Developing a Corporate Intranet


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A talk I'm doing on 29/09/2011 at SWIG, the Liverpool Wordpress Interest Group.

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  • I do a bit of everything IT-wise, and I’ve been working with Wordpress in the corporate world for a couple of years, initially whilst our company was much smaller as a basic intranet news portal, and more recently to drive the commercial side of the business and aid in expansion.So, here’s a quick talk on my experience with Intranets, past, present and future, and because we’re here to talk about Wordpress, I’ve got some tips on how to use that successfully inside an organisation.
  • So we probably all know what Intranets are – either you’ve used one somewhere you’ve worked, or know people who have.I’ve always found them to be a bit of an enigma. It’s kind of hard to define what you want one to do, how you expect people to use it, or to justify the cost. But if you can’t do any of those things, why do you need one at all?
  • Well, here’s the usual conversation that takes place. Some senior stakeholder decides you need an intranet and gets enough people to agree that some money is found. It gets developed, passes on to a team who look after it, and a wave of organisational change sweeps across the company like a breath of fresh air.This is all lovely aspirational stuff, but unless you're working for a super efficient organisation already (in which case you probably have an intranet) then unfortunately it's just not going to pan out like that. There's an oft quoted figure that 70% of projects are considered failures. I'd say it's closer to 95%, but success and failure are overly simplistic labels, you really shouldn't pay them much attention.
  • Here are a bunch of typical requirements. Everyone has different ones, though generally non-functionals seem to be pretty consistent.Based on some of these requirements, we can begin to make comparisons between products.
  • Here’s a ridiculously simplified chart.Total effort =cost + design + technical work (features + plugins) + maintenance + user ease of use.Since there are only so many hours in the day, or money to go around, ideally we want find a balance between minimum effort and maximum awesomeness.Well we could probably plot a Tom Scott style graph if we chose. But in a corporate environment, we have limited time, and quite often decisions are out of your hands.
  • Classic Tom Scott graph, how much awesomeness do we need?This statistically proven graph shows that you need to base the amount of awesomeness you put into the intranet on the size of your project sponsor’s ego. Unfortunately it’s kind of self propagating, so the more cool stuff you do, the bigger the sponsor’s ego gets, so you have to work even harder.
  • And here’s another 100% true statistic. Never heard anyone mention it before? As far as the corporate world is concerned, weakness, inefficiency, lack of ability, these are not subjects which may be discussed casually.Well hang on then, that actually makes it quite hard to get a full picture of what is wanted.
  • Anyway, we continue on.SharePointSharePoint's a pretty big piece of software which does things like collaboration, document management and so on in a very Microsofty way. You get the most benefit out of it by making massive changes to how your organisation works in order to fit in with it. If the Powers That Be want to do that, then fine, go ahead. It's fairly expensive, needs some development work to get up and running, most consultants recommend employing dedicated staff to maintain it, and having skilled champions within your organisation to contribute and update content is a must.Various other solutions exist. Developing with them is a horrible experience. They're incredibly fragile and buggy, rely on archaic technology or counter-intuitive user interfaces, and are intentionally proprietary, using the logic that if you're dumb enough to buy into their system, they'll make damn sure you're so highly invested that you'll never be able to leave.So to sum up this part of the talk, figure out how much awesomeness you really need, how much effort you’re really able to put in, then check out my Awesome-space chart to see what sorts of products you should be aiming to work with.
  • You need strong leadership to undergo change successfully. Sometimes you even need a bit of chaos, people losing their jobs, mergers. It’s a great arena for internal IT Developers with a bit of flair to step in and show off their skills. We can provide the catalyst our organisations need in order to get them to start communicating more successfully.
  • Where do we start? Play to Wordpress’s strengths! You can’t implement everything you want all at once, but Wordpress has always been a great out of the box news portal.Come up with a great news site template, and make use of Menus and CSS to organise our static content. Keep the news fresh. Hire Lydia to tell us how to write for the web. Also add some content – policies and procedures, embedded iframe content from other areas of the business. Then wait a bit. Let that stuff sink in with your users – it takes a while for them to get used to it.
  • There’ll reach a point where just having pages of content isn’t enough. You’ll want to display different types of content in radically different ways, for instance you might want to embed board papers in your pages. The key here is to use Custom Post Types for each different type of content, building your own CMS in the process. (next page)
  • Here’s an example of how it looks once you’re finished – nice and neat, no editor, only the fields you need complete the task.You can also see an example of a custom taxonomy there. I’ve created a Sections taxonomy separate to the normal Categories, to try to keep the categorisation of news content separate to that of true intranet content. It has a downside – some of the functions for taxonomies aren’t as feature rich as the equivalent ones for categories.Permissions are also very important on an intranet. You want to use the User Access Manager plugin for that, as the built in Roles feature, where each user has just one role, isn’t powerful enough.
  • And finally we can start to add all kinds of other features. Don’t reinvent the wheel, there are plugins to do just about everything you can think of, or you can embed other sites inside yours.ADI means that you can sync your Wordpress users directly with your network logins. The holy grail of corporate computing is single signon, and you can accomplish this in Wordpress with a couple of plugins plus a few lines of php. (other one is IIS Authentication)Dynamic Widgets allows you to customise when your widgets appear. You can code all that inside your theme, but this is a slightly more user friendly way to do it.NextGEN Gallery is a pretty standard photo gallery solution. Very robust.I use Wordpress SEO for its fantastic breadcrumb feature. Very little coding required, works perfectly every time.Smart Archives you’ll see over the page.Finally Buddypress is a bit of an experiment in how far we can push Wordpress as a modern Intranet. Commercial intranets have recently been adding social media modules to their product range, and Buddypress is an attempt to bring that to Wordpress, with a bit of a hybrid between Facebook and Twitter. HowWhyDIY uses it fairly successfully. We’re currently trialing it with a staff fitness challenge.
  • Developing a Corporate Intranet

