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A Process-Oriented Framework for Efficient Intranet Management

Roland E. SCHMID <schmid@acm.org>
Thomas M. KAISER <thomas.kaiser@unisg.ch>
Volker BACH <volker.bach@unisg.ch>
Hubert ÖSTERLE <hubert.oesterle@unisg.ch>
University of St. Gallen


At present, many organizations are developing and deploying intranets to improve their internal communication and to facilitate the distribution of information. Frequently, the intranet solution is not integrated into the business processes of the organization, and responsibilities -- both for the operation of the necessary infrastructure and for the intranet content -- are not clearly defined. This lack of integration and definition can cause the whole intranet project to fail because of extensive downtime and inconsistent or outdated content.

This paper addresses the problem of efficiently managing an intranet once it has been set up. It describes a detailed framework of the processes and roles necessary to manage intranets in daily business. This framework is intended to be used as a template for future intranet deployment or improvement projects and to help organizations dramatically decrease the risk of project failure.

Examination of the various tasks that are needed to run an intranet shows that the process can be divided into four categories. The first and second categories involve the business side of the intranet solution and contain the business processes, in which information is produced and consumed. The third and fourth categories involve the information system, which manages content and applications.

The concepts and results described in this paper are derived from several successful intranet projects, among which are Credit Suisse, one of the world's largest banks, and LGT Bank in Liechtenstein, an international private bank. Both are successfully running an intranet based on the processes described in this paper.


1 Introduction

Intranet management is the task of keeping a corporate intranet running and ensuring that the intranet supports the users' tasks within the overall business operations. Intranet management consists of heterogeneous activities, including generation and update of content, user support, management of user accounts and access permissions, and maintenance of hardware and software components. Despite the obvious necessity of efficient intranet management, many intranet development projects do not include the planning of an organizational framework for these tasks. Consequently, undefined responsibilities and unclear processes often result in downtime and outdated content, making the intranet unattractive to users. Refusal to use the intranet may result in a low return on investment [3].

In this paper, we describe a framework for efficient management of an intranet. This framework is intended to be used in practice as a template for implementing organizational structures that contribute to the successful running of an intranet. Because of company-specific circumstances, the framework needs to be customized to the company's individual needs for intranet development or improvement.

What is novel in our approach is our firm process orientation. We focus the design of the supporting processes to the actual information needs of the organization. As the value of the business is always generated in its operations (or processes), every intranet and all organizational structures that support this intranet must support the business processes. Therefore, the business processes that consume information from the intranet and produce information for the intranet are directly integrated into our framework. In addition to deriving the information needs from an organization's operations, we structure the intranet management tasks as supporting processes.

The literature contains few studies on intranet management. [6] contains a comprehensive intranet management concept that focuses on technical aspects and mentions roles and processes in its first chapter. [10] deals with management of generic client-server architectures. [8] discusses a content management model for Web sites and the necessary organizational structure. The roles necessary for intranet organization are described in great detail in Chapters 3 and 8 of [11]. References [2] and [9] mainly discuss the necessity of content management, focusing on classic document management functionality.

2 Research method

The framework for intranet management has been developed as part of a methodology for the deployment of intranets in companies. Besides intranet management this methodology comprises various aspects like strategy, architecture, security, information structuring and application design [5]. The partner companies involved in this research project were ABB Switzerland, AGI, Credit Suisse, CSS Insurance, LGT Bank in Liechtenstein, Swisscom and Winterthur Insurance.

This work has been conducted as part of the research program Information Management HSG. The research method used for this work is action research [1], which means that all theoretical results have been applied in projects at partner companies. The observations made in these projects have then been used to further improve the theoretical results. This research method ensures that all results have been verified in practice and are therefore suitable for solving practical problems.

3 A framework for intranet management

The framework consists of processes and roles. Processes are used to group the various tasks that are necessary to run an intranet and to define the order in which the tasks should be carried out. Each task is assigned to a role with responsibility for carrying out the task. Using roles as a level of indirection, individuals do not have to be directly assigned to tasks. Individuals are instead assigned to roles, to which any number of individuals can be assigned. This level of indirection facilitates human resource management. Whenever one individual is replaced by another, only the corresponding role assignment has to be updated, and the task assignments remain unchanged.

