Essential Reading for Intranet Professionals

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If you search for "intranet" at Amazon you will find around 80 titles, but most of these were either published in the latter half of the 1990s and/or are exclusively concerned with intranet technology. There are also a few more recent titles, but nothing in my view that competes with the now out-of-print book Intranets—What's the bottom line by Randy J. Hinrichs.

I am often asked, especially by delegates at conferences, if I can recommend a book specifically on intranets, and I have to say that at present I am not able to. There is not a single book on the shelf in my office as I write this column with "intranet" in the title. However, there is a small group of books that I refer to constantly during consulting projects, or when preparing conference papers.

Enterprise Information Analysis
Senior managers in companies of all sizes and categories still have little appreciation of how important the effective management of information is to the survival. The best two books on the subject are by staff members at the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland. They are the outcomes of a 28-month long research project carried out by the team under the direction of Donald Marchand, Professor of Information Management and Strategy. The project was supported by Anderson Consulting/Accenture and involved over 1,200 senior managers in 103 companies in 26 industry sectors and 37 countries. The project attempted to see if there was a connection between the way in which these companies managed information and the business success of these companies.

The scale of the project undertaken by IMD, and the rigorous nature of the research process, has enabled the team to come up with a metric that they have called "Information Orientation," which is a combination of IT practices, information management practices, and information behaviours and values. The team has been able to correlate above-average scores in these three areas and, therefore, the overall Information Orientation metric, with business success.

The first book to be published was Competing with Information (John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2000, ISBN 471-89969-0). This book was based around a consideration of Don Marchand's Strategic Information Alignment model, contains some qualitative benchmarks against which companies could assess their information management competencies, and is very readable. The second book, Making the Invisible Visible (John Wiley & Sons Ltd., ISBN 0-471-496-09X ) was written towards the end of the project. Both these books provide a basis for translating business objectives into information objectives, and thus intranet objectives. The checklists and benchmarks are invaluable aids in getting a company to work through its information environment.

In my view, an essential step in developing an intranet strategy is to undertake an information audit, concentrating on information flows just as much as information assets. Excellent guidance into how to undertake such an audit is given by Elizabeth Orna in her book Practical Information Policies (Gower Publishing Ltd. 1999, ISBN 0-566-07693-4). The book also includes 14 case studies of how organizations have developed information policies, and although not directly intranet case studies, there is much to learn from these studies on how people use information for decision-making.

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