An Interview with Steve Telleen
Excerpted with permission from Intranets:
the Bottom Line?
You can find more information about this excellent book at:
by Randy Hinrichs
Dr. Steve Telleen, Director, Strategy and
Steve Telleen, Ph.D. is director of Strategy and Business Development
at Intranet Partners, a consulting firm that focuses on helping
intranets and intranet strategies. At the time of this interview, Steve
responsible for developing the intranet at Amdahl, as it grew up from
humble cross functional roots to the IntraNet solution that has
Development, Intranet Partners
Randy: Let me ask some basic questions. Why
you have a working intranet system in your organization?
Steve: We saw the potential this technology
make in our business processes, technically, but more importantly,
organizationally. From an implementation perspective, I credit the
successes we have had with
the fact that we treated the implementation as an infrastructure
development program rather than an application development
Randy: How is your infrastructure developed
support the Intranet?
Steve: We focused on three major areas:
Technical, and Content. We set out to create a decentralized control
so we could avoid trditional bottlenecks. The key to rolling out the
decentralized model was the formation and training of the Web Council,
which consisted of
the Publishers for each major line of business and functional area. We
encouraged the Publishers to organize the Editors and Authors in their
The Publishers determined formal information their group would make
Each group was free to define the specific editorial areas and
responsibilities for their own organization.
Randy: How do you manage content within
Steve: In general we tried to develop a
self-management model. We quickly discovered three distinct kinds of
being published on the infrastructure, each with its own management
The formal information is managed just as it is on paper, with review
cycles and approvals. The difference is the content generally is made
the Intranet, as project information, as it progresses through
development and the reviews. The project information is managed by the
project or department members responsible. Informal information is not
- Formal information, which is officially
sanctioned and subject to review and approval cycles,
- Project information, also departmental, which
generally is related
to the operation of a specific area or development project,
- Informal information, which belongs to
specific individuals. Personal
home pages are one example of this, but personal information often
consists of white papers, individual presentation foils, notes, etc.
Sort of the water-cooler
information that gets passed around.
However, as an Intranet grows, it is a good idea
have icon markers on each page that identify the formal or official
so the viewer knows the status of the information being accessed. Icon
are a good idea for identifying internal only information too.
Randy: Do you have a central intranet web
in your organization?
Steve: Yes, we identified three separate
level entry points into the Intranet. The first we call the Enerprise
It is based on the organizational or accountability structure around
formal information. The majority of the map is a set of link pages,
at the CEO level. The top page has links to the top level map page for
of the lines of business and major functional areas. These map pages
with each Publisher on the Web Council, and each is owned by one of
The top level Publisher page in each organization
links to each of their Editor's top level map page. The Editors
their pages to reflect the logical ordering of the content for the
for which they have responsibility. This structure allows each area to
and self-publish their information, but provides a very low maintenance
structure to all the formal information based on organizational
Since the upper map pages are simple links, when
occur, the map can be modified in a matter of minutes by the
The Enterprise Map can be a powerful tool that
managers monitor the status, completeness and quality of information
they make available to the enterprise or the world. However, we
that many users, who were not the audience for the map, found it to be
useful for informational browsing.
The second entry point we called the Yellow Pages.
is a functional view of the content, and may contain informal pages as
as formal. Links in the Yellow Pages are generated at the author's
The danger with allowing unmanaged pages into the directory, which the
Pages does, is that it can become cluttered with abandoned pages and
information. To counter this we implemented a sunset policy for
pages. After 60 days they are removed from the Yellow Pages unless a
is made to keep them. The processes for submitting link requests and
monitoring and removing links can be automated with scripts.
The third entry point is the Index and Search
Here publishing is done automatically by a discovery agent (a spider)
the user finds the information by submitting a search. This is an
tool, but policies and processes need to be put in place so authors can
tag content they don't want the discovery agent to index.
Randy: I learned about the Intranet
from your web pages. Can you briefly describe that methodology for
Steve: The methodology is based on four
stages of development:
The process is facilitated by providing web-ready policy and standards
role and organizational charter documentation, and processes for
- Executive awareness
- Goals clarification
- Implementation planning
- Implementation support and guidance from
The methodology is driven by business goals rather
technology and addresses what I call the five "Ss" of success: Skills,
Staffing, Shared Vision, and Systems.
Randy: What do you see as the main
between enterprise networking and intranets?
Steve: Enterprise networking is a
approach. An intranet allows that technology to be driven and managed
the business goals and the domain specialists. It became feasible with
advent of real vendor-independent standards for both communication and
While the commercial vendors argued over enterprise networking
non-commercial users around the world developed standards that worked.
have seen the power of vendor-independent standards in the pace of
that has occurred over the past three years in both the commercial and
Randy: What's the key to integrating
networking and the intranet?
