word document – nothing more) and conducting Needs Analysis via a user survey (based on the Intranet Review Toolkit).

The objectives for the Intranet concept that emerged were presented as follows:

Intranet Development Roadmap

 

Next Steps  

With a clear and manageable objective in place and some early needs analysis of features to support, we are currently in the process of identifying user tasks/goals and starting an initial IA review.

And because there is already a SharePoint Intranet in existence, our early IA review is focused on the mapping this existing site (both structure and content), and generating an understanding of current logic behind the information organisation (with a view to revising this treatment).

For this we are using both site mapping and concept modelling (see high-level examples below).

Site Mapping

A site map of the top-level site structure for the existing Intranet reveals a fairly large information structure:

Intranet - Site Map

Intranet - Site Map

Concept Model

By contrast, the early concept model reveals something of the relationships we must explore further:

Intranet - Concept Model

Intranet - Concept Model

Well, what’s the outcome so far?

What is interesting is that by using this approach within the project team – rather than merely an interview-based methodology – we are beginning to understand how a potential IA restructuring might be of value across the Intranet.

Take, for example, the Corporate Reference Library – which for the purposes of this study we will call the “Knowledge Centre”. [2]

As currently conceived, this Intranet area is intended as a central informational repository for all staff to access key documents and external resources.  

As such, it has two main internal user audiences:

  • Staff Members in general
  • “HelpLine” Advisors: These represent a sub-section of staff who are dedicated to providing an advisory service to the organisation key external users (i.e. young adults).

As originally conceived, the Knowledge Centre was focused on catering for both user groups, aiming to deploy both key organisational documents and links to external key policy and informational resources organised by a generic sub-site hierarchy of “Subject Focus”.

See, for example, the sub-site structure for “Arts & Culture” below (which has the generic sub-site structural treatment presented below):

Knowledge Centre - Arts & Culture Site Map

Knowledge Centre - Arts & Culture Site Map

However, it appears from our initial reviews that there are a number of issues with the Knowledge Centre in its current treatment:

  1. It is trying to cater for two user groups – who have different goals and tasks. In supporting two user groups is actually trying to support two functions in one place: (a) a centralised informational resource for all staff and (b) a helpline resource for information advisors. As such, it does neither well.
  2. The role of the Centre within the Intranet is not clearly defined. As such, because all staff may contribute to the Intranet, the Knowledge Centre is not the only place where staff may add relevant information resources within the site. Other high-level areas such as Projects, Support Services and Products and Services also contain key information resources of a topical nature.
  3. The Centre does not support a poly hierarchical view of content. The Knowledge Centre’s current sub-site structure means that a document that has content relevant to a number of Subject Topics appears in only one Subject Focus in the hierarchy. And without content tagging by Subject Focus and access to a scoped search at the Knowledge Centre-level this results in staff not finding relevant content unless they already know it exists and where it resides in the sub-site hierarchy.
  4. The “HelpLine Advisory Service” is not well catered for in the existing treatment. In fact, it appears that the Advisory Service’s information resources are scattered in a number of places throughout the existing Intranet site (e.g. Support Services > Enquiry Answering; Knowledge Centre > All Subject Topics; Projects > Information Advisory Service; Products & Services > Various.).
  5. Key Content Types are not defined for users. Again in relation to the HelpLine Advisory Service, specialist content types such as Factsheets on subject areas are not immediately visible to Advisors and instead are scattered across a fairly large “Subject” sub-site structure. As such, given the nature of their job, Advisors find it difficult to trace relevant information quickly and rapidly whilst on the phone, and instead resort to individualised information strategies to answer enquiries.  

Early Conclusions

It appears from our initial mapping work – to be confirmed by actually interviewing the HelpLine Advisors – is that there is a distinct case to separate out the current treatment of the Knowledge Centre into two new and separate high-level site areas for the Intranet:

  • A HelpLine Advisory Service for Advisors
  • A Corporate Reference Library for Staff

As such, this treatment has been presented in an early concept model as follows:

HelpLine & Reference Library - Concept Map

HelpLine & Reference Library - Concept Map

And while we have not yet discussed:

  • The Content Types needed to support the (a) HelpLine Advisory Service and (b) the Reference Library areas; and
  • The logical organisation and structuring of each area – whether by sub-site structure and/or by metadata and scoped search.

Nevertheless, we have gained an important understanding at an early stage of what is deemed a key support area for the organisation through the use of visual mapping of an existing Intranet structure.
  

