This week, we’re kicking off a new project, implementing an intranet / portal for our newly independent company. I’m fascinated at how the “state of the art ” has moved forward so much since the “old days” of the 90’s. This is actually my third or fourth cut at an application like this (depending on how you define “portal”), and I’m sure it’s going a bit faster simply because we’re skipping over some portal design and admin process “dead ends” that just won’t work for a company like ours.
We’re replacing a portal that was custom-built by a development staff at our (outgoing) corporate parent – a fine effort, possibly a bit too focused on technical fine points; the portal never really took off within our division. This previous development effort probably ran to the high six figures, over two or more years with a surprisingly large staff (for a company of our size) … and how are we replacing it? With open source software that provides the same or better functionality at no cost.
Well, no development cost. There is plenty of configuration and troubleshooting, process documentation that we have to create, but the total implementation time has really been slashed – myself and one other person doing the technical set up, and I’m defining most of the process, using one or two “first adopter” internal users to help define things.
This project makes a great case about technology’s relevance to business; it’s not about the technical complexity, better to focus on time to value. That sounds a little like consultant-ese, but it’s a powerful concept for fast changing businesses, businesses under short- and mid-term pressures (which most are), and especially businesses that aren’t in the technology market space. What does technical elegance really mean to a manufacturer of consumer white goods? Little, unless it significantly drives down cost to maintain systems (not just build!).
This is often a difficult concept for tech folks to grasp and take to heart – but to keep one’s sanity, it’s the best/only way to understand a well-run business’ attitude towards many technical issues.