The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is building an employee portal to provide online collaboration for up to 4,500 government staff.
The portal, based on Plumtree software, will provide a single point of access for staff - both office-based and working remotely - to departmental and government news, reports and human resources applications.
The move follows a successful six-month prototype project with Plumtree. The cost of the deal is not being disclosed.
But Ian Adkin, e-Business programme manager at the DfES, said that although improving internal collaboration was important, the long-term objective hinged on linking with external bodies and improving the quality of service to the public.
"You can get obsessed with internal, but ultimately it's about the quality of service we deliver externally. That's the end game. The better the information we can get internally, the more time we can save. We have a lot of expertise and it's important we unlock the potential of the people in the department," Adkin said.
The portal will be piloted by 300 DfES staff from August and rolled out to all 4,500 staff across the department over the next 12 months.
Adkin admitted, however, that compelling content would be the key to the success of the project.
"It's about improving the way we work internally so we can work better externally. This is part of a drive from the centre to modernise government. But there are also internal drivers - we want to get people talking more readily, share expertise and work across team boundaries," he said.
"We've had an intranet for four years, but as the range of data has grown it's proved increasingly difficult to find information easily," Adkin added.
Ultimately the portal will link with non-departmental public bodies and partners including the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTa), the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) and OFSTED, in a move which the DfES says will result in a better-informed education policy.
Plumtree was selected following a six-month technology review that included visits to other organisations using portal technology, such as the Highways Agency and the BBC.
The DfES has signed consultants Cap Gemini Ernst & Young to integrate the portal with legacy applications including a PeopleSoft human resources system, financial and help desk systems.
"My advice would be to go out and talk to other people about it, and involve your customers. We're confident we're on the right track but there's still a fair way to go," Adkin said.
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