And Finally ….

I think there is much to be gained by adopting a visual mapping approach to the design of SharePoint sites; especially so with Intranets – which can be very large information structures that, by definition, often present complex information architectures to their users.

As is the nature of an Intranet solution, very often such a site goes through a series of site architecture revisions as it evolves in relation to the organisation in question. And arguably this applies as much to a SharePoint Intranet as any other solution; perhaps more so, because early information architectures for SharePoint have, more often than not, been badly conceived simply because the world over we are learning “best practices” with this product as we go.

In addition, the task of site migration from one SharePoint version to another is a key issue facing organisations in the decision to upgrade. As such, it is rare that an organisation will not want to take the chance to review its current SharePoint site treatment in an effort to improve information management support for its staff.

And clearly while information architecture is only one consideration in site migration within SharePoint, it is nevertheless a critical one and as a result we need to improve our conceptualisation of such architectures and our project approach to conducting this task.

I think that adopting a visual mapping approach to information architecture is of great value in SharePoint solution design. And, in particular, concept modelling is an important means whereby we can qualify and discuss our understanding of Intranet site maps within project teams in such a way that it improves our overall approach to information architecture.

Alongside more traditional tools such as Site Maps and Content Inventories it is yet another tool to assist in our ambition to design improved Intranets for our users.

 

[1] In Communicating Design Dan Brown summarises Concept Models as follows:

Concept Models - Dan Brown

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[2] Note: in the interest of preserving client confidentiality, the references in this Case Study have been deliberately anonymised throughout this post.

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Nick Drake

When I was younger, younger than before
I never saw the truth hanging from the door
And now I’m older see it face to face
And now I’m older gotta get up clean the place.

And I was green, greener than the hill
Where the flowers grew and the sun shone still
Now I’m darker than the deepest sea
Just hand me down, give me a place to be.


A Place
to Be
Nick Drake (1948-1974)
English singer songwriter of truly magical ability

 

As we all know, Australia is a place to be, and equally this seems to hold true in their information management practices.

I simply don’t know why this is the case historically, but nevertheless the fact is that this country has, quite disproportionate to its size, spawned a series of EDM systems, and their government consistently adopts an outstanding stance on information management.

Victoria Place to BeAnyway, the tradition continues to burn bright in the publication of Intranet Information Architecture: Best Practices Analysis (from the e-Government Resource Centre, Victoria State Government, Australia, December 2008).

And while this is focused on one particular Intranet implementation (and strictly speaking is not just about IA), the applicability and pedigree of this report makes it worth consideration, and includes findings and summations from the following stellar references in the web fields of usability, information architecture and intranets:

  •  Jakob Nielsen (User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group)
  • Louis Rosenfeld (independent information architecture consultant, and founder and publisher of Rosenfeld Media, a publishing house focused on user experience books)
  • Gerry McGovern (widely regarded as the number one worldwide authority on managing web content as a business asset) and
  • James Robertson (Managing Director of Step Two Designs).

And while not specifically focused on technology, this best practice report is absolutely worth your time if you want to use SharePoint internally.

It is not phenomenally detailed, but in my book that is a virtue.

In my ongoing work with SharePoint I still see so many project teams struggling to provide clarity even on the basics in their own Intranet solution design, and yet this short read suggests some of the key – platform agnostic – practices that you need to think about in implementing an Intranet on SharePoint.

Intranet Information Architecture Best Practices - excerpt

Twenty-three pages later and maybe you’ll see some “truth hanging from the door….”

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Che

20th Century Poster Art:

This now iconic picture of Marxist Revolutionary, Ernesto Che Guevara, was taken on 5 March 1960 in Havana, Cuba, at a memorial service for victims of the La Coubre explosion. The picture became famous after appearing in Paris Match magazine in July 1967, just weeks before Che was killed by soldiers in the jungle in Bolivia.

As a lifelong supporter of the Cuban revolution, photographer Alberto Korda Díaz, who died in 2001 aged 72, never claimed or received any royalties for his work.

 

At the risk of starting to sound like an advertising agency for Step Two Designs (see my earlier post on their excellent book in June), I want to mention yet another Intranet resource of theirs that I am both very familiar with and that they have produced for the Intranet community world-wide.

And although with Intranets I believe very strongly in being sensitive in attending to what is unique in this or that organisational setting, I think this resource also achieves that elusive quality of “universal applicability”.

