Harassed IT managers grappling with the decision of whether or not to set up a company intranet, may soon have no choice in the matter. In effect, companies will have an intranet given to them whether or not they want it.
This is according to a new report on intranets from UK research firm Ovum, entitled ?Intranets for Business Applications?. The report?s author, senior consultant Ashim Pal, foresees the fusion of companies? own intranets with the wider Internet. Pal reckons that as ISPs make their Internet connections more secure and can offer safe access to the wider Net, companies will be more willing to entrust to the experts the function currently performed by firewall-protected intranets.
Pal believes that the explosive growth of intranets over the last 12 months will continue inexorably until nearly all companies use one. Intranet technology will be made pervasive as TCP/IP (the Internet protocol) becomes the data communications standard, and software companies such as Novell, Lotus and Microsoft build it into their applications.
?Organisations, whether they like it or not, will get access to intranet technology as part of operating system and application upgrades,? Pal explained. ?The question is not whether to implement intranets, but how to implement them. They are not a passing fad and will not go away.?
However, this process is not without its dangers for the existing IT infrastructure, Pal warned. ?To set up fully-functional intranets, users need to integrate Web technology with their existing transaction- oriented business applications, their groupware and infrastructure services,? he said.
While most of the organisations with intranets today use them mainly for publishing information, Pal predicts that this will evolve to the point where intranet-based workflow with formal collaboration applications becomes the norm.
Pal also believes that intranet applications will merge with Internet-based business-to-business transactions, electronic data interchange and electronic commerce. In addition, the applications will become more dynamic and interactive, as users learn that Web tools are for more than just publishing static information.
Despite their many advantages, however, intranets won?t bring much relief to overworked IT managers. ?Intranets will not reduce IT?s management burden,? explained Pal. ?However, they will increase the possibilities of what you can do with the same resources.?
A mixed message for IT managers, then. You will have an intranet, and it will be merged with your existing groupware functions ? a task that may not be as simple as it sounds. Indeed, when it comes to managing intranets, IT managers will find that a new set of problems emerge.
But, whatever the difficulties, manufacturers will be doing their best to assist the process. Almost all major software firms have already quickly realigned their products for the intranet market. Lotus, for example, is keen to sell Domino 4.5 (?powered by Notes?) as a shrink-wrapped intranet. The ball is now in the manufacturers? court.
To attain Ovum?s vision of a pervasive, dynamic, secure technology, software and hardware companies must work together to address the problems of this landscape ? chief among them the issue of security.
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