Category Archives: joomla

Joomla Intranet & shared services

I have just completed a Joomla intranet project. Two district councils are embarking upon a programme of “shared services” in an attempt to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

As part of this programme, these district councils are to share a common intranet, removing the need to renew licences for a propriety content management system. This was part of the reasoning behind the choice of Joomla! to power the intranet. Another reason they chose Joomla! was the belief it would be cheaper than Drupal!

Govt Considers Open Source – again

The Guardian recently reported that Bill McCluggage of the Cabinet Office met with ICT suppliers and that he,

emphasised that the government wishes to see the industry offer more solutions based on open source, and listed a number of approaches that it expects it to follow. These include: evaluating open source solutions in all future proposals; including open standards and interoperability as key components in IT systems; and moving towards the use of open source as normal practice.

Will this make a real difference to the SME market? Well, my Leicester web design company is currently working with two district councils implementing a joint intranet using Joomla! They already use Drupal to power their website & plumped for Joomla! for the intranet to save even more money. We’ve also implemented Joomla! websites for a number of Probation Trusts.

So, some local government and public bodies are certainly willing to go down the open source route. But there are compromises that taking this road sometimes entail. Few Open Source content management systems will offer the same level of functionality that the high end enterprise level systems often offer. They can be added, like workflow in Joomla! or snapshots & rollback in Drupal, but these rarely come out of the box.

I recently read a tender document from another district council for a new CMS. Looking at the “Highly Desirable” list of functionality, it had the appearance of a requirements document that was written several years ago, when money was relatively plentiful. It is certainly not a “austerity” shopping list. As it stands, I don’t know of a single Open Source CMS that could meet these requirements “out of the box”. So, this district council will either have to buy a commercial package or pay for someone to heavily customise Plone, Drupal, Joomla or ….. (add your favourite Open Source CMS here). This could even make Open Source as expensive as a proprietary solution to deliver.

Perhaps a better way round now would be to employ someone to investigate what an Open Source CMS can deliver, and then negotiate the requirements in the light of what is available. As part of this process, the people responsible should also employ the red marker pen more judiciously. For example, instead of insisting that the CMS pre-checks content for accessibility before publication, they should ensure that editors are trained to write accessible content (one of the “Highly Desirable” functions referenced above). Technology is always a poor substitute for personal responsibility.

So, Open Source can be a viable option for local and central government, but they need to cut their clothe accordingly. Only then will the SME market stand a chance of delivering cost effective solutions. Otherwise I fear that it will be the big consulting firms who will deliver Open Source to government, with a price tag that benefits only themselves.

Ebay + Joomla = trend?

Ebay has announced that it has elected to use the open source Joomla! CMS (content management system) to launch a community portal as part of eBay’s internal analytics platform.

The press release continues, “Known as “community analytics,” the initiative will be accessible by eBay’s 16,400 employees, and will incorporate social aspects of active collaboration, including content creation, sharing and open discussion. Joomla CMS supports eBay’s expansion of community-oriented knowledge sharing and information discovery.”

This announcement of a large corporation electing to use Joomla! follows closely on that of Tesco’s news that it too is using Joomla! to power an employee training application. Tesco hopes that its Academy Online Joomla! application will eventually serve some 400,000 employees worldwide.

Why are two large, multi-national companies selecting Joomla! to power these staff applications? Well, reduced cost is obviously a key factor – cost of development, cost of ownership, opportunity costs, etc, are all reduced when using a widely used and tested open source platform.

Another factor is the number of “off the shelf” extensions available to the Joomla! platform. These again reduce costs and also demonstrate the potential of the platform.

A final factor may be that business is finally ‘getting’ open source. And as one big name after another chooses the platform, it makes it easier for others to do the same.

However, has the public sector ‘got’ open source yet? Sometime ago my suggestion that a county council should use Joomla! to power its intranet was laughed off by their intranet project manager, with the response that Joomla! was fine for ‘mom & pop’ websites but not for something as ‘mission critical’ as the council’s intranet. It seems Tesco & Ebay know something this individual didn’t.

Recently though, we have been involved in exploratory discussions with a British public sector organisation to provide shared services for regional staff using Joomla! as the platform. Still early days but the promise to improve on their existing situation while reducing costs has certainly got their interest. So, it may just be that circumstances are forcing open source onto the public sector agenda.