Friday, April 18, 2003

Delivering on the Promise

Steve Ranger at Computing has picked up on one of the projects we've got running right now and published a nice, short piece on it this week's issue, although DotP has been talked about on the e-envoy website for a while (just search for "DotP"). We'll be ready to go live pretty soon and from then, government departments will have access to a high end content management system. What's hot about that? A couple of things really, (1) CMS implementations are complicated things. A lot of preparatory work has to be done up front to determine what the existing site looks like, how you'll want it to look in the new environment, what the workflow should look like, who will have access to what, how will you manage digital assets and which ones will you manage and so on. Almost all government websites are static HTML today so there's going to be a big swing toward worrying about this kind of thing over the next year or two. (2) If everyone implements a different CMS in a different way, we'll pretty much be back where we started with lots of different looking websites, managed differently (although better I'd hope), with little consistency of design principle. Having one that is ready now, that handles consistent navigation, accessibility guidlines, multiple browsers, customised workflow and with a large range of templates makes it quicker and cheaper to implement and gives us a much higher chance of consistent output; which, in turn, makes the citizen's life easier. (3) The entire engine is built as a database. Most CMS require you to think about "dynamic content" and "static content" and treat them differerently. Workflow is hard-coded as are the templates. Everything inside DotP is inside a big Oracle database - so there's no code to write. In fact, tests so far show that 91% of a big department's needs can be met from a core range of 15 already available templates, meaning that all that must be done to go live is set up an information architecture, define the workflow and access controls (again in the database, no code) and migrate. That latter point, one simple word "migrate", hides a lot of pain - but at least the technology will be there to underpin it all. This is a pretty big step for content management - what we've done here is ahead of "package" solutions and ahead of much of what has been done in the corporate world. A lot of people have worked incredibly hard to make this happen, from inside my team and from our vendor partners, Sapient and Loudcloud. It's going to be great to turn it on and see how people like it for real, after weeks and weeks of testing!

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