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BEST PRACTICES SERIES

For reasons entirely unclear to me, there are not many books on the subjects of content management, intranets, and portals. Look along the shelves at any major bookshop and you will be hard-pressed to find books on content management, a situation not helped by shops not knowing quite what category to put them in! I have spent many hours in bookshops with my head at 90 degrees to my body trying to make sense of the logic applied to shelving these texts. Thus, I thought it worthwhile to focus on a few such books that have lately come my way. Until recently, there were really only two books on content management that were worth reading: Bob Bioko's Content Management Bible (Hungry Minds), which runs nearly 1,000 pages, and the much slimmer Content Management Systems by Addey, Ellis, Suh and Thiemecke (Glasshaus), but there are some noteworthy newcomers.

New Riders (who brought us Jakob Nielsen's Designing Web Usability) have published what should become an equally best-selling book by Anne Rockley (with the assistance of Pamela Kostur and Steve Manning) entitled Managing Enterprise Content. The book is divided into five main sections, dealing with the basis of a unified content strategy, performing a substantive audit, design, tools, and technologies. The tools and technologies section is particularly good and goes beyond the hype of vendor white papers, and sets out very clearly the questions that need to be asked of any commercial content management software vendor. The human aspects of implementing a content management strategy are not overlooked either, with good chapters on implementation and managing change. The book concludes with appendices that provide a checklist for implementing a unified content strategy, writing for multiple media, content management vendors, a tools checklist, and an introduction to content relationships.

The writing style is very direct, and requires no technical knowledge outside of a minimum understanding of Web technology. My only reservation is that the production of the book is poor, with almost unreadable tables and a font size that gives less than 400 words a page. The index borders on appalling, and make me wonder if the publisher, New Riders, actually understands the meaning of usability and content management.

I'm frequently asked about the difference between an intranet and a portal, and I won't answer the question here. However, Butterworth Heinemann (BH) have done a great service in publishing two good books on portals that go a long way towards explaining the distinction. One of the gurus of portal technology, Joseph Firestone, has authored excellent white papers on portal technology over the last few years. His 400-page book, Enterprise Information Portals and Knowledge Management, was published by BH earlier this year. Firestone is evangelical about portals, and I find some of his views just a little too dogmatic. The book, in any case, features excellent bibliographies given at the end of each chapter.

Realizing the Promise of Corporate Portals, by José Cláudio Terra and Cindy Gordon provides a more balanced view and includes some very good case studies of portal implementations in eleven different companies from Bain and Company to Xerox. These case histories alone merit the purchase of the book and all have a strong KM element to them. There is also a neat opening section that offers a dramatized scenario of how a portal could support organizational decision-making (while a little contrived, a great idea). Good though both of these books are, Heidi Collins' Corporate Portals remains the definitive book on this subject.

But, as our readers well know, books are not the only resource available today so I will end with some valuable Web sites. The first is www.steptwo.com.au/, the work of James Robertson, an intranet and content management consultant based in Sydney. As well as the site, James also runs a blog on intranets, CMS, and KM at www.steptwo.com.au/columntwo/index.html. His writes well and he manages to scour the world for useful sites and publications to include in his blog. He has also found time to prepare a report that compares the Web sites of most of the leading CMS vendors, and interesting reading it makes.

A new site covering the selection of content management systems is CMS Review (www.cmsreview.com) The focus of the site is on the definition of CMS functionality requirements and it attempts to answer what are the defining features of a CMS, how can you compare different CMS, what are the steps to select a CMS for your organization, and should you build, buy, or rent your CMS? This site complements Tony Byrne's CMSWatch site (www.cmswatch. com), which provides details of the CMS offerings of major vendors as well as industry news. Yet, while I could say look no further than the Web for required reading in content management, intranets, and portals, I won't. Instead I'll keep risking a crick in my neck on the look out for useful texts both digital and print.