Product review: Tool gets users involved

If you can't build it, buy it. That's a tenet we've all followed for a long time in this industry. So if you have Lotus Domino and you find yourself agonising over building a few custom applications, consider buying Changepoint's involv Intranet 3.0 instead.

The involv Intranet is a collection of Domino databases and database templates that provides a complete intranet application system. The key value of this product is that it allows users to easily create capable intranet applications that perform routine functions, such as discussion groups or project tracking applications. As a result, users can get quick support for basic job functions without taking up valuable administrator time.

I was impressed with involv Intranet's capabilities and the fullness of its feature set. The product's most direct competitor is perhaps Lotus' Domino Intranet Starter Pack. Both products offer a familiar range of capabilities, but Changepoint's product offers much more in terms of hosting user applications.

The involv Intranet's workspace is pretty eye-catching. The custom applications, while providing good functionality, took a little getting used to. The involv Intranet is organised with a tabbed-notebook style interface. It provides each user with a view of the corporate intranet home page, his or her own personalised space, a view of the intranet user directory, and an applications page, which allows the user to quickly create a custom application and share it with others.

The involv Intranet home page provides users with access to nine basic applications that are common to virtually any intranet, such as a corporate calendar, an employee guide, and a contact database. These applications provide a strong foundation for your intranet.

In addition, involv Intranet provides 10 pre-built application templates that make it easy for users, rather that administrators, to create a new instance of an application.

One of the product's strengths is that it makes it easy to bring external users into the system. For example, users can submit a request to the administrator to add a new external user.

As an administrator, I was able to quickly process such requests from the product's Notes-based administration panel. The involv Intranet automatically created the user, assigned a password, and sent this information to the user via e-mail.

General administration tasks in involv Intranet were easy to perform, and the product provides a lot of flexibility for administrators to determine which applications users can create or how administration can be distributed. On the other hand, only some of these tasks could be performed in a browser, while others required a traditional Notes client.

This latest version of the product provides improved integration for sites that want to use both native Notes clients and browser-based clients. However, Changepoint needs to make the user experience from each of these access methods more consistent.

Although the setup routine has improved over the previous version, there were still quite a few steps that I felt could have been automated. In addition, the documentation wasn't always clear about precisely what I needed to do to complete a task. That said, I was able to make it through the installation unscathed.

All in all, involv Intranet 3.0 is a good solution for sites that want to bring up an intranet fast and give users the power to quickly create collaborative productivity applications. If you find that you are too busy to build an intranet yourself, you might want to buy it from Changepoint.

Senior Analyst Jeff Symoens (jeff_symoens@infoworld.com) reviews enterprise platforms and services at the InfoWorld Test Centere.

The bottom line: very good

involv Intranet 3.0

This add-on for Lotus Domino is a packaged intranet solution that lets users quickly create template-based applications as they need them.

Pros: Comfortable user interface; provides shared applications as well as a variety of custom application templates; fairly easy to administer; allows easy access to applications by external users.

Cons: Lacks consistency between the Notes client and browser-based experience for both user access and administration; delegating administrative authority lacks granularity; installation process could be improved.

Price: $US5000 per server; user licences start at $90 per user.

Platforms: requires Domino 4.6 on Windows NT 4.0.

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