Intranet goals advancing

July 30, 2015

Sharepoint usage

Employees will find that each department has a specific site to help organize ongoing projects, research and communications.

The North Dakota University System’s group charged with building up the local Intranet into an information clearinghouse made another step forward.

The Inside.NDUS Strategy Team held a teleconference recently to get its members back on track just before the holiday weekend. The revamping of mission comes after a large push last year to get the Inside.NDUS site into more widespread usage over the commonly-used shared drive. Now, after the conclusion of the legislative session and with a new Chancellor on board, the team was able to begin refocusing its efforts to get the eventual SharePoint migration back on track.

The migration is intended to update certain modes of communication. System office and CTS employees historically communicated through varied internal and external mediums, including millions of emails. The Intranet is effectively poised to reduce some of that by serving as a one-stop shop for HR announcements, system-wide news, collaborative projects, research, forms and reports.

Vice Chancellor of Strategic Engagement Linda Donlin said the transition to regular use of the password-protected site would boost productivity and keep employees informed. She has been spearheading the efforts surrounding the SharePoint site since its inception.

“This process is designed to bring everyone along at a steady pace in a crawl-walk-run process,” Donlin said. “It went live last September and since then has become the first thing employees check when they start their day. We want it to be as easy as possible for all our NDUS team to read the news of the day and access the tools they need to do their jobs.”

Jerry Rostad, director of Advanced Learning Technologies, said one challenge in making SharePoint the go-to method of information exchange within NDUS was its sheer scope.

“Because SharePoint is so capable of doing all of its tasks, it can be hard for people to understand exactly what it does,” Rostad said, adding that the team would need to take on that task to ensure the Intranet would come into more common use. “In general, Inside.NDUS is a communication and collaboration tool specifically intended internal use.”

The site was built with a handful of goals in mind. First, it would house all the relevant system data currently being stored on the external website, www.ndus.edu. Second, it would have to be easily searchable in order to cut down on what could be series’ of labyrinthine folders and file names. Third, it would have to be a site where employees could collaborate easily to be able to edit team documents and reference other team’s work. Fourth, it would have to be efficient and accessible enough to someday be an option for implementation among the 11 colleges and universities.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and resources building this so that if campuses decided to use this locally, they could,” Donlin said.

Rostad said the purpose was to make it as easily searchable as possible, not just for SO/CTS staff, but for eventual use as a tool by the State Board of Higher Education and the campuses themselves.

Newland said things were going smoothly.

“I’ve been pretty happy about this and am looking forward to further progress,” he said, adding that the shared drive wouldn’t disappear entirely right away. Once the migration was underway, teams would be able to use their “team site” as a research library of sorts.

He noted that SharePoint was essentially a next-generation file server that also functioned as a web server, and a workflow and process tool. That high range of functionality allowed it to “wear a lot of hats,” he said, including eventual replacement of the entire shared drive and potential system-wide accessibility and availability.

Rostad said the site was built as an open records system, so the general concept was to keep things as open and available as possible, first for System Office and Core Technology Services staff, and further extended to all NDUS faculty and staff. That openness was combined with the data classification and Information Security Standard to keep the system open, yet secure.

According to Rostad, the migration process was already underway, with some departments in SO/CTS well down the path with others getting started.