Oasis: the case for intranets

In 1997, when I and the company I was working for at the time recognized the power of the intranet, I was given an opportunity to design and manage a new corporate intranet site. The first question many people asked was "what's the difference?"

In Open Market's case, the difference was this: the extranet was a Web site containing corporate material relevant and useful not just to employees but also to customers, partners and suppliers. It provided relatively simple data: white papers, stock lists and so on. The technical innovation employed here was in terms of access—showing different material to different people based on their access credentials.

Conversely, the intranet was relatively simple in terms of access—most people had access to most material, although a few areas were restricted to a few, named individuals. NT directory security handled this. The innovation for the intranet was all the tools we employed. Oasis, the Open Market intranet, comprised:

  • a database of employee records used to maintain a phone/e-mail list
  • a conference room registration system
  • a daily front-page newsletter (comprised of reformatted, one-paragraph e-mails sent by employees over the previous 24-hour period)
  • a document management system that allowed employees to post any kind of document up on the Web in real time
  • online forms for ordering business cards, claiming vacation and requesting or reserving travel documents
  • a structured set of top-level pages describing the company departments and projects
  • corporate overview material such as company goals, objectives and codes of conduct
  • site-specific details such as directions, clubs, discounts and other perks

Eventually, everything an employee needed to know was available from Oasis, from "how much vacation do I have left?" to buying stock options, from filing an expense report claim to the engineering schedule for a specific project.