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Intranets--Inside Connection

March 1998
Your company is going through change—change that requires training—training that requires manuals. So you print out documentation that describes the new procedures and policies. Unfortunately, the moment you distribute the manuals, they become obsolete. Certain documentation in certain departments demands additions.

What do you do? Painstakingly track down the erroneous manuals, fix them, then send them back?

Yeah, right.

"Nobody ever chases down and updates the 100 copies that were distributed," notes Gerry Thornton, director of information services at Lehigh Press in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Now, picture this scenario. Instead of printing and distributing manuals, you post all of the pages electronically in a single area accessible only to your employees. Using a Web browser, they can call up the information on their computers—information that you can update quickly and easily whenever you want. All you need to do is design the pages as you would a Web site—using the same standards and protocols—but, instead of posting the pages to the Internet, you post them to your private network.

Welcome to the convenient world of intranets.

This is the world Lehigh hopes to inhabit by the end of the month. The printer is in the midst of designing an intranet that will give workers access to telephone listings, benefits information and, best of all, policy manuals.

Currently, Lehigh is undergoing BPA (business process analysis) re-engineering. The company has written new software, called Delta, to automate functions like estimating, scheduling and job planning. "We're trying to blur the lines between the automation and the business," Thornton explains.

BPA and Delta are changing the way employees do their jobs. In the past, Lehigh would send out manuals, explaining the changes, to each of its five plants. Not anymore. Lehigh's facilities are tied into a WAN, and, with the intranet, employees at each operation will be able to use a browser to learn how the new procedures affect their work. This should make the transition easier—and quicker.

At press time, 30 percent of Lehigh's intranet was complete, and the design, in general, was moving smoothly. According to Thornton, the company already had the proper infrastructure in place for an intranet. Lehigh has benefited tremendously from the commonality and functionality of Microsoft software. "The same infrastructure that supports all that, you can ride on top of with Web pages," Thornton says. "Our remote access software works that way. It's all bundled together."
 

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