Re: Intranet sites

Subject: Re: Intranet sites
From: "Steven J. Owens" <puff -at- netcom -dot- com>
To: milynch -at- imaginemail -dot- com
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 1999 16:52:17 -0800 (PST)

Michelle Lynch writes:

> I have been assigned the task of creating an intranet site for our
> development team. We are using the Rational Unified Process for an
> object oriented project. Our development team includes programmers,
> analysts, project managers, and object modelers. The users of the site
> will be our team members as well as a business team - a group of
> people who will benefit from our project. (We continually have
> meetings with the business team and need to keep the lines of
> communication open by providing updates, documentation and exchange of
> ideas.)

Your request lacks sufficient context for detailed advice. What
is the goal of the intranet site? What problem are you trying to
solve? If you're not trying to solve a problem, why are you doing
this? Who are your primary users, who are you trying to support?

> I am trying to get some direction and figure out the scope for this
> site. I have never done a project like this before and I have never
> seen a really good intranet site.

An important thing to be aware of is that for a small,
specifically targeted development team intranet site, the point of the
site is communication. Actually, that's true of any intranet site,
but for large corporate intranet sites you can assume that actually
communicating with your audience is a lost cause :-).

The key point I'm trying to make is that if you're trying to help
the developers develop, the best thing you can do in providing the
intranet site is provide:

- A channel for team communication
- A "group memory" or repository for general knowledge,
- A location for useful utilities,

and sometimes:

- A channel for communicating information to people outside the
developer team.

In point of fact, I'd strongly suggest you think in terms of three
intranet sites - informal, internal, and external. Think of them as
concentric circles, in terms of who should be allowed access to them.
Informal should be somewhere to just throw something up so it's on the
web and can be centrally accessed. It should also be something where
the developers don't have to worry about who's going to see what goes
there (that's part of the "informal" nature of it).

Fast and loose is the name of the game, as long as you stay on
top of it and keep it from becoming cluttered and useless. Remember
the essential rules of techwriting: timely, accurate, complete,
accessible, in that order. The most useless document is one that's
not there. No gatekeepers, no obsessing about how things are written.
Think of this as the communal whiteboard.

Migrate things out to the "internal" site where it's an official
part of the site but only meant to be accessed by people within the
project team. Make sure you have some way of maintaining consensus,
so people aren't unpleasantly surprised to find something in the
public eye.

External is expressly for the purpose of communicating with
people outside the site. It's the "public face" of the team. Nothing
"migrates" here, it is crafted for external consumption or possibly
carefully repurposed. Make sure you pay extra attention to material
that gets here to prevent it from containing references to
non-published material.

> I will be using FrontPage 2000.

If you want to have better relations with your developers, don't
use FrontPage :-).

> Does anyone know of any good intranet resources (books, websites,
> etc)? Ideally, I would love to hear of/see/read examples of intranet
> sites and their capabilities.

I suggest you pick up a good book on the Rational Unified Process
:-). You might also check out Steve McConnel's _Rapid Development_
and _Code Complete_ to get a better understanding of the development
process and hence what you can do to help and support the development

> Also, I know everyone is extremely busy, but if you have worked on a
> project like this, I would really like to hear your story (you can
> e-mail me privately).

I really don't have the time to go deeper into it at this moment,
but if you run into problmes or have specific questions, feel free to
drop me a line.

Steven J. Owens
puff -at- netcom -dot- com

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