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Corporate intranets - an information strategy approach: a case study at the University of Pretoria


Johannesburg, 30 Apr 2013
iFactory Consulting Press Office
Read time 11min 30sec
Laura Cremona has been with iFACTORY since 2006 as an ECM consultant.
Laura Cremona has been with iFACTORY since 2006 as an ECM consultant.

Introduction

Corporate intranets around the world have become an instrumental part of everyday business processes within organisations, yet many still have no formal strategy in place to govern their use, not only of content, but of the relevant supporting technologies. The University of Pretoria has undertaken an information strategy approach to manage content within the organisation, which led to the development of an intranet run on a Webcenter and Webcenter content platform. This session will cover the methodologies and tools used to govern the information strategy, as well as how Webcenter and Webcenter content were used as the vehicle to implement this.

Overview

The University of Pretoria, established in 1908, is currently the leading research university in South Africa and one of the largest residential universities in the country. The university has seven campuses as well as a number of other sites of operation, such as the Pretoria Academic Hospital.

The academic programmes of the university are offered in nine faculties, as well as a business school. These include the faculties of Economic & Management Sciences, Education, Engineering-Build Environment & Information Technology, Health Sciences, Humanities, Law, Natural & Agricultural Sciences, Theology, Veterinary Science and the Gordon Institute of Business Science. The faculties comprise a total of 140 departments and 85 centres, institutes and bureaus.

The University of Pretoria is at the forefront of tertiary education in the country and collaborates with world-class partners to ensure continued excellence in teaching and learning. The University of Pretoria offers more than 1 800 academic programmes in two of the official languages, namely Afrikaans and English.

The academic enterprise is supported by 23 support service departments (eg Finance, Human Resources, Student Administration, Information Technology Services, Library Services, Education Innovation, Research & Innovation Support, Facilities & Services, etc).

The staff complement (academic and support services) comprises 5 000 staff members servicing a student constituency of 52 000.

Background

The Department of Information Technology Services acquired the Oracle ECM suite as part of a portfolio of applications for systems renewal purposes. The ultimate objective was to use the ECM suite to centralise the various legacy content repositories across the different campuses and to utilise the Web content management capabilities to render intranet and corporate Web site content from this centralised content repository.

A decision was taken to launch a project to implement the Oracle ECM suite with the aim to gain a better understanding of the technology and to demonstrate the suite's capabilities and benefits to business. A project team, comprising two staff members from the Department of ITS, two contractors and three consultants from an implementation partner, was established for this purpose.

The project team decided to select a number of pilot projects in business areas, which were perceived to be eager, to be early adopters of the new technology. The University of Pretoria Archives were using an outdated legacy document management system at the time and the unit was in need of a solution. The intranet of the Client Services Centre no longer met the requirements of staff and students and was a prime candidate for renewal. These two projects became the first pilot projects on which the project team focused.

The ITS-driven ECM project lasted two-and-a-half years and a substantial amount of human and financial resources were invested in developing pilot project solutions. Success was limited and efforts focused on delivering point solutions rather than meeting the global content management requirements of the university.

The main reasons for the limited success and user acceptance of the initial pilot projects can be summarised as follows:

* There was no executive sponsor involved to drive a content management project of this magnitude across the organisation. Instead, the project was driven by the Department of ITS as a "bottom-up" technology push, rather than a "top-down" business initiative.
* Ownership of the information governance function at the university was undefined at the time and the Department of Information Technology was traditionally only responsible for technology governance.
* The void left by the absence of a corporate information strategy and policy led the project team to propose and develop a solution in isolation and without a clear understanding of the business' content requirements.

The Department of ITS highlighted the urgent need for clarification of the ownership of the information governance function, as well as the need to establish a corporate information strategy and policy. A subsequent workshop was arranged to investigate and consider various strategic approaches to manage information at the university. A key strategic decision was taken to separate ownership of technology governance and information governance, and the Registrar of the university officially assumed the role of Chief Information Officer from 1 January 2011.

The Registrar appointed the Head of the Quality Unit to lead a project to develop an information strategy and information policy for the university. The methodology followed and outcomes of this project will be discussed in the next section.

Information strategy approach

The information strategy is concerned with all forms of information and the manner in which it is handled. The strategy aims to address both internally generated information (information that the university owns and/or creates) and externally generated information (information owned or created by third parties). The information strategy took into consideration the strategic plan of the university and provided a link between the strategic plan and the operational requirements of the university.

The main objective of the information strategy includes:

* Making information more accessible to all staff and students;
* Securing sensitive information;
* Reducing the cost and effort of managing and using information;
* Improving the availability and use of management information;
* Encouraging the development of information skills so that members of the university are confident and effective in their use of information;
* Improving the quality and reliability of information through compliance and policies;
* Ensure that the university's information processes comply with legislative requirements.

Methodology

A structured approach to creating the information strategy was decided on by the Quality Unit and a number of steps were taken to reach the final goal. Due to the nature of the university and the number of faculties and support services, it was decided that it would be more efficient to model the information strategy after the postgraduate area (including the faculties and support services used to support them).

