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Round table on WCM at the JBoye09 conference: emerging best practices

16 Nov

Again this year Janus Boye & friends have repeated the magic with their JBoye09 conference.

In the informal enough context of the conference some of the best CMS analysts, project managers, consultants and, of course, vendors and web / intranet managers met to exchange an incredible amount of experience, knowledge and have some good time together.

In the afternoon of the second conference day there was a slot reserved to roundtable discussions: a moment for an open debate on many diffrent topics, proposed by the participants.

I attended the roundtable proposed by our very Master of Cerimonies, Mr. Janus, on: “Emerging problems, emerging technologies, and emerging approaches to Web Content Management“.

And I was appointed as “volunteer” to take note and report on the outcomes of the discussion, so here are the…

Emerging Best Practices for WCM

1) Divide selection in two phases:

a) vendor and product checklist-filtering
b) in depth look at the VALUE provided by the different remaining vendors/products

Note: care about the project, not the product.

2) Have a content strategy ready before vendor selection

Not a full Information Architecture but a good part of it should be ready before you move forward.

3) Talk to peers, exchange experiences with your peers community

Hint: one of the best places for this are the communities of practice and conferences like the JBoye, of course.

4) Test drive with users

Users are very often still the least considered stakeholder of WCM projects.

5) Make sure that content management is recognized as a task within your organization

Note: put effort in training and other similar activities.

6) Measure, measure, measure

To define goals and measure success (and failure), and to improve the project in a later phase.

Credits go to all the participants to this roundtable:

Stephanie Lemieux, Simon Lande, Richard Hare, Silvia Bombardone, Philippe Parker, Rory McClelland, Miklos Gaspar, Janus Boye, and Francesco Ciriaci.

And if you are interested in WCM future don’t miss the great #fixwcm thread.

Plone vs. Sharepoint round 2: a by-platform feature comparison

20 Aug

An organization we at Reflab work with recently re-evaluated Plone against Sharepoint 2007; their main requirements are related to document management, where Sharepoint is for sure quite strong.

What’s interesting, is that they made the comparison also considering the different platforms and browsers their organization uses.

Here are the results of their analysis and tests, they where so kind to share them with us, I checked them and translated them. I hope you’ll find them useful.

Feature – Requirement

Windows XP

Linux

SharePoint Sever 2007

Plone 3.1.7

SharePoint

Plone 3.1.7

IE 7.0 / Suite Office 2007

IE 7.0 / Suite Office 2003

Firefox 3.0/ Office 2003

Firefox 3.0

IE 7.0

Firefox 3.0

Firefox 3.0

Use of templates Y Y Y (1) Y (1.1) Y (1.1) Y (1) Y(1.1)
Automatic Minutes of Meetings
Y Y Y Y(1.2) Y(1.2) Y N(1.2)
Collaborative Management of the documentation Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Off-line management of the documentation Y(2) Y Y Y(1.3) Y(1.3) Y Y(1.3)
Workflow checks on doc Y Y N(3) Y Y N(3) Y
Automatic Versioning
Y Y Y Y Y(1.4) Y Y
Visualization/Management on File System Y Y N Y(1.5) Y(1.5) N Y(1.5)
Indexed search and smart folders
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Notification of new versions of a document Y Y Y N(1.6) N(1.6) Y N(1.6)
Different file formats management Y(4) Y(4) Y(7) Y Y Y(7) Y
WebPart/HTML Pages Management
Y Y N Y Y N Y
Mobile tools
Y (5) Y (5) ? ? ? ? ?
Todo Lists Y Y Y(3) N N Y(3) N
Shared calendar
Y(6) Y(6) Y(6) Y(1.7) Y(1.7) N Y(1.7)

Other Features

Windows XP

Linux

SharePoint Sever 2007

Plone 3.1.7

SharePoint

Plone 3.1.7

IE 7.0 / Suite Office 2007

IE 7.0 / Suite Office 2003

Firefox 3.0/ Office 2003

Firefox 3.0

IE 7.0

Firefox 3.0

Firefox 3.0

Massive documents upload
Y Y N Y(2.2) Y(2.2) N Y(2.4)
Send To Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Date Picker Control Y Y N(2.1) N(2.1) N(2.1) N(2.1) N(2.1)
File ordering
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Structure templates
N(2.3) N(2.3) N(2.3) Y Y N(2.3) Y
Labels
Y – Compatibile: all or most of the aspects are equivalent
N – Not compatibile: the functionality is not available or not fully working. Unless otherwise specified in Sharepoint these features require ActiveX controls, that are available in Internet Explorer only.
?- Not found or not easy to define
Notes:
(1) Only through the Upload Document and not New.
(2) Integrated
(3) Problems on the user management (javascript or ActiveX) that participate to the WF or to the activities.
(4) No real support and management of the Wiki format, if not as HTML page.
(5) Not tested
(6) Outlook only
(7) Wiki and HTML not working.
(1.1) Addon Product: Plone Templates 1.0 (Beta release 2)
(1.2) Only through template product
(1.3) Addon Product: Working Copy Support (Iterate) 1.1.5 for the checkIn-checkOut
(1.4) history view integrated in the page not working
(1.5) With Enfold Desktop for Windows, or through a WebDav client
(1.6) Needs to be setup with a Content Rule
(1.7) Addon Product: Plone4ArtistsCalendar 1.1 – some features (different colours for integrated calendars) not compatible with Plone 3.1.7
(2.1) The user can add events with New Event
(2.2) With Enfold Desktop
(2.3) Need programming
(2.4) With navigation applications like WebDav

