Marydee Ojala
Editor, ONLINE Magazine
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Landscaping the Enterprise

ONLINE, May 2001
Copyright © 2001 Information Today, Inc.


As the snow melts around my house, signs of spring attract my attention. Gardening supplies fill the stores and advertisements for landscaping firms bloom in my mailbox. Every year when the snow melts, a new landscape is revealed. Initially, it's not particularly beautiful. The white countryside becomes a somewhat dreary dirty brown and the detritus of autumn, previously buried under the picturesque snowdrifts, is exposed in all its sordid ugliness. Who knew so much trash could be concealed by snow?

The conscientious gardener/landscaper greets the approach of spring with joy and zeal. Dry leaves, sometimes still sodden from the snow; the transient bit of newspaper blown into the garden, also wet with print fading into unintelligible blotches; the odd broken toy; abandoned Styrofoam coffee cups; and the other castoffs of modern life are dutifully raked up and properly disposed of. Perennial plants poke through the thawing ground; annuals are purchased for decorative planting arrangements. Pipes are inspected for winter freeze damage and repaired if necessary. In short, spring is when landscapes are changed, even transformed. Landscape transformations involve both a re-thinking of how the garden and yard should look and a reworking of all the elements of the landscape.

I find the parallels to enterprise-wide information delivery distinctly compelling. In physical library collections, the gardening metaphor of weeding is widely accepted. It applies to intranets as well. Spring is as good a time as any to examine the information resident on your organization's intranet. Are there sources no longer thriving? Perhaps they require internal marketing fertilization or communication watering. New information flowerbeds to be established? Large databases in need of pruning?

How about transforming your information landscape? For many years, corporate information departments stood between users and information. Information professionals gathered the flowering plants, arranged them into bouquets, and presented them to clients. Today, information professionals are choosing the information that goes onto intranets, deciding on the best and most cost-effective enterprise portal software, watching that intranets do not become nation-centric, warning of security problems, seeking software solutions to intranet issues, and taking leadership positions on intranet teams.

Most of us will not live through natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes that physically alter our environment. Our organizations, whether they are corporate, academic, or government, have gone through changes comparable to these terrain-transforming natural occurrences. It's time, then, for information professionals to use intranet technology to transform the information environment. This should not be a minor spring rejuvenation project, not an afternoon spent weeding and pruning, but a full-scale transformation. Shape the ground to build something new. Create hills. Build waterfalls. Install new shrubbery. Experiment with rustic benches for visitors. Take control of intranet projects with the transformations of your organization and of information technology in mind.

Particularly for the intranet landscape, information professionals should regard themselves as master gardeners, teachers, and leaders. As the landscape surrounding us alters, we must take responsibility for transforming that landscape into something that is both appealing and useful.

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Copyright © 2001, Information Today, Inc. All rights reserved.