Book Review: Managing Your Internet & Intranet Services
Building and maintaining Web sites and intranets are no longer simple, unimportant tasks that can be relegated to an IT department. The 2nd edition of Peter Griffiths' Managing Your Internet & Intranet Services not only recognizes this, but argues that perhaps it is LIS professionals who are best suited for managing Web sites and intranets.
On the surface this book appears to be very useful - it is written from the LIS perspective, and focuses on the management side of Web development rather than the technical how-to. Being a non-technical book, not only is it very readable, but also is not likely to fall out of date as quickly as most others on Web development.
The first edition of Griffiths' book is often found on LIS course recommended reading lists. This new second edition addresses some of the newer advances in Internet and intranet development such as new standards and software, as well as some rising trends such as Web logs, information architecture and content management.
Griffiths explains in the opening chapters why Web management is a natural fit for LIS professionals, and why their skills enable them to succeed in the role. An introduction to getting on the Web is provided as well as explanations as to the benefits of creating a Web site or intranet. Also included is a chapter on how to build a business case for creating a Web site. Later chapters focus on the management of Web technologies - from staffing, administrative and content management perspectives. Finally, a lengthy list of resources is provided.
While the book covers Web site management in a little more detail, it falls short on its coverage of intranets and intranet management. Only one chapter is devoted to intranet management, and little differentiation is given between Web management and intranet management throughout the book. With an external Web site, there typically needs to be a greater emphasis on design and appearance than an internal one. With an intranet, functionality and document retrievability are of more importance than appearance. Moreover, copyright is much less of an issue, and there is less of a need to design sites for a wide variety of users and technologies. On the other hand, business cases for intranets can be built through many of the benefits they can bring - better documentation management and control, improved retrieval of information, collaboration and automation of processes.
In chapter 6, we are presented with a list of the top ten features of library Web sites. While this list is very useful for Web site management, there is no equivalent list given of top ten intranet features. Such a list would have been much more valuable for intranet management, as it is far easier to come by a library Web site than a behind-the-firewall intranet. The author also misses some of the key benefits of building an intranet such as enabling users to find information faster, the ability to disseminate information more quickly and to automate routine business processes.
Chapter 4 provides a good introduction to building a business case for a Web site, and covers the financial considerations in detail. For the financial benefits however, the chapter tends to focus too much on the smaller and easier-to-measure benefits such as not having to print paper brochures, rather than the larger, difficult-to-measure benefits such as a Web site's ability to bring in new business. There is no equivalent chapter on building a business case for an intranet.
A key element needed for designing, planning or maintaining a Web site or intranet is the ability to acquire metrics on its usage. Yet other than a paragraph on usability testing, there is no mention of any kind of feedback mechanism or metrics collection method.
For a brief introduction to the factors involved with building and managing a Web site, this book provides a very accessible overview of the key topics. It goes, however, very little beyond scratching the surface, and misses several key elements such as metrics, document management and disaster recovery to name a few.