Working the intranet rapids

Working the intranet rapids

Document management vendors and Web development firms have turned their attention to content management with innovative solutions, reports Paul Montgomery.

The intranet is a relatively new phenomenon, but it has found its way into many organisations in some shape or form. Document management is an older concept which has taken root at most large companies, and many small and new firms as well.

The convergence of these two disciplines can be seen as inevitable, because they both deal with the same function: publishing and handling documents inside the firewall. The name for the hybrid technology which has emerged from this is content management, with vendors like Open Text, Allaire and HarvestRoad leading the way (for an introduction, see September/October 1999, page 18).

Whitewolf's websiteMAX is delivered entirely through a Web browser.

The field has seen activity from a surprising new area: Web development firms. These are small companies which started out doing the low-level activity of designing Web sites. Some of the more ambitious firms have moved into designing and implementing content for intranets. Entercorp, Whitewolf and Zivo are among a handful of these firms to have used this experience to develop packaged solutions for companies that want to apply Internet concepts to the rigorous procedures of document management.

The basic idea behind content management is that the ease of use of Internet technologies means that the power to publish corporate documents, which was previously allowed only to employees with clients of complex document management systems on their PC desktops, could be extended to take in practically every member of a company.

One of the problems with intranets is that once users understand how to "upload" content to a Web server using File Transfer Protocol (FTP), there is an explosion of content which becomes impossible to manage. Another is the lack of proper procedures and workflows to ensure that corporate documents are not deleted, copied over with earlier versions or archived at the wrong time.

"The challenge is to maintain consistency across all online knowledge resources."

"Technology was starting to impact on people's productivity rather than enabling them to manage their information more effectively. It was having the opposite effect," said Nick Nicolaou, business manager at Entercorp.

Entercorp's solution to this problem is Rapid Web Publisher (RWP), which relies on the workflow capabilities in the Lotus Domino development environment, according to Mr Nicolaou.

Whitewolf, founded by Teresa White and Jonathan Wolfe as a Sydney-based Web design company with intranet clients such as Fuji-Xerox and the NSW Police, has entered the fray with an application called websiteMAX.

"Most modern organisations seek to leverage organisational knowledge, and don't want to constrain the ability of their staff to create and distribute knowledge," said Mr Wolfe. "However, the challenge is to maintain consistency across all online knowledge resources."


Like HarvestRoad's WebPOWER, websiteMAX is written purely in Java, and is delivered to a range of corporate employees not as a fat client, but through a Web browser. As in most content management applications, websiteMAX allows the user to select from a number of templates when publishing their documents. This performs the dual role of removing the need to teach employees the intricacies of formatting their content in a proprietary system, and it also ensures a consistant style.

Mr Nicolaou said that organisations which had a standard corporate image were not applying them to intranet, extranet or Internet publishing.

"Content management empowers the end users to take control, and it frees up the tech department from being involved in the day to day marking up of content. It's not their job," he said.

RWP has optional modules for site mapping and automated feedback data, plus an add-on to deliver content simultaneously to Web browsers and mobile Internet devices using the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). Mr Nicolou said the company had also developed a module called Rapid Start for setting up an intranet in an application service provider environment.