Smaller may be better when appointing a service provider.
When a business sets up an intranet, should it play safe and stick with larger service providers such as BT or IBM or look beyond them to smaller suppliers? An Intranet development is not an off-the-shelf package - every version is different. The easy part is making decisions about particular hardware and software.
It is in the development of applications and understanding the intranet's potential that a business needs expertise.
A large supplier brings resources and a known name but, unusually in this field, smaller specialist suppliers can offer as much expertise.
The industry is about four years old and the best development tools in use have been available for less than two years. Businesses should remember that they will have to work with their supplier for the next three to five years. The supplier will need time to understand the business' systems and processes as well as its plans for growth. The following checklist may be helpful:
- Try to see examples of the supplier's work and possibly talk to its clients.
- Find a supplier with expertise in your own sector. The supplier's is not just a techie role, it is about business development.
- Get the structure (specification) right.
- Do not skimp on project management fees.
- Plan a phased development schedule.
- Run the content on the supplier's server for a short while first. Why invest in a server and IT staff to support this before company-wide agreement on the initial content has been confirmed?
- Employ someone internally to manage the content and development. Do not consider the post to be anything other than a full-time job.
Derek Jones is managing director of Mediatel, 0171 439 7575.