Figure 1. Processes, roles, and individuals.

3.1 Roles

Within our research project, the following roles in intranet management have been identified:

3.2 Process categories

The business processes generate business value. The primary goal of an intranet must be to supply to a given business process the exact information that satisfies its information needs. All efforts of intranet management must aim to support this goal as efficiently and effectively as possible. Within the framework for intranet management, these processes that consume information from the intranet belong to the first category of business processes.

The second category represents the counterpart of the information consumers -- namely, the business processes that produce information. The information-producing process is responsible for creating the content, keeping the content updated, removing outdated content, and distributing the content. Each of these tasks initiates the corresponding information process (the third category; see below) in which the necessary activities are carried out (e.g., review of content or conversion of documents).

Any business process can both consume and produce information and thus belong to the first and second categories simultaneously, depending on the context. For example, the marketing process may consume statistical data produced by the sales process and then produce a market analysis to be used in the product development process.

The third category comprises the information processes for the provision, distribution, maintenance, and removal of intranet information. These processes ensure that the content of the intranet is always up-to-date and meets given quality standards. These standards include detailed regulations for authoring, releasing, publishing, and archiving intranet content. These processes are usually initiated by the information-producing processes.

The processes responsible for running the necessary hardware and software components belong to the fourth category. They cover such tasks as installation, administration, and support.

The information is stored in data and information sources that can be distributed among numerous systems and locations.

The first and second categories -- that is, the business processes for consuming and producing information -- reflect the business aspects of the framework, whereas the third and fourth categories represent aspects of the information system. Figure 2 shows the relationships between the framework's various process categories. The remainder of this chapter explains the reference processes related to the information system. The processes related to the business side of the framework are the existing business processes of a company. Therefore, each process is individually designed according to the purpose of the business, and it is not possible -- nor would it make sense -- to provide reference processes for the tasks of producing and consuming information.

Figure 2. The framework consists of four process categories.

3.3 Reference processes

The main benefit of reference processes is their use as templates. In a project, these processes can be customized to the company's individual needs, avoiding the need to develop new processes from scratch. Because the reference processes have been verified and approved in practice, their use allows high-quality processes to be defined in less time.

Graphic representations are used to visualize the reference processes. The columns in these activity chains [7] represent the organizational unit or role responsible for the tasks in the same column. Tasks that are shown in a white rectangle are partially or fully supported by information technology (IT); other tasks can be carried out manually. Events are represented by a hexagon. The arrows between the tasks indicate chronological dependencies. The tasks of other processes that interact directly with the represented process are also shown in the activity chain. For clarity, only one activity chain per process category is included in this chapter. The activity chains for all reference processes can be found in Appendix A.

The processes of information creation, information maintenance, information removal, and information usage build the interface to the business processes, that is, certain tasks of these processes can simultaneously be tasks of the corresponding business processes. For example, the task create document is a task in the process of information creation and is simultaneously a task in all business processes produce information for the intranet. Graphic representations of these four processes are found in Appendix A.

Figure 3 shows a graphic representation of the process information distribution. The processes for information creation and information maintenance pass the created documents over to this process, which then verifies, releases, and technically incorporates the document into the intranet. Usually, several organizational units are involved in this process. For example, a marketing department and a legal department may be needed to ensure that a document meets certain corporate standards. A content manager belonging to the same business area as the author may be needed to verify the content, and a webmaster located in the IT department must technically process the document and integrate it into the intranet applications.

This process is critical to efficient intranet publishing. The delay between the creation of a document and its availability in the intranet depends mainly on the time needed to complete this process.

Figure 3. The information distribution process.

While the processes of the third category involve the information itself, the processes of the fourth category involve operation of the underlying systems and other content-independent tasks. The fourth category consists of the processes maintenance, support, statistics, user management, and training. Appendix A presents complete activity chains of these processes.

