SharePoint is one of the most widespread and mature document management systems. When we discuss “collaboration,” what often comes to mind is the sharing of a document for revision and approval. This certainly does occur on the enterprise level, but the needs of business go far beyond this capability: often there is a complex workflow of interaction and triggers between people with different responsibilities and distributed among different departments. When these processes are left as informal, there are often lags in productivity cause by confusion, limited employee bandwidth, and resistance to the process. The advantage of SharePoint – and what makes it one of the top choices for enterprise – is the ability to automate processes so that they are codified in the very way in which personnel interact with documents. This is largely thanks to SharePoint’s built-in workflow capabilities and PowerShell administrator commands. Let us look at the example of a firm that has the requirement to send a periodic report to a third-party.
- The document may require the approval of several different boards, each made up of an approved collection of members (who could even have assigned emergency delegates – just to give a more realistic sense of the complications involved).
- These boards may be assembled from quality assurance, supply chain, finance, and any number of disparate groups.
- Documents contain metadata that can signal when each board has signed off.
- Email alerts can notify all the stakeholders at each point in the approval process.
- When a user attempts to check in the document, its current state can be checked against whether or not it is on the list of approvers.
- When all criteria have been met, the document can be safely checked in for final release, and can even be distributed to any number of key recipients or placed in a special repository.
The possibilities are nearly endless and can be adapted to all of the varied needs of a business.
Almost every form of enterprise produces some form of work output that is usually document-based. This is especially true in the heavier forms of engineering such as aerospace, military, or medical in which the auditing and accounting requirements are high. No one wants to confront an ISO or federal audit and not be able to point to business procedures and work products that have been tested against a replicable quality process. In most commercial branches of software, especially web-enterprise and IT, documentation often takes the form of wikis or informal design files that are scattered around some agreed upon repository. Often if such documents exist they may even be stored in the code repository itself. In fact, in methodologies such as Agile or Extreme Programming there is sometimes the ethic that “the code is the documentation.” However, neither methodology formally shuns maintaining documentation but rather recommends keeping it spare. From these observations we can then ask what the proper balance a software firm should strike between heavy document management and none whatsoever. Documentation, especially when rapid development is employed, is especially susceptible to skew with the code and can become outdated quickly. Therefore it takes a well-designed document management system to maintain productivity. An effective way to manage modern software documentation is to break it down as follows: Pre-Development Documentation This phase is devoted to functional specifications, user stories, and relationship diagrams. The emphasis is on the high levels of what needs to be completed without locking in implementation details or sacrificing any of the flexibility needed to handle sudden requirements changes.
Documentation During Development Much of the documentation during the development phase can actually be generated by the framework or runtime with which the project is implemented. However, the products created in this phase still need storage and ease of access. Post-Development Documentation Much of this documentation will be of the customer-facing variety: end-user documentation such as user interface manuals. This documentation should be easily accessed by management and non-technical teams.When the documentation is broken down in such a manner, it becomes spare, easy to sift through, and readily suited for any number of enterprise document management systems.
Given the recent rise of online social media, it was only a matter of time before the “social” paradigm would start to influence enterprise intranet software. Many organizations have already worked features such as personal profiles and content sharing into their corporate communications. While it is possible to see this as a gimmick or a blatant attempt to capitalize on a market trend, social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn have large user bases for important, valid reasons; the ability to collaborate in highly personalized and emergent ways has value in the business world just as it does to private social media users.
The intersection of portals (the gateways of traditional intranets), team sites, and social sites is where the ideal benefits of social intranet are to be found. If execut ed correctly social intranet facilitates freedom, collaboration, discoverability, clear business context, and integration with company processes.
However, it is probably best to think of social intranet not so much as a replacement for the conventional approach but rather part of a gradual evolution. The reality of the business world’s adoption of social software is that it has augmented the capabilities of traditional solutions rather than making them obsolete entirely; legacy portals and content systems have adapted to integrate the new social features.
Indeed, a recent study from NetStrategyJMC has identified that there are five hurdles that social intranet must overcome in order to realize its potential:
- Lack of a sense of urgency for the transition.
- Lack of buy-in from senior management.
- Social solutions are not currently empowering employees enough.
- Digital environments are being fragmented rather than consolidated.
- Businesses are still concerned with management along organizational groups rather than operational groups.
Drupal is well-known as a web content management system (CMS) that has adopters ranging from novice administrators all the way to Amnesty International and the White House. Its high adaptability gives it wide, effective use in many problem domains. There is a growing application for Drupal that happens to be one traditionally filled by proprietary vendors such as Microsoft – enterprise content management. Spurred on by the platform’s open nature, wide adoption, flexibility, and a boost by Drupal founder Dries Buytaert’s company Acquia, this popular CMS system is finding its way into enterprise.
Acquia launched in 2007 with a model very similar to that of commercial Linux vendor Red Hat: become profitable with the wide distribution of an open source technology by becoming its trusted support and maintenance partner. It should be noted that Ac quia and the Drupal community are separate, even with the presence of Drupal’s founder as Acquia CTO. Acquia could be thought of as the commercial advocate of the Drupal community; furthering its use in industry as well as the web, developing enterprise Drupal tools, and helping companies master its intricacies.
Acquia has shown no signs of slowing down as it secured $30 million in a recent round of funding. This new captial is expected to help it scale out Drupal’s enterprise presence.
Drupal not only has shown itself to be a strong commercial-level content system, competitive with Sharepoint, it also has a presence on cloud PaaS solutions such as AWS. Whether it is installed locally or on a cloud service, the following are some of the specific benefits of Drupal for enterprise:
- no licensing hurdles,
- enterprise support (from Aqcuia, other commercial consultants, and of course the Drupal open source community),
- build quality and proven reliability as it is the underlying platform behind roughly 2% of all websites,
- platform independence, unlike Sharepoint and Umbraco.
The Economist, the well-known print periodical that covers politics and global affairs from a fairly academic level, has maintained an online presence since 1996. However, until 2008, www.economist.com was regarded as a web-based companion to the print edition that offered some online-exclusive content but was more or less a requisite internet-hub for a journal with an established reputation.
However, in 2008, The Economist made a strategic decision to turn its online component into a more community-driven, content-rich, dynamic forum in which contributors, readers, and guests could shape quality debate about the topics with which the periodical is usually concerned. In order to accomplish this, The Economist had to make bold decisions with its web infrastructure.
First of all, The Economist developers involved in the transition (split across three teams around the globe) had to transition the site away from its proprietary content management system (CMS) and adopt Drupal instead. Drupal was chosen for its ability to handle the scale of changes that would be necessary to make the site more contributor-driven as well as for its comprehensive set of existing modules.
Second, the developers had to choose a methodology for effectively launching the upgraded site in a timely manner. They decided upon Agile project management with Scrum, which typically allows for rapid development that is balanced out with thorough code review and peer collaboration.
Finally, the developers were met with the challenge of transitioning the website in stages so that the legacy CMS could remain partially in place and be iteratively replaced by value-added features of the new system. This meant a change in hosting structure as at first the new features could be delivered via proxy and then gradually moved into sub domains until completion of the new system.
The results of all these efforts have been notable. The modern online version of The Economist is regarded as one of the best examples of Drupal engineering and receives 6.5 million unique visitors worldwide.