Monday, 21 February 2011

Book Review - Intranet Management Handbook

Martin White, Managing Director of Intranet Focus Ltd in the UK has a new book out called the 'Intranet Management Handbook' - there are new pages on the Intranet Focus site with links to resources quoted in the book.

I will start with the succinct summary - this is a truly superb book that will be incredibly valuable to intranet managers, intranet teams, and the executives responsible for them in any organization.

The Review

I will expand on my summary with some justification as to why I think it will be so useful. I have been the joint 'business owner' of a large corporate intranet (11,000 users, 200 distinct 'sites') including being the line manager of the Intranet Manager. I have been a business consultant focused on intranet strategy working with Global 500 'blue chip' clients, and currently I manage a global intranet portal with 100's of sites, 100's of content contributors and thousands of users. In other words I have a fair bit of experience with intranets of different sizes and shapes, based on different technologies, trying to facilitate different business goals. I have first hand experience of the challenges, in both dealing with them myself, and helping others to do so as a consultant. That is why I can thoroughly recommend the absolute utility of this book by Martin.

To prove that to you the reader, let’s move onto a more detailed review. I don't want to give the full index of chapter headings, indeed I don't want to be overly detailed at any point as you should buy the book for yourself.  Martin has split the book into four main parts:

Part 1 - Foundations
Part 2 - Technology
Part 3 - Operational Planning
Part 4 - Governance and Strategy

Each chapter can be read independently so you can dive into the ones that you personally need the most first, and therefore each chapter ends with its own set of annotated resources for that topic. So your not just getting the benefit of the author’s years of experience, but you also get directed to the great work of many other experts with whom the author has developed professional relationships over the years.

Part 1 Foundations

In this section Martin briefly tackles the historical development of the intranet as a dumping ground for miscellaneous information and goes on to examine the real value proposition of a well planned and well managed intranet. He introduces the role of the intranet manager and the interplay between the 3 key dimensions of Information, Governance and Technology. The following chapters describe the foundational elements of defining user requirements for the intranet and turning these requirements into a business case that can be presented to senior management. This is all highly relevant even if you already have an intranet, as the principles as described can be used in any 'upgrade' or 'refresh' project the next time one of these come around.

Part 1 concludes with chapters examining developing a content strategy and on enhancing collaboration. Content Strategy is key in my personal opinion, and Martin does not leave anything out, discussing information stewardship, metadata, records management through to blogs and other 'social' content. This chapter also includes the role of externally sourced information and extranets. This chapter is incredibly valuable in highlighting what Martin describes as a "less is more" approach to managing content. The final chapter discusses the role of the intranet in collaborative working, another key element to consider as we move towards intranets with fully integrated commenting, tagging and rating of content etc.

Part 2 Technology

The 3 chapters of this part of the book examine the areas of managing your technology platforms, specifying and selecting technology solutions and including a chapter dealing specifically with the use of Microsoft SharePoint technologies for intranets.

The first chapter provides a comprehensive overview of what you need to consider in managing intranet related technologies, ranging from Web Content Management through Document Management to integration and authentication, personalization and even enterprise search. External hosting of your intranet, cloud computing and mobile access are all discussed. Some of these may or may not be big topics for your particular organization - but they could be soon, so once again there is something here for those who are already managing an intranet and not starting from scratch.

The next chapter covers not just the planning for a procurement, but the vital and often overlooked subject of content migration. The final chapter covers some specifics of using the highly popular Microsoft SharePoint platform for your intranet.

Part 3 Operational Planning

The section on intranet operations is a mine of useful information. The initial chapter covers skills required within an intranet team, developing the intranet manager’s job description and the role of the HR department. The utility of this information is illustrated by the fact that I recently received an email from a colleague on the other side of the world asking if I had a good job description for an intranet manager, and what kind of things it should include ! The following chapters examine the subjects of project management, risk management and compliance. An intranet manager might not be expert in any of these disciplines, but they must understand the basics so that they can interact with those who are from a knowledgeable position. Martin concludes this part with comprehensive chapters on marketing your intranet and on monitoring and measuring its use. Again to me these are key issues, there is no point in investing in your intranet if no one uses it, and you need to prove to senior management just how much they are using it and how they are deriving benefit from it.

Part 4 Governance and Strategy

When I was a business consultant specializing in intranets, I would endeavour to explain to clients that governance, strategy and planning where absolute foundational key stones for their intranet projects, Martin does that job very well in the final part of this book. Frameworks for developing governance structures and developing a pertinent intranet strategy are provided for the reader to use in their own context. The final chapter of this part and of the book is entitled: "From intranets to information management" putting the intranet in context in the broader, holistic view of information management. 


Martin crams a treasure trove of information into 233 pages. His writing style is concise and easy to digest. I have never found another book that covers intranets in this practical style and so I thoroughly recommend it to intranet managers and their teams, to the senior execs who have the intranet within their purview, and to information management, knowledge management and content management practitioners who may have to deal with intranets, or advise clients on their development. 

If you need any more convincing (why ? Go buy it, now..... !!) you can download the Table of Contents here.

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