Magazine article Training & Development

The Intranet Magna Carta

Magazine article Training & Development

The Intranet Magna Carta

Article excerpt

How can an intranet help create a company without boundaries? Here is what Thomas M. Koulopoulos, author of Smart Companies, Smart Tools, suggests.

Software shall be free. This may seem to be a difficult concept to fathom, but no more so than it would have been for a caller 50 years ago to imagine that phones would become throwaway technology. In other words, it is the service that the user pays for, not the equipment. Nor could most people have foreseen just a few short years ago what would happen to the cost of cellular phones.

The ability of the Web to act as an instantaneous delivery vehicle for the dissemination of applications is far too tempting for most software providers. By infiltrating business enterprises with their particular products, those suppliers hope to be able to go back and provide the back-end services that enable their clients' applications. To invert a popular analogy: The money is not in the blades, but in the razors.

Applications shall fade away. When Microsoft asks, Where do you want to go today?, most users respond (after looking at the chaos that typifies their computer desktops), "Where the hell am I to begin with?"

Applications create islands of automation. They separate and segregate functions that are intuitively part of the same process. That is tantamount to using a different type of phone for every state you want to call to.

Computer users have suffered in silence the absurdity of the need to use discrete silos to launch applications because there was little alternative, other than proprietary desktop computing environments, until the commercialization of the Internet.

Today, it is not outrageous to predict that, within a decade at most, all talk of applications will fade away. Word processing, spreadsheets, and databases will all become part of a single integrated business environment, known as the "business operating system." Users will no longer launch or care about applications per se.

How will that be done? An intranet provides a common ground, namely HTML, for stitching together work in a single interface format. Work that once required extensive programming to integrate separate pieces of information into a single presentation will now be inherently integrated via web-based technology.

The desktop shall be public domain. Follow this logic: Proprietary interests in the desktop create fragmentation of platforms; processes cut across platforms; organizations are using virtual structures as one of the key competitive forces; and virtual processes must be supported by a ubiquitous universal platform. Ergo, proprietary platforms must go away. Even if you don't subscribe to that line of reasoning, there is a simpler, more compelling reason: Given an option between uniformity and platform diversity, users won't put up with the more complicated system. An intranet is the option.

How? Intranets act as windows to old legacy computer applications, as well as contemporary solutions. But users see only the surface; they do not see the complexity of integration going on behind the scenes. And because nothing exists at the surface (interface) other than the intranet browser, users see simplicity.

The business operating system shall belong to the users. Users refuse to be held hostage by technologists and technology interests. Operating systems have, until now, reflected the underpinnings of computers --the internal gibberish of file structures, directories, platform nuances, and procedural logic. …

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