Steve: Build a business infrastructure that
utilizes the enterprise network. The intranet standards and tools make
feasible. To be successful requires attention to the five "Ss"
above. With an intranet, you have the potential to transfer the way the
enterprise manages itself.
Randy: How'd the intranet get started at
Steve: In April of 1993 several of the
developers in the Open Systems group obtained a beta version of Mosaic
began playing with it. About that time, the Competitive Analyst for
Systems was looking for a better way to move information to the field
force. They hooked up and began a pilot to see if this technology might
provide a solution. A lot of technical issues remained back then, beta
Mosaic was not easy to install or configure, and it didn't have all the
viewers integrated like today. There was also the issue of getting the
information from our external
suppliers into web format.
In the spring of 1994 my Open Systems Strategic
Market Planning Group began to look at what offerings might make sense
Amdahl based on this technology. At that time the media play was all on
Internet. Our view was that there were too many issues that needed to
solved, too much infrastructure that wasn't there yet, for the direct
consumer Internet to be an immediate and sustained success.
However, we noted that most large enterprises had
same problems inside their firewalls that the Internet/Web was designed
solve on a global basis. The security issues were less profound, and
base infrastructures were already in place. So we focused on
It also seemed obvious that the technology was not
the real challenge lay. The challenge was going to be how to manage the
and the effects on the organization.
In late July of 1994, we asked IDC to run four
groups, two on the east coast and two on the west coast, for us to look
potential customer reactions to the concept of employing web technology
In the group, we had started referring to the concept as an IntraNet,
as we were building the focus group scripts with IDC, one of the
asked if we had taken out a trademark on the term.
This prompted us to do a search, and the term was
we were the first to use it. For a number of reasons, we did not
the term as a trademark, although we did use it widely with customers,
and analysts the last four months of 1994, starting with the 44
that participated in the focus groups.
In the fall of 1994 we also started to build our
for introducing an Intranet into an enterprise. I wrote the first draft
a white paper on the subject in the fall, and a refined version went up
the Amdahl external web in early 1995. It can still be found there,
with two subsequent papers.
In January of 1995 I approached the CIO at Amdahl
convinced her to sponsor an Intranet roll-out. We had been testing some
the ideas in my group and in the rest of the Open Systems organization,
this was the first test of our concepts on a large scale.
Randy: Just like that? You founded a
and then built your intranet?
Steve: Yes, the issue was not the
The basic technical infrastructure already existed in our enterprise
Because the technology was so easy to use, almost anyone in the
could set themselves up as a web server. They already were connected to
IP network, and the software was cheap or free. The real issue was how
you manage this information. And by manage, I mean manage the "life
of the content, just like we do information on paper.
This was a fundamental paradigm shift for
developers, publishers, authors and users. We immediately saw that this
enabled a self-service, pull model, rather than the classical push
Developers needed to provide authors and publishers with tools that
them to do for themselves what developers used to do for them.
Authors and publishers needed to learn to publish
distributing. And, users needed to learn to be responsible for
their real information requirements, and accessing information
rather than relying on others to push a river of information (much of
immediate use) across their desks everyday. Of course the problem
how do users find the information once they determine the need?
Randy: What did you do when you discovered
Steve: A pull model actually reduces
overload on the user's desk. And, the Intranet makes accessing the
easy, once you know it exists. The problem is knowing what exists and
whether it is quality information or not.
The solution here is in the concept of a broker.
provide context for the mass of content out there. Brokers are focused
specific functions or audiences, and provide links and tools that help
efficiently find information in the context which the broker supports.
are familiar with brokers in many aspects of our everyday lives. For
TV Guide is a broker for television shows.
What we did not want to do was fall back on models
technologies that forced or encouraged centralization and the potential
resource bottlenecks. Now many of us, myself included, spent much of
careers marketing the benefits of data sharing, and particularly
However, shared database approaches are inherently
The Internet and web technologies are primarily message-based
tecnologies. We wanted to see if we could develop models for solving
the communication and coordination issues outside the shared-data
model, using a messaging model.
Randy: How do you define a messaging
Steve: A messaging model is when you only
what is needed as a message, when it is needed, to the individuals who
it. Coordination and communication is more of a one-to-one activity.
is a good metaphore for messaging, but the web technology uses the same
One can look at a web transaction as an email
for specific information, and an email reply. Each request can be to a
system. By contrast data in databases has to be either be managed by a
system, or have highly structured interfaces engineered between
The difference really is that database approaches require a lot more
engineering and rigidity than messaging approaches.
Randy: Does the intranet compete with Lotus
Steve: Yes, it became apparent in our focus
in August of 1994, that the intranet was going to go head to head with
Notes. Notes is a good example of solving the same problem primarily
a shared database approach as opposed to messaging. The underlying
sharing approach is why Notes had the "replication problem."