All routine tasks that are necessary to keep the IT infrastructure working are grouped within the maintenance process. Such tasks include both those that must be carried out on a regular basis (e.g., surveillance and checking of log files) and those that are triggered by certain events (e.g., configuration changes and installation of new hardware or software). The activity chain of the maintenance process is shown in Figure 4. The abbreviations A, N, S, C stand for application, network, server, and client. These distinctions are necessary because the same task for different components can be carried out by different roles. For example, the responsibility for the surveillance of the application components can be assigned to the webmaster, and the responsibility for the surveillance of the network, client, and server components can be assigned to the technical administrator.

Figure 4. The maintenance process.

The support process is the connection between the users and the IS/IT staff. Whenever users, authors, or content managers have questions or problems, they contact the supporter (usually by calling the help desk). The supporter provides first-level support to the users. Any problems and requests the supporter cannot solve are forwarded to the competent person in the IT department. The supporter also processes requests for configuration changes or changes in user management.

The statistics process consists of the collection and analysis of statistical data (e.g., the number of access rights to a given object) or of performance data on the network. Statistical data are important for planning future extensions to the infrastructure and for providing information about usage and acceptance of documents to the authors and content managers, who can request the desired statistical analyses via the supporter.

The user management process is necessary for creating, changing, and removing user accounts and user groups for all components of the intranet system. This process includes the management of access rights. All requests for changes in the user or group data are forwarded to the responsible administrator via the supporter.

The training process consists of the organization of training classes for end users, authors, content managers, and IT staff. Training helps each individual to perform tasks as well as possible and thus increases the process quality.

4 Implications in practice: LGT Bank in Liechtenstein

We show the application of our framework in the context of an intranet deployment project at LGT Bank in Liechtenstein. The bank's project has been fully described by [4].

4.1 Brief portrait of LGT Bank in Liechtenstein

LGT Bank in Liechtenstein AG is a financial services provider that is active on an international level as a private bank and on a regional level as a retail bank. The bank's primary activities are asset management and investment counseling for discerning international private clients. On the regional level, the bank offers a full range of modern financial services. LGT Bank was founded in 1920 and has its headquarters in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. It has always been closely linked with the national economy of the principality. The bank maintains subsidiaries in Liechtenstein and abroad (on the Cayman Islands and in Dublin) and has a branch in Zurich. It also has representative offices in Hong Kong and Tokyo, a bureau of information in Luxembourg, and a network of intermediaries.

4.2 Information required for the sales process

The existing applications in the bank's information system supply the client advisors with data about their clients (master data, transaction data, and orders) and the relevant markets (exchange rates and money and capital market information). The applications' functionality enables the administration of clients, accounts, custody accounts, portfolios, loans, and funds; the processing of orders in the bank's name or in other names; and the analysis of market positions and trends. The systems obtain data from the bank's host operative database or from Reuters datafeed. However, information that may be are unavailable, or only partly available, in electronic form includes standard presentation material about the bank and its business environment; material about products and their features; research findings, reports, and so-called soft facts about the client.

During the project, a complete list of the information required for the sales process was drawn up in cooperation with representatives of the bank's departments. The gaps identified were to be closed by the customer focus (KUNO) front system.

4.3 Intranet at LGT Bank in Liechtenstein

The KUNO front system is a part of LGT Bank's intranet system. The bank's intranet consists of several applications that are largely parallel but that were developed independently in terms of scope and content. The applications are integrated in the intranet under a single user interface. In addition to the KUNO front system, the intranet contains a general application to distribute general bank information (e.g., organizational diagrams, general business conditions, press communiqués, minutes of meetings, directives, and menus) and a project information system, which is used to coordinate the bank's current projects. The project information system administers project plans, status, documentation, and expenses as well as providing manuscripts for project documentation. Whereas the application to distribute general bank information is aimed at all employees, the target users of the other two applications are the client advisors and the business sector and project leaders.

The KUNO front system represents the interface between the bank's sales process and its product management and market analysis processes. Information created by these processes is provided directly via the KUNO front system and is called up when required by the client advisor. Conversely, the advisor has the option of providing feedback to the product manager and the analyst via the system. The KUNO front system therefore integrates the sales, product management, and market analysis processes (see Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Integration of processes using the KUNO front system.