The overall information strategy was broken up into four main overall steps:

1. Understanding the area's current information positioning. This was achieved by:

* Analysing the current information architecture and design set up across the postgraduate area. It included understanding the existing guidelines, policies, structures and process flows that were put in place to support the use of information if there were any.
* Performing a quick scan for information development.
* Creating a content audit and information flows for the information activities.

2. Perform a gap analysis and creating standards, achieved by;

* Outlining the inefficiencies and problem areas.
* Defining the strategic business change drivers.
* Defining critical success factors.

3. Create a university-wide policy used to govern information. This also ensured the university took into consideration compliance and legislative standards.

4. Define a governance framework. The suggested governance framework identified roles and responsibilities used to promote, support and co-ordinate the correct use of information throughout the university.

Outcome of information strategy

Once all the standards and processes were defined, the information was represented in visual format showing how the needs of the university could be met.

Intranet solution approach

Once the information strategy was developed and approved, a decision needed to be made in order to make all content accessible and standardised across the organisation. The requirement to redesign the legacy intranet persisted, as the initial pilot projects failed to meet the business' requirements, and staff members still found it challenging to locate and access information centrally.

A decision was made to redesign the intranet using a content management approach supported by the newly developed information strategy and policy. This strategy and policy became the missing link to ITS, as it formed the unambiguous specification of the content requirements of the university, which was not available during execution of the initial pilot project implementations.

The scene was now set to leverage the Oracle platforms previously implemented by ITS to satisfy the business requirement of providing staff members access to information utilising a content-managed intranet approach.

Intranet solution design

As the information strategy was understood, the requirements of the new portal had to be clearly defined and this was done with the assistance of two main solution providers. The ability to translate the needs of the information strategy into a design suitable to the university was very important.

These requirements included the following:

* Having one central repository and exposing the information to the correct user group.
* Committees and groups within the university need to be able to have an area where collaboration can occur.
* Calendar events, alerts and announcements and discussions should be managed from a central point and displayed on the intranet.
* Design a site that was easy to use and would allow for quicker user adoption by the current user community.
* Ensure the information strategy of the university is used as an overall requirement in regards to mapping out the university's information.
* The new portal needed to ensure that two languages (English and Afrikaans) were catered for.
* The navigational menu needs to be dynamic and contributable by the end-user.

Webcenter Portal

Webcenter Portal provided functionality that best fit the requirements as defined in the solution design. The requirements could be met by out-of-the-box portlets as well as custom portlets within the Spaces environment. These include:

* Calendar events services, which is displayed on the intranet landing page as well as in the individual Spaces for committees.
* Document library portlet, which would be applied within Spaces particularly for committees. This meant each committee within the university would have the ability to collaborate and securely display information in their respective Spaces area.
* A custom portlet within the Spaces solution for managing documents that are stored via a check-in page and made available to the general intranet. This was provided as a separate document library view in order to provide the flexibility needed to manage the security of content.
* Members portlet, which allowed users to view, connect and contact members registered to a particular Space.
* A news portlet displayed on the landing page and its content driven through Webcenter content.
* Staff profile, which displayed the user's attributes pulled from various sources so that staff information can be securely viewed within the university.

Webcenter content

As the Webcenter portal approach met the needs of the intranet, a contribution model that would allow the business to take control and manage the content was envisaged. With the assistance of third-party service providers, it was decided that Webcenter content would be used to drive the contribution for the content of the intranet. This practice meant there would be more flexibility when it came to any site changes and it involves less involvement from ITS. It also supports a decentralised contribution model for the majority of the content. A number of profiles were created to support menu, Web and document contribution for the intranet. This was set up with the assistance of third-party service providers.

The contribution model and profiles created in Webcenter content ensured the information management strategy requirements were met.

Developments of the contribution model meant ensuring that the following were taking into consideration:

* Defining a meta-data model, which supported the information strategy, content contribution and presentation needs.
* Define a security model for content, ensuring information is secure yet readily available when needed.

As the above solution requirements were discussed and planned, the architecture environment of both Webcenter Portal and content were carefully planned and discussed.

Conclusion

The result of the intranet leveraging Webcenter Portal and Webcenter content was developed and is currently in the process of being rolled out to the greater user community. Committees within the university now have the ability to contribute and collaborate on information in a secure yet standardised manner. With the use of the information strategy, ITS was able to align itself with the university and meet the needs of the end-user.

Written by:
Laura Cremona - iFACTORY
Andre Kleynhans - University of Pretoria

Laura Cremona

Laura Cremona has been with iFACTORY since 2006 as an ECM consultant.

Conferences Laura has presented at include:

* 2009 ImageNow user conference (Johannesburg, South Africa)
* 2012 Collaborate - Oracle User Group (Las Vegas, Nevada)
* 2012 South African Oracle User Group
* 2012 Higher Education User Group (The University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Editorial contacts
iFactory Consulting Deborah Summers deborahs@ifactoryconsulting.co.za
See also