JoAnn T. Hackos, PhD
Director, The Center for Information-Development Management

The hottest new topic in content management is the collaborative workplace, another name for an enterprise portal. In the collaborative workplace the individual is key, according to the new book by Matthias Vering and colleagues at SAP and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The E-Business Workplace: Discovering the Power of Enterprise Portals is published by John Wiley & Sons, 2001. Matthias Vering is a colleague of ours who provided leadership for the development of SAP’s online help system.

The benefits of an e-workplace for employees and customers are many:

  • A single point of access to all relevant applications and information
  • A role-based content plan determining what information is pushed to the individual and what information is available to be pulled by that individual
  • Significant gains in productivity by decreasing time needed to find information, act on information and data, and make decisions

It is very encouraging to see the focus that the authors place on the importance of content. They list four steps critical to setting up a repository. The second critical step, after setting up security, is to “prepare to spend more time dealing with content issues than [with] traditional IT issues.”

Considering the dominance that IT issues, especially the selection and implementation of technology, appear to play in content management today, I find it refreshing to have someone in the technology world recognize that content doesn’t appear by magic.

The authors point out that getting the portal technology or the content repository selected and implemented is the easy part. Where companies face significant difficulty is making certain that they have relevant, accurate, up-to-date content in place. It is hard to develop content, as we all know from much experience. Developing content takes the combined skills of subject-matter experts, talented and creative writers, careful editors, and innovative information architects. None of this development happens by magic. It takes design know-how, experience, and skill to get the right information designed, developed, and delivered to the right place at the right time.

The E-Business Workplace is an excellent introduction to making a business case for a dynamic Web delivery process, based on a sound content repository, with information developed by communication professionals. The book is not technical; it takes a strong management, decision-maker point of view. That focus makes the book an effective tool for introducing the portal concept to your management.