4.4 Integration of the intranet management processes

The completeness and reliability of the information provided are critically important to the success of the KUNO front system. Integration of the product management and market analysis processes with the bank's sales process (see Fig. 6) can function only when the provision of information in the KUNO front process is anchored in the work procedures of the bank's staff. This aspect is especially significant because authors and users of the information objects are usually not the same people. The bank therefore specified the procedure for providing information objects at an early stage and assigned responsibilities accordingly. Overall responsibility for technical aspects and content was assigned to two new specialist positions created for this purpose, that is, to the webmaster and the online editor. Furthermore, 15 so-called content managers were designated within the individual specialist departments. Content managers are responsible for the content of a group of information objects (e.g., credit products). They designate and lead a team of authors, review the information objects produced, and enter these in the KUNO front system.

A second aspect of the system's integration into the work procedures of the bank's staff is the holding of surveys to obtain reference values (e.g., access figures). On one hand, these values should serve as an incentive for providing the information objects and using the application, and on the other hand, they should enable the client advisors to determine the actual relevance of individual information objects. So far the bank has not carried out such evaluations, but specification and collection of reference values are planned for the near future.

Figure 6. Information distribution process at LGT.

The LGT case study demonstrates the practical impact of the intranet management framework discussed in this paper. LGT used the framework as a template for the corporation-specific definition of the necessary roles and processes. One can see from the information distribution process that in comparison with the reference process, several tasks have been omitted, and a role (online editor) has been added. This example shows that no two companies in the world are likely to have identical requirements; thus, customization is involved in every project that develops an intranet management solution. Use of the templates, however, gives the project team a good starting point, reduces the time needed to develop a solution, and reduces the risk of omitting important tasks or responsibilities.

5 Summary and future work

In this paper, we described a framework for organizing efficient intranet management. This framework consists of reference processes and a set of roles with responsibilities for the processes' tasks. We assigned the processes, according to their characteristics, to four different categories, two of them belonging to the business side and two of them belonging to the information system side of the intranet organization. Finally, we demonstrated the practical use of the framework in an intranet project at LGT Bank in Liechtenstein.

Once an intranet is established and well integrated into an organization's processes, it is predestined for supporting the flow of information and knowledge within the organization. Ongoing research includes the suitability of intranets for supporting knowledge management in businesses. This topic contains the following key questions:

Our latest projects have shown that this framework is also suitable as a basis for building an infrastructure for corporate knowledge management.

6 References

[1] Avison, D., Lau, F., Myers, M., Nielsen, P.A., Action Research, in: Communications of the ACM, Vol. 42, No. 1, January 1999, S. 94-97

[2] Burns, B., Moving Document Control Systems to the Corporate Intranet: One Company's Strategy, in: Proceedings of SIGDOC 1997

[3] Campbell, I., The Intranet: Slashing the Cost of Business, International Data Corporation, http://big.ids.net/intranetdev/idc/report.html

[4] Kaiser, T.M., Beck, D., Österle, H., I-NET Enabled Customer Focus -- The Case of LGT Bank in Liechtenstein, Working Paper IM HSG/CC I-NET/5, Institute for Information Management, University of St. Gallen, 1998

[5] Kaiser, T.M., Vogler, P., Bach, V., PROMET®I-NET, Arbeitsbericht IM HSG/CC I-NET/4, Institut für Wirtschaftsinformatik, Universität St. Gallen, 1998

[6] Miller, M., Roehr, A., Bernard, B., Managing the Corporate Intranet, John Wiley & Sons, New York 1998

[7] Österle, H., Business in the information age: heading for new processes, Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, 1995

[8] Puthli, R.K.R.P., METANET: a five-year Internet strategy, in: Information Management & Computer Security, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1998, S. 3-14

[9] Rein, G.L., McCue, D.L., Slein, J.A., A Case for Document Management Functions on the Web, in: Communications of the ACM, Vol. 40, No. 9, September 1997, S. 81-89

[10] Szameitat, U., Betriebsführungskonzept für Client/Server-Architekturen, GAUSS GmbH, Hamburg 1996

[11] Telleen, S.L., Intranet Organization: Strategies for managing change, http://www.iorg.com/intranetorg

Appendix: Reference processes

This appendix contains the graphic representations of all reference processes that are mentioned in the paper.

Information creation

Information maintenance

Information removal

Information usage

Information distribution




User administration


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