    1. 1. Developing a Corporate Intranet*<br />Alex Nolan<br />@alexnolan<br />* Whilst maximising awesomeness**<br />** And the number of different slide transitions<br />
    2. 2. What is an Intranet?<br />Internal to a community<br />Secure<br />For sharing information<br />Web based<br />
    3. 3. The Conventional Wisdom<br />Vision<br />Stakeholders<br />Development<br />Ownership<br />Education<br />Appeal<br />Maintenance<br />Consistency?<br />Politics?<br />Resourcing?<br />Responsibility?<br />Barriers to?<br />Lasting?<br />P.A.I.A.<br />
    4. 4. Requirements<br />
    5. 5. Awesome-space<br />
    6. 6. Ego-space<br />
    7. 7. User-space<br />
    8. 8. Product Choice<br />Actually depends on many variables<br />In house expertise / partners<br />Staff computer literacy / taboo subjects<br />Functional Requirements<br />Polish / Customization needed<br />Budget<br />Sharepoint<br />Wordpress<br />Drupal<br />Interact Intranet<br />Joomla!<br />SORCE<br />
    9. 9. Back to Reality<br />Not every organisation is ready for change<br />Many decision makers…<br />don’t understand that IT is mostly about people<br />have no idea how to proceed<br />can’t even tell you why they want an Intranet<br />don’t want to spend much money<br />Enter IT…<br />
    10. 10. Let’s use Wordpress!<br />Where do we start?<br />News (posts)<br />Static Content (pages)<br />Learn how to hack a theme’s PHP / CSS<br />
    11. 11. Wordpress as a CMS (3.1+)<br />Awesome Built In Features!<br />Custom Post Types<br />Custom Fields<br />Taxonomies<br />Users<br />Roles<br />Essential Plugins<br />Custom Post Type UI<br />Advanced Custom Fields<br />Map Cap<br />User Access Manager<br />Members<br />
    12. 12. Wordpress as a CMS (3.1+)<br />
    13. 13. More Wordpress Plugins<br />Active Directory Integration<br />Dynamic Widgets<br />NextGEN Gallery<br />Wordpress SEO<br />Smart Archives Reloaded<br />Frontpage-Slideshow<br />Buddypress…<br />
    14. 14. The Results<br />@alexnolan<br />