And what’s more it quite literally comes “out of the box” – or leastways from an 80cm cardboard tube.

 

A Framework for Planning

As such, The Intranet Roadmap – as suggested: a poster, with guideline handbook – is something that I always call on as a starting point whenever I am first asked to think about the varied tasks involved in project planning a SharePoint Intranet.

Intranet Roadmap

Superficially, at least, this typology of project is relatively easy to blueprint. After all, at the corporate layer, most Intranets share something of a “family resemblance”.

Yet what makes an Intranet project hard to plan and manage is not so much the requirements analysis and resulting choice of the technology platform, but it is rather a site’s intimate relationship – from political, social and informational perspectives – to the organisation in question.

This is the beauty of the Intranet Roadmap as a resource; it covers both these aspects simply and effectively.

And what is truly good about their schema is that only offers a general guideline for planning, and as such is in no way prescriptive for each individual project case. Thus, as a project manager for an Intranet project, it forces you to think rather than simply doing the thinking for you.

I like this very much as it gets one away from the sort of planning that I personally have little time for; the sort that one reads endlessly as lists in countless (and very boring) articles and books.

What it Covers

Without wanting to give away any trade secrets – I am on commission, remember – Step Two’s Roadmap breaks down Intranet planning into 5 “work-streams” (a classic view in project management planning):

  1. Strategy
  2. Design
  3. Content
  4. Change & Communications
  5. Technology

As such, it succeeds in unifying all the disparate dimensions of an Intranet project – whether design or re-design – both seamlessly and with grace.

Take, for instance, “Strategy”.

As a concept one would think this quite simple, but the more one thinks about it (and reads elsewhere) defining the generic parameters of this dimension in a clear way has a profound impact on virtually all other Intranet work-streams, and as such it is priceless to get an overview of the tasks, relationships and influences presented clearly and simply from the outset.

Within each stream is a guideline work breakdown structure (WBS). And for each task labelling is very clear, simple and, most importantly, to the point.

See, for instance, the (authorised) inset below:

Intranet Roadmap insert

A Minor Omission

Guys, you probably ran out of space …

But if I have a slight criticism I think that the only thing that I might have personally included in the Roadmap is a project management work-stream itself.

From a PRINCE2 perspective, the map covers at a high-level most, if not all, of the “specialist products” for an Intranet project at a corporate level – i.e. the things that actually constitutes the work that one needs to do to successfully design this type of solution.

However, it is largely silent about the “management products” – i.e. the project management tasks that you need to consider to actually deliver the project.

Not wanting to be over prescriptive in their schema, this is probably a deliberate decision by Step Two, but nevertheless is worthwhile guidance given the (often difficult) political context in which Intranets are set, and the fact that they usually encompass a very wide range of stakeholders and large project teams.

Yet arguably this is the easy stuff, and anyway the key person that should be accessing this resource is the project manager themselves, and so you’d hope that they know their trade. And to be really fair, some of the items covered elsewhere are project management tasks in all but name.

The Verdict …

I know the “Map” so well that these days I barely need to get this out of the tube.

And, as with most of their work, this is from the trenches, and so is another thing that these people have produced that is virtually perfect within the limits it sets itself. Therefore, if you’ve been handed that cinderella of a solution project, then rush out and buy this now (Aus $120).

Clear, simple and straightforward … and therefore very effective.

I can’t really recommend it any more highly than this.

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As a kid growing up in Wales, in the absence of having a TV at home, I used to play chess against my younger brother.

As a result we both got pretty good.

And while these days I hardly ever bother with the game (and was never that strong anyway), I still occasionally read through some of the games of Bobby Fischer. For me, many of his games are a form of poetry in motion and are completely fascinating; not because I still habour any Walter Mitty ambitions to be a decent player, but because they represent a near perfect union of form and function.

Consider, for instance, the following position: 

Fischer-Petrosian (7th Match Game, World Championship Candidates Final, Buenos Aires, 1971)

Fischer-Petrosian (7th Match Game, World Championship Candidates Final, Buenos Aires, 1971)

It’s White to move, and Fischer plays:

22. Nxd7+!! …

In this setting, this move looks completely unnatural.

White totally dominates this position, and it exhibits all the hallmarks of a classic Fischer game with its clear-cut advantage in both space and key square control in the middle-game. (And, believe me, once this guy gets an edge he never lets go.)

