A challenging issue for many intranet managers is whether to use the Web CMS selected for the corporate website as the Web CMS for the intranet. In this column I have summarised just some of the issues that need to be considered.
1. Development and Technical Support
The justification that it makes life easier for IT to have a single platform does not wash. CMS products should not need intensive IT support for infrastructure, and even at a developer level I'd be concerned if the decision to have one rather than two CMS products because of the high cost of development is putting the cart before the horse. It can also be useful to ask how many applications IT are currently supporting, because the number are usually so large that one more will make little difference
2. Multiple Content Publishers
Websites are usually maintained by a fairly small group of technically competent people who will spend most, if not all, of their time, working on content update and revision. As a result they develop all kinds of quick fixes to admin problems presented by the CMS vendor. In the case of an intranet, most of the contributors will do so only occasionally but against a tight time schedule, and will not have the time to get a refresher on how to use the CMS.
3. Application Integration
In an intranet you need to manage not only the extent to which content contributors can add various types of content/change sections of the intranet, but also manage which sections of the intranet can be seen by employees. This requires very good integration between the CMS and Active Directory. A website is usually either public, or password protected, and that's a different technical issue.
Many CMS products struggle with AD management of end-user permissioning. Another important aspect of AD integration is the need to support a staff directory application. Staff directories are probably the most heavily used application on an intranet, and any problems with AD management will have a major impact on the quality of the directory.
For an intranet, it can also be useful to be able to integrate Outlook and Exchange with the CMS, and of course there are many other applications that may need to be surfaced in some way through the intranet desktop, so API development capabilities are important.
4. Document Management
Intranets tend to contain a significant number of MS Office documents and version management of these is very important. Table and chart management is also important, and preferably by pasting in a table or chart from an MS Office application and then making it look a bit more beautiful. That may not be the 'proper' way to do it but that's life in a busy office. All these use cases will push many CMS products to the limit.
(Editor's Note: Also from Martin White: Collaboration – an Intranet Perspective)
5. Language Support
For companies operating in multiple countries issues of local management, content contribution and content in more than one language will need to be considered. It is often important to be able to manage parent-child relationships between content in the original language and translated versions of the same content tests.
6. MS Office Support
Intranets make heavy use of tables and forms, and content will often be originated in MS Office documents. Being able to drop in a table from MS Word and maintain the formatting can be a very valuable asset.
7. There are Users and Users
The key issue is that in intranets you have two user groups, those using content and those contributing content. In the case of an intranet environment, if contributors find it significantly more difficult to add content to the intranet than add a file to an email, then they will send an email, or not bother to update content on the intranet.
In the final analysis a requirements analysis has to be carried out on both user communities to see if using the incumbent or proposed Web CMS results in compromises that could have significant impacts on the extent to which the organisation is able to meet business objectives.
PS. If Ektron, a very capable CMS vendor, thought that on the basis of all the implementations they have carried out that a single CMS would meet the needs of web and intranet clients, why have they launched an intranet-specific product?