Martin White

Martin White is managing director of Intranet Focus, Ltd., a consulting company based in Horsham, U.K.

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Articles by Martin White


You probably feel you have a good sense of the assets of your organization. You know how many employees you have because they are all in an HR database. You know the sales you made last month because they are all in a sales ledger database. You know how many items you have in stock because they are all in an ERP database. You know how many computers you have because they are all in an asset database. And at the end of the year, all these databases will be queried to produce the annual accounts.
Column/Eureka - November 2011 Issue, Posted Nov 09, 2011
After many successful Enterprise Search Summit events in the U.S., Information Today, Inc. (EContent's parent company) is launching Enterprise Search Europe in London. Conference Chair Martin White calls the event noteworthy, because in a world where "search" and "Google" are synonymous, he says, it is important to realize the scale of information retrieval research and of the enterprise search business in Europe.
Column/Eureka - July/August 2011 Issue, Posted Aug 01, 2011
Commentary from Martin White: About 50 years ago I fell in love with chemistry. I could think of no more interesting subject and spent 3 very enjoyable years at the University of Southampton. It was a time when the department was home to some exceedingly able researchers, and when I crept into the research meetings I heard phrases such as, "We are beginning to think ..." and "It's starting to look as though ..." as new techniques were being developed just down the corridor in the undergraduate labs.
Column/Eureka - April 2011 Issue, Posted Apr 18, 2011
Search is all about the meaning of words, and we need to take this into account in developing search technology.
Column/Eureka - December 2010 Issue, Posted Nov 22, 2010
Dear John: Over the last 6 months, we have spent a lot of time and effort talking to staff throughout our organization, both in this country and globally, to identify the way in which our current search engine is meeting their requirements. The objective of the research project was to develop a set of requirements for a new enterprise search engine, but one of the discoveries we made was that many of these requirements could be met by enhancing our current search engine.
Column/Eureka - October 2010 Issue, Posted Oct 04, 2010
For everyone, the past year has been dominated by depressing statistics. I thought I was inured to these negative numbers until I read the section in the "Global Intranet Trends" report on finding information. Only 14% of respondents were very satisfied with their search application, and only 6% were very satisfied with the content that was returned from a search. Why are the results so poor?
Column/Eureka - March 2010 Issue, Posted Mar 18, 2010
The importance of providing effective search is being recognized at last. Almost every intranet strategy project has had a substantial search element to it, and I've worked on several in which search has been the primary focus. There are always risks when extrapolating from a few projects and a few more conversations, but I see some trends emerging.
Column/Eureka - December 2009 Issue, Posted Nov 24, 2009
The Strix Award might best be described as the Oscar of the information retrieval research world. It's presented annually to a person who has made a significant impact on research in information retrieval. The award was set up in memory of Tony Kent, Ph.D. (1933-1997), who made a major contribution to the development of information science and to information services, particularly in the field of chemistry. The 2008 award was presented to professor Kalervo Järvelin of the University of Tampere, Finland.
Column/Eureka - July/August 2009 Issue, Posted Jul 06, 2009
Search appliances can be rather like a ready meal. They are almost instantly available; all you have to do is slot them into a server rack the way you would a meal on to a tray in the oven. The meal can be quite satisfying if all you need is "food," but you learn little from the experience. The hard work has been done by developers and scientists, and while you may marvel at their skills, you certainly don't learn how to "cook."
Column/Eureka - May 2009 Issue, Posted May 11, 2009
Imagine for a moment that your company has built a factory and filled it with machinery. Or perhaps your company has built a large, new office building with a sizeable parking lot and a good cafeteria. These additions represent considerable investment. Now, imagine that they have forgotten where they built the factory and where the office is located. Beyond imagination, you say. No company would be that incompetent.
Column/Eureka - March 2009 Issue, Posted Mar 09, 2009
I recently received a telephone call from a communications manager at a major German company asking if I could provide her with a copy of Intranet Management, a report that I had written 10 years ago when I was working for TFPL, Ltd. TFPL provided recruitment and consulting services to the information profession, and it was a leader in knowledge management methodologies. was inclined to tell my enquirer that the report was now hopelessly out-of-date, but I decided to read through it and remember old times with some great colleagues...
Column/Behind the Firewall - December 2008 Issue, Posted Dec 01, 2008
Over the last 2 years, it seems to me that increasingly the intranet is becoming the gateway to a significant proportion of the information assets of an organization. This is especially the case if portal technology is being used as an application integration platform. However, enterprise search is starting to do the same thing for more conventional CMS-based intranets. As a result, the borders between an intranet and other information platforms such as document management are becoming increasingly blurred.