Now in August of 1994 intranet technology did not
anywhere near enough functionality to compete with Notes, but it was
that the velocity of development was so fast that within a year
would be able to hold their own in a direct confrontation. The rate at
which intranet technology was developing developing versus Notes
technology development was a very good example of the benefits of
vendor-neutral standards over proprietary
In April of 1995 the intranet appeared on the
radar screen, and by the fall of 1995 (one year after our focus groups)
intranet was considered by many to be the winner. Notes still has
in the workflow management arena, but I think this too may come under
attack as many of the workflow requirements are recast in terms of
In the long run the message-based technologies
not drive the data-based technologies to extinction. Instead we will
which functions and kinds of information are best supported with
approaches and which are best supported with data-based approaches.
the two approaches are starting to work together allowing us to manage
databases and use intranet technologies to integrate the output in more
and manageable ways.
We can only gain the knowledge of how to architect
new solutions through experience, so expect a lot of noise as those
and companies with a vested interest in data-based approaches resist
attempts of those trying out the message-based approaches on previously
Randy: Okay, then, from experience talk
advantages of the intranet.
Steve: The first advantage is a
single, user-interface to the diversity of information and resources on
network. This ability to integrate asynchronously managed content is
powerful and flexible.
The second is the ability for anyone to publish
find information easily on the network, This breaks down the
barriers to communication, flattens the hierarchy, and eventually will
enterprises much more flexible.
The third is that it makes development faster,
Fourth, and ultimately the most important, as
in functional areas learn that they really are managing information,
then learn that by using the intranet they can quickly see the
for which they are responsible in contexts and combinations they never
before, we will see higher quality information, and eventually the
will lead to more effective organizations. We are generating new
about how information drives function, and how to manage knowledge
processes more effectively.
Randy: Which tools do you believe are going
enable knowledge creation and knowledge management processes?
Steve: I favor tools that allow domain
to manage, manipulate and publish their information themselves, without
to call in a technology specialist to do it for them. I also am fanatic
about tools supporting distributed decision making and management at
all levels. This includes not forcing groups to all use the same brand
of creation tools
or management tools. Of course that means the vendors must adhere to
internet-standard outputs, or the output from the various groups won't
The internet and web standards have taken us to
point. The object standards and technology are a natural fit to the
and will make diversity and distributed decision making even more
Intranets appear to be the necessary infrastructure that finally makes
object-based technologies compelling. And, the object-based
tehcnologies can provide us
with valuable perspectives on how to manage distributed decision making
organizations. This is a very promising marriage.
Randy: What is going to make that marriage
Steve: Distributing decision making is the
issue. It is what an intranet enables, and it what it encourages. It
conscious effort to stop distributed decision making and information
after an intranet infrastructure is in place. Therefore, when you start
implementation stage, you find yourself in a full blown paradigm shift.
that happens, the entire corporation is affected. You find out that
you're doing is much larger than you expected.
Bottom Line: Putting
an intranet is really about how you make decisions in an organization
how you view control. Neither of these are trivial issues by any
Randy: There's a lot of resistance to
decision making. Talk about that resistance.
Steve: There are three reasons for
Some managers don't understand the technology, and don't know what to
with it, so they resist the unknown. The second form of resistance,
from those who have made legacy decisions, e.g., a decision to take the
company to Lotus Notes. They may or may not have implemented their
but they're worried about intranets affecting perception of their
decision making capabilities. The third group is made up of people who
are control freaks. They don't like intranets because they fear losing
their control. The big security risk arguments come from this group of
Randy: How do you explain to them the value
the intranet, then, in such a way as to break down the
Steve: It depends on the source of the
For those who don't understand, you can try analogies, but the best way
to give them first hand experience with a web browser and either a
or something that clicks on that light bulb in their consciousness. I
it interesting that for many people the light bulb goes on when they
something totally unrelated to their primary work interests.
For one, very accounting oriented manager, it
out to be the virtual frog dissection page where he suddenly saw the
Maybe that is because the defenses are down on non-work related pages.
reality is, that some people are never going to have the conversion
experience. This really is a paradigm shift that requires the "aha"
Randy: How do you handle security over this
Steve: Security is still a big concern for
managers and executives as they plan for an intranet. However, the
technology has come a long way in the last three years. We now are at a
where intranet security is probably better in many areas than it is for
non-computerized information and processes. The legitimate driver for
security is risk, and
risk, it turns out, is a very subjective phenomenon. The other driver
the attitude toward information and control.
The first question I ask in facilitating
of an intranet security policy is: as a company do you want to deny
employees access to all information unless an individual is
permitted, or do you want to allow your employees access to all
unless it is specifically denied. This tells you a lot about the
and culture of the enterprise. I can configure an intranet for those
want to make an exception for access rather than for restriction, but
benefits of an intranet are going to be greatly diminished.
