Why have a Portal?
Dan Elder, CKMP
Author Paul Bryan reported in the "Intranet Journal" last year a result of a survey where an oft heard
complaint was about low usage of company portals. In his attempt to narrow factors contributing to
negative reviews, one of the key challenges he found was "often a result of focusing on technical
requirements rather than the real-life context of the system." Sounds like another example of missing
the other two elements of good KM...the People and Processes that support the underlying Technology.
Give 'em a portal but don't show them why they need it, how to use it, or help them change their
internal procedures to support it. As Maxwell Smart would say, "ah, The Oldest Trick in the Book!"
Is that a problem in your work area, are there portals at your disposal that are little understood or
seldom used? Who needs these portals anyway, I have lived without them for all this time, why do
should I use one now? Be it an organizational Sharepoint server, the Army's Knowledge Online
enterprise portal, or one of the communities of practice that have proliferated in the .mil domain, these
online internet (or intranet) presences are something you should be paying attention to. I suggest that
you may have the technology, but do your people know how to best employ them and have your
operating procedures adapted to using them yet?
Most believe it just makes good sense to use portals in your day-to-day routine and that you should
enforce their usage by those you supervise. But nothing could drive the point home better than two
little words I hear being mentioned all across the camps, posts and stations lately, THUMB DRIVES.
Our dependence on removable, portable storage devices may have been under-rated, as are the many
stories of failures, incompatibilities and data breeches. Did I mention that they can also transfer viruses,
too? Up until recently memory sticks and external hard drives proliferated to a point of reliance.
Popping in a "stick" to a USB dataport has become so routine to move content from one digital system
to another that it has also became the de facto stove-piped data archival method, too.
Meanwhile, terabytes of free (to you) networked storage, many of them accessible using only your
standard login/password combination, go unused. As a primary method to transfer files and data across
systems wouldn't you rather keep it on protected networks by using portals as "virtual hard drives"
instead of the risks associated with removable media? And how can you practice good knowledge
management without adopting the cornerstones of "collaboration" and "sharing" when your
organizational knowledge is all locked away on a hard drive that your people cannot easily get to?
Do you need another good example of why people should use your portal? How about as an alternative
to the thumb drive....that oughta get them thanking you.