Some of the findings could be debated and are hard to evaluate, but I really found useful the approach of of taking into account  the platform/browser compatibility.

Other resources on Plone vs. Sharepoint:

If you’re interested in the comparison and maybe doing a cms software selection don’t miss the:

Plone vs. Sharepoint by Carlos De La Guardia where you’ll  find a link to a paper about an internal comparison of Plone and Sharepoint for a corporate web site published by the University of Leicester.

Is Plone a Good CMS? by Janus Boye: Janus is definitively one of the best cms consultants I know, but please read also the excellent comment to his post.

Other instersting related comparisons reported by Ken Wasetis are the Idealware Report and the  Why Sharepoint Scares Me post.

Finally, my friend Nate Aune (Jazkarta) of the most active Ploners and Plone Evangelists on the planet suggested:

Cyn.in is a Plone-based intranet solution and here is a blog post describing how it compares to Sharepoint in terms of pricing: http://blog.cynapse.com/cynin-low-cost-alternative-to-sharepoint

Katie Cunningham also has some interesting things to say about Sharepoint at NASA, and why they went with Plone instead.
http://elephantangelchild.blogspot.com/2009/04/nasa-science-case-study-part-i-why.html

Disney replaces Sharepoint with Plone
http://theploneblog.org/blog/archive/2006/03/04/podcast-plone-at-disney

Karl discusses Plone and Sharepoint on his blog
http://plonemetrics.blogspot.com/2009/04/plone-and-sharepoint.html

and of course the Plone vs. MOSS – round 1 post.

Let’s not forget Intranet visual design

9 Feb

I’ve recenlty stumbled across a topic I really like: graphic design of enterprise Intranets.

A starting point in the discussion: Intranet design is not about design with the ever present and known-to-all Toby Ward.

I agree with Toby when pointing out that “to produce a design concept in response to a RFP” is essentially pointless. I also agree that “users don’t really care about design nor video, flash, and bells and whistles that distract and entertain”; at least the should not care.

And design is not only about look and feel or bells and whistles.

I don’t want to mix usability, wireframes and graphic design here but the least we can say is that design is about branding, design is about corporate identity, it is also about use of fonts, use of icons and icon design, and much, much more. Visual design, must convey messages and match with the “application” design, possibily with elegance.

What could be the four top criteria in the visual design of an intranet?

Speed

The main, most inportant criteria, for sure. Speed shall be part of the technical specifications, interaction design, and visual design of course. Google search home page has been visually designed, has it?

Usability & user experience

I cannot think of user experience of an intranet without talking about visuals (the look in the “look & feel”) into account. One of the most important: icons and visual elements. And Font sizes.
Last but not least wireframes give usually only the organisation of space, then when passing to visual design disasters can happen easily (black backgrounds, low contrast of links,… ).

Of course defaults of a the “good” CMS software choosed can help; if you are very lucky the intranet will be based on Plone(*), you will have inline validation of fields, good labels, etc. Still, this is not enough. Some hard work has to be done here.

Branding & corporate identity

Sometimes I still discuss requirements like: “the intranet will match all of the design standards and guidelines of our public site”  and “the design of the intranet will be a simple branding (colors, logo) of the CMS based on our current site”. There is even worst: “we’ll reuse the design of our public site”. Rarely admitted, but still happens.
Intranet are a strong vehicle of the organisation’s brand but I fear design standards and guidelines of the public site might be either an overkill or built for a very different target audience.
Design of the intranet will include elements of the corporate identity, but might be extremely different from the public site. In either cases it requires some specific work. This work have to be done.

Elegance

Elegance is that “intangible” plus that some teams are able to deliver to the whole project by working well with all the rest of the people and partners involved. It is produced by visuals only when all the underlying work has been excellent (IA, Navigation, etc.).

Importance of a specific visual design

So, how important is visual design? very. No, seriously, I mean very important. More important than content? Information Architecture? More important than governance? Of course, not; but I would always involve an independent graphic design partner in your project, and do a serious work on design. The design of enterprise intranets is very different to the design of public web sites and to the design of a “generic” web application: target audience, goals and key criteria are  different. So shall be the expertise and experience of the team.

(*) Disclaimer: I could not resist.
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