Step into CGI's 'Internet Inside'

Internet Inside is a CGI project that is being spread across the organization to push information out and keep users connected

Ross Button is a big believer in the one-to-10-to-100 rule.

According to the vice-president of technology leadership at consulting and outsourcing giant CGI Group, the rule means that for every person who actively participates in something, there are around 10 somewhat active people, and probably 100 very inactive people. This, he says, goes a long way towards explaining why so few users contribute to intranets, wikis or other collaborative tools designed to manage knowledge in an enterprise.

Button is the main architect behind Internet Inside, a CGI project that is being spread across the organization to push information out and keep users connected. Part Web-based library, part broadcasting and publishing engine, Internet Inside is already available to more than 1,000 employees, whom CGI calls "members," with an eventual goal of about 5,000. It's also relatively inexpensive -- CGI is using a lot of open source software and basic tweaks to existing products rather than buying a single vendor's system.

CGI is currently studying what elements of Internet Inside it could offer to customers. Button gives a behind-the-scenes look at how its collaboration platform works.

Stop pulling, start pushing

Like a lot of companies, CGI had already set up a number of portals by the time Button joined the firm to establish a technology leadership program.

"What we didn't have was the environment that would support connections of both people to knowledge and people to people," he says. "E-mail is great if you know who you want to talk to." Because most CGI employees check their Microsoft Outlook e-mail client each morning, however, Button's team started pushing out the kind of information companies wish employees would check for on their corporate intranets.

"Think of an HTML-formatted e-mail that sort of represents what they would have seen if they had gone to a portal," Button explains. Although CGI started out using basic really simple syndication (RSS) feeds, it was proving hard to change users' behavior to adopt them, he says. Instead, his team developed its own RSS report writer, which provides a weekly snapshot of a portal with links within the message. It has also integrated open source content management platform Drupal with its Exchange environment. The whole thing may sound like a regular employee newsletter, but Button says it works better than most.

"People don't go to portals. People don't sign up," he says.

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