Magazine article Online

Intranets: New Opportunities for Information Professionals

Magazine article Online

Intranets: New Opportunities for Information Professionals

Article excerpt

Howard McQueen and Jean E. DeMatteo are CEO and Director of Educational Programs respectively at McQueen Consulting, which provides consulting and integration services for intranet development. Howard and Jean also edit the bimonthly newsletter, IntraNet Professional.

Intranets represent the most fertile and untapped frontier where information professionals can add value. For intranets to realize their potential, they need both content and context, attributes that are part of the domain of knowledge of the information professional. In this article, we attempt to answer the question "Why should information professionals play an integral role in enterprise-wide intranet projects?"

The "anyone publishing to everyone" phenomena that was spawned by the Web is being executed on many intranets today. Intranet Web publishing is growing at breakneck speeds, moving our organizations into a phase that is best characterized as Intramess-having no idea what is on our internal Web-space, much less how to find anything relevant.

There is a lot of value-added work to be done on our intranets. Much of this can be characterized as "sweatshop" work. It is very repetitive, not intellectually stimulating, and subject to burn-out. Information professionals that have the friendly-helper attitude are likely to be "volunteered" for this type of work. It may be okay to manage some of these projects; but watch out, costs are likely to escalate and results will be subject to ROI (Return On Investment) metrics that will probably not pan out.

The other, more entrepreneurial path that information professionals can take is one of Information and Knowledge Consultant. This is where you assume the challenge of seeing above the treetops, becoming the visionary and architect of improving business processes through leveraging technology. How you go about making the organization more responsive to change and more aware of information as a key asset will not necessarily be an easy road--as many of you are very aware.

We firmly believe there will be a renaissance in searching, cataloging, and information consulting--but only for those that can address these opportunities in terms of ROI, or at least in measurable metrics that top management can relate to.

CONTENT AND CONTEXT

Over the last year or so, seminar speakers, consultants, and analysts have been expounding that "content is king." The McQueen Consulting crystal ball leads us to believe that those same folks will soon be declaring that "context is king." This is why the enlightened information professional is uniquely positioned to play a major role in new intranet initiatives.

Content Is Essential

Most libraries are responsible for selecting some, if not most, of the external content for the organization. Libraries have had to embrace both networking and information delivery technologies in order to extend the reach of their library catalog and external content resources to the intranet desktop. The Web and HTML publishing have caused intranet publishing to become commonplace in many organizations. The relative ease and minimal effort required to publish HTML has created the demand for content management.

Many libraries are beginning to wrestle with internal content management initiatives. When you look at the makeup of internal content, roughly 75% of all content on intranets is full-text and not stored in SQL (database) repositories. A large amount of full-text content is being created and stored in email messages and Office Suite products (word processing, graphic/presentation software, spreadsheets, etc.). Many initiatives to publish in HTML are underway. Specialty content is being published in PDF format and there is a growing inventory of binary image, audio, and video content that needs to be better managed. Depending upon its value, this content needs to be treated with varying value-added context-enhancement routines--anywhere from a quick and dirty automated markup to a more sophisticated metatagging effort. …

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