Randy: How do you manage people playing on
intranet, and not getting work done?
Steve: When people first encounter the
you have to expect them to play. Playing is how humans learn. It is
playing that they will encounter the "aha" that they need to use the
technology effectively, and it is by playing that they will learn how
to find things efficiently. Playing tends to drop off after the first 6
to 8 weeks and they
get back into their jobs, but now they've got a incredible
to help them do their jobs better.
This isn't to say that there won't be any
Companies have trouble with some employees spending too much time on
telephone calls, playing computer games, reading novels at work, or
socializing. These are management problems, and should be dealt with by
Randy: Could you say that you're developing
thinking skills in your employees?
Steve: Precisely. Kenneth Boulding, the
Prize winning economist, made a comment in the 1960s about education
that seems very relevant today. Since ancient Greek times education has
on learning all the facts about a subject. We became educated by
everything to get the information in your head. But as the amount of
increased, we had to become increasingly specialized and narrow in our
until today many people are so focused they miss important integrating
concepts and opportunities.
He suggested that education needed to make a
shift away from the know everything paradigm. Instead, education should
on teaching students problem identification, solution strategy
and information acquisition skills. The real value is in being able to
and solve problems, and specific information is a tool that is accessed
"just-in-time." It seems that the intranet/internet culture that is
emerging may both require and enable that approach. A friend of mine
phrased this same phenomenon another
way. He said, we used to learn to do, now we do to learn.
There is a great book to read on the relationship
information, biology and economics,. called Bionomics. It's by
Rothschild. It lays out a pretty interesting chart on how the evolution
information drives both biological and economic phenomena.
Randy: You must have a background in
Steve: Sure do; my Ph.D. is in biology. I
you though, it really helps hone your systems skills. Another good book
actually supports the connection between biology and business strategy
The Death of Competition, by James Moore. What's an intranet from the
point of view? It's a complex of self regulating subsystems in a
state of flux, operating on information in an environment that is
changing. As Moore says, managing these complex systems is more like
Randy: Yes, that's great. I quoted Moore a
of times to describe these same phenomena. How do you think Netscape
into all this? They are doing much more than just providing a
Steve: Netscape is clearly moving into the
space, providing higher levels of functionality for large commercial
They also will continue to play in the lower end space, they have to in
to protect their value add space. In the browser space they also are
moving toward incorporating operating systems on the client into the
Microsoft is trying to incorporate browsers into operating systems. The
and enterprises will win as long as vendor-independent standards keep
so it doesn't matter whose browser you have, and diversity stays in the
Randy: Netscape, Sun and Java are on one
Microsoft on the other. How do you see this playing out?
Steve: Java may or may not be the best tool
developing distributed object technology on the web, but they certainly
gotten the mind share, and applications are starting to emerge.
is coming after them full steam with Active X, but as long as Microsoft
only runs on Microsoft platforms, they are violating that principle of
I guess we will see if the intranet has helped
recognize the benefits they acrue from these standards. I'd never
Bill Gates. He clearly has the market leading share of all the base
technology on PCs. It's the old paradigm and he owns 70 percent of the
place. He recognizes that the new paradigm has shifted, and he's
to play because he is selling lots of new stuff too.
I think he's playing multiple strategies right
and his preferred strategy is to use this movement to grab a bigger
of the application market, and then use his near monopoly market share
migrate as many of the key pieces back into his proprietary control as
as possible. The losers in this scenario are the application vendors
space Microsoft invaded, and the users who lose the advantages of
in a standards-based environment.
Randy: What is the future of
Steve: Intranets themselves are evolving a
of directions. Internally they are becoming the standard computing
As such, we will see less emphasis on basic intranets and the focus
move to higher level applications and functions built on top of the
Also, intranets are opening up. Partners and
are being allowed access to parts of each other's intranets. Firewalls
becoming increasingly virtual as access is controlled through other
as well. Ultimately, intranets have the potential to drastically alter
aspects of our lives. If this really is the equivalent of the printing
then look at what the printing press caused. The ability to reproduce
nearly unlimited copies of the Bible in multiple languages removed the
technology barrier that supported the power structure of the Catholic
Church and brought about a religious reformation.
The ease of publishing information in volumes
the education and literacy of the masses, but also created problems
knowing what information was correct. The scientific method came into
to solve the information quality problem, and led to the scientific
revolution, which spawned the industrial revolution. The new
egalitarian culture this flood of information stimulated brought about
both a raft of cottage industries (garage operations) which led Adam
Smith to theories of capitalism and the
birth of modern democracy.
Intranet and Web technology is opening the
of information as never before. If the period after the printing press
any indication, we have an exciting, turbulent future to look forward
A Sun Microsystems Press/Prentice