Column/Behind the Firewall - October 2008 Issue, Posted Sep 24, 2008
A few years ago, the department of information studies at the University of Sheffield invited me to be a visiting professor. On a recent visit, I talked to an undergraduate student who was starting to look at what might be her first step on a career in information management. Like so many information professionals, I got into the business by accident, after discovering that I was not really that good at chemistry. While not uncommon, that approach is difficult to commend to a student.
Column/Behind the Firewall - July/August 2008 Issue, Posted Jul 10, 2008
At the heart of assessing search engine performance is the concept of relevance—a word that dates from 1733.
Column/Behind the Firewall - May 2008 Issue, Posted May 02, 2008
For me, one of the most important insights that the Intranet Leadership Forum brings to intranet development is the need to make incremental improvements that bring visible and tangible benefits to a group of employees. Much of the discussion at the most recent Leadership Forum was about how to go about identifying the need for such improvements.
Column/Behind the Firewall - March 2008 Issue, Posted Feb 22, 2008
I've just returned from representing EContent at the second Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit in London. This turned out to be an excellent conference in every respect. It was especially notable for the balance of strategic insight and tactical best practices in the areas of search, portals, collaboration, and content management.
Column/Behind the Firewall - December 2007 Issue, Posted Nov 15, 2007
People contact me hoping that I can solve whatever the problem is with their intranet but have no idea of what I do or how I do it. So in case you are reading this and thinking of hiring a consultant, I thought I would tell you a little about how I go about "making your intranet work better."
Column/Behind the Firewall - November 2007 Issue, Posted Nov 06, 2007
As we get older (and in my case grayer), we have great difficulty in tracking the new entrants to our profession and business, and by the same account they would probably not be aware that we even exist and have networks that they could use.
Column/Behind the Firewall - September 2007 Issue, Posted Aug 31, 2007
I have spent much of my career trying to foretell the future. I am no astrologer, but I have worked for high-tech market analysis companies that offer five-year market and technology forecasts to their clients. At the time of publication, the logic behind the forecasts always looks so convincing, but I have copies of reports that I was involved in writing in which the logic now looks totally irrational.
Column/Behind the Firewall - July/August 2007 Issue, Posted Jul 27, 2007
As an intranet consultant, there are times when I am tempted to say that all my clients have the same problems; only the solutions differ. The best example of this is when I am asked which department should be responsible for intranet management. My task is then to quickly read between the lines of the question to judge whether the managers concerned want me to make the case for them to hand over the intranet to someone else, or to justify why they themselves should be the owners.
Column/Behind the Firewall - May 2007 Issue, Posted May 01, 2007
I wanted to show some examples of good search implementations, but finding any was almost impossible. Even the search software vendors seem to have paid no attention to search usability. One particular problem when you are working in the intranet sector is being able to demonstrate intranets in action, so I have to use websites as a surrogate.
Column/Behind the Firewall - March 2007 Issue, Posted Mar 01, 2007
As an intranet consultant, I certainly get to see the world— even if it means contending with severe security restrictions at Heathrow for a short four-day trip from London to Sydney. Luckily, the only major problem on that flight occurred at 25,000 feet and 100 miles out from Sydney, when it became clear that virtually no one on the 747 had a pen to complete the landing card. Whilst in Sydney, I had the chance to talk intranets with James Robertson, managing director of Step Two Designs. By about the third latte, we got around to intranet maturity.
Column/Behind the Firewall - December 2006 Issue, Posted Nov 28, 2006
It was just over a year ago that I had the first meeting with “Gerry,” the intranet manager for a charity located just south of London. With a number of regional offices all around the U.K., the intranet was the main information platform but had run in to the usual problems of using FrontPage to generate static pages. Gerry had been to one of my Nielsen Norman workshops on CMS selection and had persuaded the charity that 2005 would be a good time to relaunch the intranet.
Column/Behind the Firewall - October 2006 Issue, Posted Oct 10, 2006
Merrill Lynch may well have released the only investment analyst report that created an entire industry, in November 1998. Over the next few years, the number of portal vendors rose quite dramatically, and by 2001 there were perhaps more than 100 vendors in the market, none of them making any revenues worth counting. Which is why eight years later there are no more than around a dozen major players, and most of those are IT-industry giants like IBM and Oracle.
Column/Behind the Firewall - July/August 2006 Issue, Posted Jul 25, 2006
A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to provide consulting support to a professional association here in the UK as they went out to tender for a CMS. The document provided a very clear analysis of the requirements of the association, but then I came across a disquieting statement to the effect that the association was going to purchase a CMS for its Web site (including the provision of a shopping basket for publications and the opportunity for members to update their personal information) and that, at some time in the near future, it planned to migrate its intranet into the Web CMS.