Instead of Knight takes Bishop, Fischer could play 22. a4 … disallowing the reply 22. … Bb5, with 22. … a5? clearly being impossible due to 23. b5! … which is winning. And 22. Kf2 … is also worth consideration (although incomparably weaker, once you know the answer), anticipating an endgame with the White King at d4.

And yet Fischer chooses at this point to exchange his beautifully placed Knight on c5 for a “bad” Bishop on d7.

Superficially, at least, 22. Nxd7+ … looks like a very “ugly” move and, for us mortals, shouldn’t even be considered (i.e. its doubtful that any other strong player in the world would have played this way “on principle”). Yet according to people watching the game Fischer played this move “instantly”, and that against an ex-World Champion! And what’s more during the game itself he was heavily criticized for his decision by watching Grandmasters (i.e. hindsight is truly a wonderful thing).

Yet Fischer’s logic is unshakable. By trading Knight for Bishop in this position White removes the only Black piece that holds his position together. After its exchange the two White Rooks enter the game on c7 and e7, and there is absolutely nothing that Black can do to prevent this.

The game continued for just 12 more moves. A beautiful sequence of play saw Black reduced to total helplessness and he resigned on the 34th move with White threatening mate.

As one of the most beautiful games in all of chess literature, this is hugely impressive in two respects:

  • First, the game is completely direct and to the point – there is little, if anything, that is fanciful about it. (FUNCTION)
  • Second, in chess terms, it is entrancingly beautiful, and is literally perfect in conception and execution from beginning to end. (FORM)

 This got me thinking ….

 
The Point

Well, just recently, Storm made a bid for a SharePoint project that included the delivery of an Intranet.

As part of the pitch presentation we had to demonstrate an Intranet design applied over MOSS 2007. And in Intranet design with MOSS 2007 one thinks automatically – because that is what we are taught – about a “Collaboration Portal”.

 Consider, for instance, the default of a Collaboration Portal.

MOSS 2007 - Collaboration Portal Home

MOSS 2007 - default Collaboration Portal - Home

Whilst very functional, with a classic “Inverted-L” navigation design to support a “broad and deep” information architecture (very important for Intranets), one can hardly claim this is beautiful. (And at the pure browser interface, configuring any of the out of the box Microsoft “themes” makes little or no difference to handling this presentation issue.)

At Storm, we have implemented a number of Intranets based on this structural presentation, variously applying themes (with modified core.CSS) or a skin over the top of a base Collaboration Portal, adding both imagery and colour to provide the veneer of a better look and feel.

See, for instance, this treatment over WSS 3.0:

 

Ethos Community - WSS 3.0

Ethos Community - WSS 3.0

 
And this, over a full MOSS portal:

Scottish Refugee Council Intranet in MOSS 2007

Scottish Refugee Council Intranet in MOSS 2007

Ok, both admittedly much better, but still not great (and believe it, our designers are very good).

The fact of it is, is that MOSS 2007 running in Collaboration Portal mode is inherently resistant to design styling (i.e. it is something of a CSS nightmare). It comes back to the tried and trusted adage that SharePoint will do what it wants to do very well indeed; but it’s not so good when you want to do something different. 

The latter scenario, a radical suggestion, I know, but it happens.

Anyway, in July 2008 Ben Curry and Bill English of Mindsharp fame in the US released a very good book entitled Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 Best Practices (this is better for non-techies BTW). In one small paragraph of an 800 page title they recommended using MOSS 2007 in Publishing mode to enable an Intranet. And while I instinctively don’t like the term “best practice” – after all, who really knows? – I could immediately see they had a point.

One project later, with the Royal of Bank of Scotland, and I was completely sold.

It transpires that by stripping out some of the rubbish that comes with a MOSS Publishing site (courtesy of Tom Travers in our dev team), we discovered that it is actually possible to style a decent Intranet view (courtesy of Jason Kennedy). And while we had project constraints on look and feel as a result of this particular client’s design standards, the relationship between design and other considerations within this solution felt in far better balance overall.

So coming full circle, we revisit that pitch for an Intranet project that I mentioned at the beginning of this section. After doing some very cursory needs analysis and a basic IA – it was a pitch, remember – it was over to the design team for a flat visual for an Intranet Home in MOSS.

After a few iterations, we arrived at this for a top-level unified comms portal:

Intranet design - using MOSS Publishing site

Intranet design - using MOSS Publishing site

 

Does it Matter?

