The vision for a one-stop-shop portal for internal and external audiences is soon to be one step closer to reality. CG Portal will soon roll out Phase II of the multi-phased introduction of the new portal and its myriad new offerings.
Phase I was successfully launched in March and introduced the collaboration tool that replaced the micro-site and communities areas in CG Central. Phase II will complete the migration of tools and services from CG Central to CG Portal with the introduction of a content management system that will serve as the primary platform for command and unit intranet websites and the publishing of internal content.
When Phase II comes online, CG Central will remain in place for three weeks before permanently going away. I think it is fair to ask, what happened to CG Central? And how will CG Portal be different? The answer from LT Kerry Feltner, the project manager for CG Portal is straightforward. “They tried to do too much.”
In developing CG Central, the Coast Guard bought off the shelf software that met its perceived needs. As the project progressed, more and more requirements were added. To address the new requirements, layers of code were added to customize the software to address the ever-increasing requirements. As time went on and traffic increased, the code could not be updated to adapt to changing needs and new software could not be purchased and implemented because it would not be compatible with the existing “customized” software package that was the foundation for CG Central. The result was a platform that could not perform optimally (Ok, it was SLOOOOW), could not adapt to reflect changing needs and requirements, and ultimately was rejected as a suitable platform by internal Coast Guard customers.
According to Feltner, CG Portal will not make the same mistakes. There will be no “customized” layer of code to meet specific requirements. Instead, requirements will be addressed by adaptable off-the-shelf solutions. That, Feltner says, will enable continued performance over time. Other key goals for CG Portal will be to enhance the end-user experience through improved security, organization, content, speed and access.
These are tall tasks, but Feltner is confident that CG Portal will meet or exceed expectations. One key upgrade is the content management system (CMS), which will enable much simpler publishing for Coast Guard organizations. Quite simply, the new CMS allows publishers to produce content in one location or bucket. It is then automatically replicated on various sites aimed at different users or audiences. When the content needs to be upgraded or removed, it can be done in one location.
The new CMS also makes it easier for anyone to use the new platform to publish content, by using tools that are popular and familiar to many folks, even those with very limited technical skills (note: you won’t need HTML skills). The idea is to create an environment that is easy to use so that more content can be added to meet a broad range of end user demands, interests and tastes. And if more people use it, the more operationally significant the platform becomes for the Coast Guard, its communities of interest and the general public.
Another key goal is development of an enterprise-wide search function. Feltner warns that they are not there yet, but it is something they are working towards. Right now the search function is split between the content side and the collaboration side. A search done in these areas will yield results in just those sections. Eventually, the goal is to create a search function that spans the entire enterprise. We can hope that it will come sooner rather than later, but for now Feltner and his team have other, more pressing, tasks at hand.
One thing we won’t have to wait for is the ability to personalize content. Individual users will be able to utilize an RSS feed reader, bookmarks and other tools to personalize content based on individual needs and tastes. Feltner also promises that it will be a robust platform for future social media applications. “It’s all about getting users to the content,” Feltner said.
Other key highlights include, providing access from the Internet using a common access card (CAC) for those individuals with an account in the Coast Guard active directory. This is a huge benefit to reservists who will be able to stay up-to-date and access critical information while not on duty. It will also provide for integration with the Coast Guard Business Intelligence System, that enables a more prepared, nimble and dynamic organization.
Feltner and his team are still working out a few remaining issues, but he is confident that the Phase II roll out will happen soon. The main change that people can expect to see is a new CG Portal homepage with navigation tabs. The collaboration area that now serves as the homepage will remain the same and be accessible by choosing the collaboration tab on the home page.
After Phase II is introduced, Feltner will have little time to catch his breath before moving forward with Phase III. This phase takes the technologies used to power the CG Portal intranet and adds a new level of functionality to serve both internal and external audiences, transforming an internal communications tool into a multi-dimensional portal for all audiences. Feltner expects the rollout of Phase III to occur sometime in the second quarter of CY 2010. Expect to see another update with more specifics after the New Year.
Feltner asks that Commands evaluate their content on CG Central and be prepared to move it or work with the Operations Systems Center for assistance. Guidance on Phase II content migration is available in the Phase II section of the Library in the CG Portal Knowledge Base. He encourages folks to continue to check in with the Knowledge Base to stay informed on CG Portal Phase II and Phase III progress.