Got a new contracting gig, outfit of 250 people. They want an internal web portal, intended to be the start homepage of everyone’s browser so that when people sit down every morning they can read (and management or whoever can post and edit) newsletters, a shared calendar system, a document sharing/collaboration/storage system, a staff directory, an HR and Accounting info/resource page, a photo gallery and a message board; a list that will evolve I’m sure. When this was being described to me I interrupted and said, “Okay so basically you want your own private Facebook” – “Exactly” was the collective response.

I need to create some proofs-of-concept for that wish list to work hopefully within one iframe, title nav bar with their logo on top. Two things they are not interested in is the cloud and Sharepoint (fine with me). So right now I’m whipping up some naked installations of what I want to be as few separate components to this as possible to satisfy their wishes to see if I can make them at all cohesive with each other.

For the photo gallery, unless that’s a function adequately fulfilled by some other CMS, I’m thinking Gallery2 which I know pretty well. For a message board, phpBB or vBulletin. For weekly newsletters or content that someone would want to be able to edit more than a forum post as well as the staff directory, perhaps Joomla weaved in. And for the staff directory, shared calendars, document sharing, Zimbra is looking good (their website at least) and I’ll fire up the demo once I’m sure it won’t screw up Apache with its own web server.

They don’t need any of Zimbra’s email functionality, but it covers at least three items potentially. The contacts would not be linked to their regular LDAP, same with the calendars. Separate thing, regardless of whether Zimbra plays nice with Exchange or not. Based on that, Joomla sounds right for the contacts if they only want a handful of people able to add people’s names, pictures, some contact information and that’s it, no need for something fancier (or simpler I should probably say).

Is there any single chunk of software that will do all or most of this? Any way I can condense some of these? If not, any way to cut down the number of times people have to log into things, a master login for everyone somehow? That’s at least three different things to administer on top of a server to administer and the goal is to get these people to think the rank-and-file will want to use it. I want to sell a system on them without having to sell having to hire someone full-time to make the thing work, not in the same sales pitch. Trying to parlay this into something.

Thanks fellas.

Doug Simmons


  1. may i recommend setting up a wiki server? i have personally setup one for my IT department and it offers a lot of the functionality that you are requesting. to top it all off i initially ran it off of a desktop before moving it to a official server with no issues. check out wikimedia, there are tons of addins to add functionality to the base installation of the wikimedia software

  2. WebSphere Portal, the description sounds promising but the price tag may be way too steep for this outfit, a nonprofit. On the other hand, if it turns out to be the only game in town to satisfy what these people want, I’ll show them the demo page once IBM fixes it.

    Wiki, hadn’t thought of that. That I can toss on immediately and screw with, think I’ll do that right now.

    Thanks guys, I appreciate this.

  3. Yes I do realize that. But for whatever reason Sharepoint’s not an option.

    Very impressed by MediaWiki. Might be all I need once I make my way through the list of extensions.

  4. Make a pitch for Sharepoint.

    Use the real-deal Designer tools, and lobby with the IT Department to take the shackles off it.

    Sharepoint gets a bad rap because about 80% of its functionality (and 90% of its aesthetic appeal) are TURNED OFF by IT departments for bogus security reasons. There are some really good intranets out there on Sharepoint, and by looking at them, you would never know they are Sharepoint.

    Seriously — so much of what you want is already baked in, it would be foolish not to explore it with the IT people. Maybe get a demo of a company that does it right.

    Once your team sees what it *can* be (instead of the steaming pile of mess it looks like with all the block-head defaults) then you might have a winner.

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