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SOCRATES An Intranet for the Research Councils Tony Brown & Matt Thrower.

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Presentation on theme: "SOCRATES An Intranet for the Research Councils Tony Brown & Matt Thrower."— Presentation transcript:

1 SOCRATES An Intranet for the Research Councils Tony Brown & Matt Thrower

2 Transforming the Organisation Many ways to transform an organisation Organisational, technical, social ERMS, CMS Relocate to Swindon, Milton Keynes Web people are good at transformation due to the power of the browser Were going to hector you, be repetitive and teach you how to suck eggs

3 Introduction to the RCs The RCs distribute government research funding. Bean Counters of British Science RCs asked to work more closely Lots of big cross-council plans put in place as part of admin strategy A good first step seemed to be a cross- council telephone directory Management liked the idea – obvious business interest

4 Carpe Diem Where does one put an internal, but cross-council telephone directory? We need a new intranet! Limited formal structure Feel the need, and do it anyway – Transform away! Our intranet has had immediate impact on cross-council working But theres lots of things getting in the way

5 Blocks to transformation What stood in our way, and stands in yours?: Process People Zeitgeist and Perception Resources Technology How did we approach these…

6 Blocks to transformation: Process The four horsemen of the beauroc-alipse: Committees Analysis Documentation Politics What are we doing: transforming or recording? If not Rocket Science: dont need Saturn V manual So we largely ignored it!

7 Blocks to transformation: People Who stood in our way?: Line Manager Key players Content holders The Great British Public (users) Win them around… We wheedled, cajoled, simplified, second- guessed

8 Blocks to transformation: Zeitgeist/Perception Many sites – we wanted to be first visited Business sites are dull Informal sites are fun Informal content attracts Business content justifies Balance the two Dont rock the boat

9 Blocks to transformation: Resources What did we need?: Our own time Other peoples time Technology Content If you dont have it, find it If you cant find it, scrounge it

10 Blocks to transformation: Technology General rules we applied: Avoid over ambition: Dont stick your neck out – not big, clever or deliverable Avoid unknown quantities: Dont stick your neck out – not big, clever or deliverable Dont be overly technical: Technology is not what its about Technology is the engine not the driver

11 Overcoming technology We used Windows 2000, ASP and SQL 2000 Reused and recycle existing applications Advanced where appropriate Adopted W3C standards, and validated Adopt FrontPage – Bargepole approach Now to get stuck into Socrates….

12 Name is Everything Branding is everything these days A good name helps people remember the service and the URL Decide the name yourself, not by committee! Avoid conflicting names! We chose someone who could represent scientific thought across all the disciplines SOCRATES is born!

13 Visual Design None of us are graphic designers Usability is King – simple and obvious interface Nice theme – informal style to connect with users Remember the requirements for mixed environments and accessibility


15 Finding Content Exploit the fame factor Identify key players and involve them early –Big Cheeses –Social Clubs –Service Providers Links – so you can say youre a portal Boxes = Portlets

16 Dealing with content Content is King – but content can kill! Use dynamic techniques Intranet does work not you Site changes with content RSS from the BBC is easy! Stick metadata in a database Use ASP, SQL, FSO, Web Services… CMS!

17 Publishing content Rules for the CMS Keep it simple – dont do too much Make it easy to do – dont ask for too much Make it distributable Dont force formats on to people Make it useful – key metadata Content drives the whole thing, so you do less The Skink….

18 Publishing content: Socrates Skink

19 Recycling applications The bazaar Fuelled by self-interest Dynamic Vicarious insight into other peoples lives… Horse manure for your garden: Big pile available Silver/diamante bridal tiara. Brand new, bought in error. An older table on wheels, with an undershelf.

20 The Canteen Menu Always have >1 Killer Application – not a one-trick pony! Sex and drugs are out, obviously Rock n Roll unlikely to get management buy-in The way to a users heart is through their stomach Great front page draw to get people in Make it editable by the appropriate parties

21 The Opinion Poll Something fun that can have a serious application Gets people to come back week after week Users can buy in by suggesting their own poll topics But make sure youve got a good editorial policy!

22 Letting People In Avoid logons if you can – but if you must, use cookies Have strict and clear security rules Tell people what the risks are We used IP address to control access Dont link from external sites Give people a means of begging to get in

23 Spread the Word Your site should sell itself But either way, youll have to do some selling yourself Tell people Target important and influential staff Tell some more people Tell the first set of people again

24 Easy Like Sunday Morning Youll have other things to be getting on with in the future Automate wherever possible Devolve publishing as much content as possible Plan ahead – dont plan on being your own editor

25 Conclusion For Socrates: …its there, not the best but… …it has transformed the organisation – a bit …its a Coconut Shy …its fulfilled its purpose …must have done something right because… …were getting resources to develop it further

26 Conclusion For all of us: …web uniquely placed help transformation …easy to make things happen..we have the overview …we have the mighty ubiquitous browser …a well placed prototype cuts through months of waffle

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