Column/Behind the Firewall - May 2006 Issue, Posted May 05, 2006
Very few organizations can answer that question with anything more than an emphatic “It’s fine!” If the question is instead, “How good is your intranet compared to other organizations like yours?” then the answer involves usually a more sheepish “We have no idea.” Much of my work is helping organizations assess the quality of their intranet, but even with the number of intranets I have seen, the analysis I can provide is relatively subjective. In most cases it would be valuable to provide some form of quantitative analysis of the intranet so that there is a comparison with good practice. However, I have to admit that until recently, I was very skeptical about the value of formal benchmarking, but glimmers of hope have begun to appear.
Column/Behind the Firewall - March 2006 Issue, Posted Mar 21, 2006
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of Alta Vista in December 1995 and more than 40 years since the first full-text search engine with Boolean operators became operational. Indeed, most of the features now commonplace on enterprise search engines had been developed and commercialized by the mid-1970s. So you would think that the use of enterprise search technology would be well-established and reliable by now.
Column/Behind the Firewall - December 2005 Issue, Posted Nov 16, 2005
Awhile back, I wrote about personas and their value in developing information architectures. I am now finding that social network analysis is a way of helping organizations understand just how members of their staff collaborate (or don’t, as the case may be) so they can then develop applications that support these networks.
Column/Behind the Firewall - October 2005 Issue, Posted Oct 17, 2005
If people bought cars the same way they bought a CMS application, they would go to a lot toting a thick pile of papers and ask for a car that has a V6 engine, an alternator on the left-hand side of the cylinder block, a speedometer that has a black needle on a white background, and a trunk capable of holding two sets of golf clubs. Of course that set of requirements cannot be met, but the salesperson might just have a nice little Peugeot with just such a speedometer, and the buyer would drive off a happy person . . . until they tried to pack for golf the following day. Other approaches might include buying a Pontiac because your neighbor told you last week how wonderful his is, or driving aimlessly around until a ride catches your eye.
Column/Behind the Firewall - July/August 2005 Issue, Posted Aug 10, 2005
A feature of the very successful Intranets 2004 conference was the number of presentations that were given on portal application development. One of the best of these was given by Hewlett Packard’s director of knowledge and intranet management, Barbara Williams, who indicated that the HP HR portal was generating savings of around $50 million a year from the investment in the portal. That is a very encouraging ROI.
Column/Behind the Firewall - March 2005 Issue, Posted Apr 04, 2005
Of the many trends on which I could comment, there are three areas that stand out: information architecture, personas, and CMS.
Column/Behind the Firewall - December 2004 Issue, Posted Nov 29, 2004
I find that a whole lot of people fail to pay sufficient attention to content migration, but this can be a massive undertaking and some careful calculation must go into it from the outset of an intranet CMS implementation.
Column/Behind the Firewall - November 2004 Issue, Posted Nov 15, 2004
Not for one minute do I think that knowledge is not important; I just don’t think it can be managed along the classical definition of the management of resources, and it certainly can’t be managed by throwing KM technology at the problem.
Column/Behind the Firewall - October 2004 Issue, Posted Oct 20, 2004
Undoubtedly, making content easier to find is an issue of increasing focus both in and outside the firewall, but it is important to recognize that enterprise search cannot be take out of context from other routes to information discovery.
Column/Behind the Firewall - July/August 2004 Issue, Posted Aug 23, 2004
Look at the homepage of an intranet. It is all a question of putting things in places that match the way we run our lives or do our jobs.
Column/Behind the Firewall - May 2004 Issue, Posted May 17, 2004
I still find that far too many intranets are being built on the basis of putting as much information up as possible instead of around users’ needs.
Column/Behind the Firewall - April 2004 Issue, Posted Apr 01, 2004
I took part in a conference on “Practical Strategies to Encourage the Frequent and Consistent Usage of the Intranet for Demonstrable ROI,” which led me to formulate some thoughts on how to do just that.
Column/Behind the Firewall - March 2004 Issue, Posted Mar 18, 2004
I want to reflect on three presentations given at the 2003 KM World & Intranets Conference, and the issues they raised for intranet managers: usability, live intranet demos, and content integration.
Column/Behind the Firewall - January/February 2004 Issue, Posted Jan 27, 2004
It was with some regret that I was not able to attend Intracom 2003 in Montreal in October, as the previous two conferences have provided valuable insights into intranet issues. It was at the 2001 conference that I discovered Web logs (often called blogs).
Column/Behind the Firewall - December 2003 Issue, Posted Dec 09, 2003
For reasons entirely unclear to me, there are not many books on the subjects of content management or intranets and portals, but there are some noteworthy newcomers.
Column/Behind the Firewall - November 2003 Issue, Posted Nov 13, 2003
We are approaching the end of the first decade of intranet deployment. What lessons have been learned in that time? I am tempted to say, "Not many!"
Column/Behind the Firewall - October 2003 Issue, Posted Oct 13, 2003
I have a problem with Knowledge Management as a discipline, and am much happier talking about knowledge exchange.
