The other week I stumbled on this fantastic piece by Susan Oh of Ragan.com about a 50 day effort by the BC government to relaunch its intranet set.
Yes, 50 days.
If you run a large organization’s intranet site I encourage to read the piece. (Alternatively, if you are forced (or begged) to use one, forward this article to someone in charge). The measured results are great – essentially a doubling in pretty much all the things you want to double (like participation) – but what is really nice is how quick and affordable the whole project was, something rarely seen in most bureaucracies.
Here is an intranet for 30,000 employees, that “was rebuilt from top to bottom within 50 days with only three developers who were learning the open-source platform Drupal as they as went along.”
I beg someone in the BC government to produce an example of such a significant roleout being accomplished with so few resources. Indeed, it sounds eerily similar to GCPEDIA (available to 300,000 people using open source software and 1 FTE, plus some begged and borrowed resources) and OPSPedia (a test project also using open source software with tiny rollout costs). Notice a pattern?
Across our governments (not to mention a number of large conservative companies) there are tiny pockets where resourceful teams find a leader or project manager willing to buck the idea that a software implementations must be a multi-year, multimillion dollar roll out. And they are making the lives of public servants better. God knows our public servants need better tools, and quickly. Even the set of tools being offered in the BC examples weren’t that mind-blowing, pretty basic stuff for anyone operating as a knowledge worker.
I’m not even saying that what you do has to be open source (although clearly, the above examples show that it can allow one to move speedily and cheaply) but I suspect that the number of people (and the type of person) interested in government would shift quickly if, internally, they had this set of tools at their disposal. (Would love to talk to someone at Canada’s Food Inspection Agency about their experience with Socialtext)
The fact is, you can. And, of course, this quickly get us to the real problem… most governments and large corporations don’t know how to deal with the cultural and power implications of these tools.
We’ll we’d better get busy experimenting and trying cause knowledge workers will go where they can use their and their peers brains most effectively. Increasingly, that isn’t government. I know I’m a fan of the long tail of public policy, but we’ve got to fix government behind the firewall, otherwise their won’t be a government behind the firewall to fix.
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