Wednesday Mar 04, 2009

From Wild and Wacky to Reality



I spent much of this week in meetings about our emerging new intranet, and by the end of it all, I was so excited about where we are and where we're heading that I (almost) didn't mind the two-hour delay at SFO to get home.

Eighteen months ago, we started out on a mission that was pretty cool – if a little out there – to create a corporate intranet that lives on the edge, that is 90 percent customizable by employees, that can link to any widget or gadget out there, and that is device agnostic. In the airport and need to check something on our website? Enter through your iPhone or Blackberry. Need access from a kiosk? No problem. On your home computer? Welcome.

We wanted to not only say goodbye to firewalls but to the entire idea that a company intranet is primarily an information forcing function. Rather, we wanted our new intranet to be employees' home away from home – for work as well as personal interests. We wanted a place where employees could build communities, share expertise, and – yes – have fun online. So we've figured out a way to keep your Twitter tweets in full view, let you hop over to Facebook, Ning, or whatever social networking pavilion you like. A place where you can quickly take care of business, be it an HR transaction or collaboration on a project. A place where you choose what's important to you, instead of us making that decision for you.

The project has been known as SunWeb Next at times, and other times as Project 90/10, because corporate will control only 10 percent of your home page – employees will personalize the other 90 percent. Lately though, we've started calling it “The Mother of All Aggregators Site.” Or “mother,” but only affectionately, of course!

Our new website will really be an extranet, and we see it as a way to go to where employees are, rather than expecting them to come to us. Pilots begin this month, and with many fingers and toes crossed, we hope for broad rollout in early fall. Our team conversations are shifting from architecture and platforms to risk management, governance, template creation, channel and content migration, change management and communication. And to tell you the truth? What still needs to happen feels overwhelming and scary. But what a privilege to birth this particular baby.

This has been a cross-Sun effort, with so much help from so many groups. Include Clear Ink, our talented and fun partner in this adventure. And while there have been tussles over whose technology to use and what are corporate versus local decisions, they have been fought and resolved with a positively inspiring “Sun First” mindset. I started this project as such a technology newbie that I scared myself. While I'm not planning on programming your next project, I have managed to learn a ton about the brave new world of e-communities, and what it takes to make them work. So stay tuned, because I hope to be able to show you more very soon. And it will be the worth the wait. Guaranteed.


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