Intranet Developers Say Systems, Security Top Priorities

SAN JOSE

Intranets have attempted to manage corporate knowledge and have failed so far, an analyst warned at last week's Intranet 2000 conference. But users here said they are continuing and expanding their intranet efforts and that legacy and security issues remain the top priorities.

Intranets have been good at giving employees, suppliers and even customers access to information, noted Steve Telleen, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. However, "few companies allow their own employees to publish their own ideas with their own voice," he said, in his keynote speech. Instead, he argued, today's intranets are packed with processed information posing as knowledge.

"Most knowledge management is noise, not understanding," Telleen said. "If we prestructure knowledge, there is nothing we can learn."

According to Telleen, information technology departments are acting like "landed gentry facing the industrial revolution" and often slow down progress. He pointed to companies that "Web-enable" applications rather than create network-based software from scratch as being part of the problem.

Tackling Legacy Systems

But part of IT's mandate is to incorporate legacy systems into the newer intranet architecture.

"We're aware that the paradigm is different. It's no longer just a (mainframe) world," said John Schultz, an information services technical specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He added that it has been critical for his organization's nearly 4-year-old intranet strategy to begin making old applications Web-ready, because that's the information and software people use.

Chad Childers, World Wide Web administrator at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich., said his company's portal strategy extends well beyond the intranet. Ford already has 150,000 intranet users, and, with its recent announcement of plans to give every employee a PC and Web access, that number will more than double in a year.

The company's deal with Detroit-based General Motors Corp. and Stuttgart, Germany-based DaimlerChrysler AG to create the Automotive Network Exchange for car industry suppliers will expand that number even further.

And Ford plans to give customers access to the portal, which could easily increase the user population to more than 1 million.

"All this makes security more important than ever before," Childers said.

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