The day I was stopped from using JavaScript on the intranet


This was some time back in the early 2000’s. I managed the intranet for an Irish insurance company as part of a small team. We were called E-Media which I suppose was a forerunner for a digital workplace team. My manager was a very smart person! We did stuff that didn’t really fit in anywhere else. And I ‘did’ the intranet.

And it was a bit of a clunker from a software platform point of view. We used an online document system called Trove with customised, static HTML pages at the front end to make it more visually appealing. I could publish home page links with a headline, summary, an icon and a link using a form based on Perl scripting (yes it is that old). And it worked to a point. Of course I wanted to improve it.

A guy in IT had built all this before I arrived. I was replacing the business intranet person who was heading to Australia for a year. And this guy quickly took a dislike to me as typically, I was full of ideas on how to improve the intranet. In fact he scared me (and most people). I used to hate seeing his name come up on my phone (I knew it could only mean trouble) or if an email popped into my mailbox. So the intranet was somewhat his ‘baby’. And I was interfering.

Now the Trove document management system was a Microsoft Word based server tool which used macros to publish to the intranet. And I was the only one who had a clue how it worked. IT hated it and wouldn’t provide any support for it. They wouldn’t build any additional functionality for the intranet either. So over time I started building HTML sub sites for different communications programmes or activities. I was using Dreamweaver.  And mostly it went well, I didn’t hear anything from IT and people liked using the sites.

One day in HR, a person asked if there was any way the intranet could be used for mock or practice tests for people doing insurance exams. I’d said I’d have a look at it and see what I could do. Now I was not and still am not a developer. And this was at least 15 years ago. Web technology has evolved massively since then.

So I found some JavaScript on the web which allowed me to create a question and answer course and give a total at the end. Pretty basic but it did the trick. I did up an example for HR and they were delighted with it. I created two courses (basically a page with about 20 multiple choice questions) and a submit button to get your total. And it was released into the wild and people started using it.

And then IT saw it. Well ‘the IT guy’ saw it and went nuts. ‘How dare you use JavaScript on the intranet? Who showed you? How did you do it? Who in IT signed off on that?’ Etc., etc., etc.

He complained to the IT Director who complained to my manager. She was bemused and backed me fully. But she was outnumbered and the IT Director had more clout. So I was banned from using JavaScript on the intranet. Yes, that was what I was told. Stick to Trove and leave the techie stuff to IT.

“Get back in your box,” they more or less said.

A few years later, SharePoint 2007 was introduced from the UK as part of the global intranet platform and that replaced Trove. IT in Ireland were not too happy with SharePoint either and guess where support, training, adoption, promotion and development for SharePoint ended up?

Yes. Back in MY box….!

And the conclusion?

Tricky one this. On one hand it’s about clearly coordinating changes and updates with IT to make sure an intranet is continually improved and developed. On the other hand, it is learning how to deal with the closed mind that sometimes pervades in IT departments where the default answer is ‘no’. I’ll admit to being a bit of a rogue and going off and building things myself. That’s one of the reasons I liked SharePoint so much as it allowed me to do so much without any need for IT involvement. Not that they would have been able to support me anyway as they had no expertise with SharePoint.

Having a clear intranet strategy and roadmap that is agreed by all the relevant stakeholders is key. As an intranet manager you have to know where you want to go. Getting there is of course the main battle!


“Our #intranet sucks”

New Intranet Authors Masterclass from Andrew Gilleran to improve your intranet content. Short, focused and very practical session for up to 10 people. Book now:

Who am I and what do I do?

Andrew Gilleran is a SharePoint, Office 365, and Yammer consultant, trainer, and user adoption specialist based in Dublin, Ireland. His focus now is on ‘sustainable adoption’ for the end user with SharePoint and Office 365 especially for intranets and collaboration.  | Twitter: @agilleran

Cross posted on Medium