Does it really matter if aspects of the “form” of an Intranet site are relatively weak, if the myriad of other considerations that contribute to the successful creation of an Intranet are present?

Well, these days, I happen to think it does.

Arguably in a mid-to-large corporate setting an Intranet reflects how an organisation perceives itself and values its staff, and a badly presented garden leaves a bad impression on the visitor as they come up to the front door. 

And while design is so much more than a user’s perceptions of (mere) presentation, nevertheless the visual aspects of an Intranet arguably matter as much as they do for a Website. 

Like chess, however, it’s all about finding that elusive balance between form and function for a “typology” of site that, by definition, should exhibit strong functional and usability characteristics.  

And Finally … A Parting Shot

At the chessboard, at least, Fischer was a genius….

His play has that airy quality of perfection – think of the American poet Robert Frost and you’ll know what I mean – that makes everything seem so simple and obvious. And yet is all but impossible to attain in practice.

At its best, his playing style represents form and function in near perfect balance, and in chess it takes incredible flexibility of mind to achieve this without falling prey to either preconception or dogma.

It is as though Fischer looked at every move in the course of a single game with the eyes of a child.  

Switch to web design, and I think we know very little about the value, importance and application of design in relation to Intranets. And, sadly, out of the box the user interface presentation and styling of the Collaboration Portal platform in MOSS 2007 does very little to challenge this view, with its stark over-emphasis of function over form.

Alongside other key factors such as information architecture and (site &  content) governance, this pronounced imbalance greatly affects users perceptions, usability and interactions with the platform.

As of mid 2009, therefore, I feel our understanding of what is the correct balance between function and form in Intranet user interface design may not have even got out of the starting blocks!

It looks like – after maybe some 12-15 years in this field (and the eighth year of SharePoint)  – we are still searching for Bobby Fischer.

Bobby Fischer (1943-2008), aged 14, IQ 187

Bobby Fischer (1943-2008), aged 14, IQ 187

The message:

If you have an Intranet project on MOSS 2007 don’t even think about using a Collaboration Portal as the start point.

Think Publishing site, as at least this gives you half a chance in the debate about Form vs Function.

You can always add – and try to style! – the Web Parts later….

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James Robertson – the CEO of  Step Two Designs – doesn’t know it, but I have long been a big fan of his work.

Last month (May 2009) he released his latest offering in “guide” format. A short and eminently practical book  that gives the inside track on how to think about and progress the soft tasks involved in planning, establishing and continuing to evolve an Intranet.

What Every Intranet Team Should Know
What Every Intranet Team Should Know

As any Intranet Manager knows only too well there are few silver bullets to achieving effectiveness. That said, however, after some twenty years of praxis in the field of Intranet design there are emergent guidelines – some might say “best practices” – for achieving success in what is a graveyard slot in web solution design (i.e. I suspect that even my colleagues at Storm ID find it weird that I “like” working in this area).

Quite simply, Robertson’s (and his colleagues) book is excellent, and quite unique in the field. Without going into detail, the material is based on a summation of his company’s ongoing work in providing practical consulting advice on Intranets to a wide range of companies. What’s gratifying about the book is that within this slim volume there is gold which can only be found by working on the front line.  

What’s this got to do with SharePoint I hear you ask?

Well – to be honest – everything!

Despite the ongoing debate on the web by journalists and analysts, users and consultants, it is hard to come to anything other than the conclusion that (if well conceived) MOSS 2007 is a strong and viable software platform to establish an Intranet or Corporate Portal.

Yes, undeniably, SharePoint still has weaknesses in the 2007 version (and quite frankly it was very poor in its 2003 offering), but yet it does most of the basics reasonably, and more than a few things very well, in the Intranet space.

On this, more later….

But Intranets don’t magic themselves into existence and they don’t maintain themselves. This then is a frontier of Intranet solution design where we need pioneers like Robertson’s Step Two Designs. As the hackneyed saying goes, a SharePoint Intranet is far more than just a technology solution; rather, it has an intimate political, social and informational relationship to the organisation in question that means that the softer elements of solution design must be attended to if you want success.

Thus, if you want success, you could do a lot worse than by trying this guy’s book. It can be ordered from Step Two Designs for a mere Aus $89. It is well worth the dosh, and will save most – if not all of us – in the field a great deal  of misguided effort in what is a clear and simple read.

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