Column/Behind the Firewall - August/September 2003 Issue, Posted Sep 22, 2003
Attending the Eighth Infonortics Search Engine Meeting that took place in Boston in early April has prompted my return to the importance of effective search.
Column/Behind the Firewall - July 2003 Issue, Posted Jul 13, 2003
Without careful attention paid, not only to setting standards, but also to making sure that they are complied with yet of pliable stuff that can be modified to suit changing requirements, intranets can soon become a morass of irrelevant documents.
Column/Behind the Firewall - June 2003 Issue, Posted Jun 12, 2003
Recently, two surveys have been undertaken that look at the factors that influence CMS purchase and the issues that arise in implementation. The commonality between the outcomes of these surveys merits close attention.
Column/Behind the Firewall - May 2003 Issue, Posted May 14, 2003
If some recent figures from the UK Department of Trade and Industry are to be believed, around 20% of UK companies have an extranet and I have seen a significant trend towards the deployment of extranets.
Column/Behind the Firewall - April 2003 Issue, Posted Apr 21, 2003
At present, “content management” is very much the hot topic, with companies beginning to see the advantages of creating content repositories. However, the lack of attention on how to retrieve all these documents concerns me.
Column/Behind the Firewall - March 2003 Issue, Posted Mar 01, 2003
Column/Behind the Firewall - February 2003 Issue, Posted Feb 01, 2003
One of the problems of intranet management is that it is difficult to establish reliable metrics for an intranet that enable its effectiveness and progress to be monitored, or for an intranet to be benchmarked against other intranets.
Column/Behind the Firewall - February 2003 Issue, Posted Feb 01, 2003
EIP technology has some important attributes, but the end result is often a desktop with more panes than a Georgian Era window. Remember, all that glistens is not gold.
Column/Behind the Firewall - January 2003 Issue, Posted Jan 01, 2003
I recently acted out the role of a prospective client, giving feedback to a very receptive group of CMS vendors about how well, and how badly, their message was getting across.
Column/Behind the Firewall - December 2002 Issue, Posted Dec 01, 2002
News/News Feature - November 2002 Issue, Posted Nov 01, 2002
Column/Behind the Firewall - November 2002 Issue, Posted Nov 01, 2002
Column/Behind the Firewall - October 2002 Issue, Posted Oct 01, 2002
This month we'll return to the topic of implementing a content management strategy and highlight three invaluable resources that will be of great assistance to you in achieving the best possible content management solution
Column/Behind the Firewall - September 2002 Issue, Posted Sep 01, 2002
Editorial/Feature - August 2002 Issue, Posted Aug 01, 2002
Column/Behind the Firewall - August 2002 Issue, Posted Aug 01, 2002
Column/Behind the Firewall - July 2002 Issue, Posted Jul 01, 2002
Column/Behind the Firewall - June 2002 Issue, Posted Jun 01, 2002
Column/Behind the Firewall - May 2002 Issue, Posted May 01, 2002
Editorial/Feature - April 2002 Issue, Posted Apr 01, 2002
I was a judge for the annual awards of the UK Directory Publishers Association. This process highlighted the fact usability testing is extremely important.
Column/Behind the Firewall - April 2002 Issue, Posted Apr 01, 2002
There is not a single book on the shelf in my office with "intranet" in the title. However, there is a group of books that I refer to during consulting projects, or when preparing conference papers.
Column/Behind the Firewall - March 2002 Issue, Posted Mar 01, 2002
Intranets present some difficult challenges for the user. In an ideal world, the navigation should be so intuitive that only on rare occasions should it be necessary to use the search function. However, we do not live in an ideal world…
Column/Behind the Firewall - February 2002 Issue, Posted Feb 01, 2002
Many worry that spending on intranets and IT in general will decrease as costs are trimmed. In fact, intranet infrastructure investment is as important as always.
Column/Behind the Firewall - January 2002 Issue, Posted Jan 01, 2002
In the mid-1990s, a number of publishers looked into publishing electronic versions of scientific journals. And that is where the problems started.
Column/Behind the Firewall - December 2001 Issue, Posted Dec 01, 2001
I have to admit that I am very skeptical of ROI calculations and the theory that intranet applications have to be justified on an ROI basis.
Column/Behind the Firewall - November 2001 Issue, Posted Nov 01, 2001
Column/Behind the Firewall - October 2001 Issue, Posted Oct 01, 2001
Column/Behind the Firewall - August 2001 Issue, Posted Aug 01, 2001
If intranets are to be the primary platform for information and knowledge access within a company, attention must be paid to ensuring that intranets are managed by someone with the appropriate skills, experience, and level of authority.
Column/Behind the Firewall - July 2001 Issue, Posted Jul 01, 2001