Treasury forms intranet to network with staff

The Treasury Department has begun to use its telecommunications network backbone as a corporate intranet deploying a set of World Wide Web-based software applications designed to help employees exchange information and collaborate on departmentwide projects.Using the Treasury Communications System (TCS) as an intranet has been part of the vision for the nationwide network for the past two years but the department started to develop and use these applications only a few months ago.

Eventually said Brian Carman acting director of the Treasury Office of Telecommunications Management the network could help the department "to break down traditional organizational stovepipes."

Treasury may be the first government agency to use the Web to bring its bureaus together said Tom McKeown president of Vista Group International a Vienna Va. consulting firm that is helping Treasury plan future network services.

"The network Treasury is building is going to be an information infrastructure to disseminate and process information " he said.The applications Treasury has developed include:

* A set of electronic forums to be launched by the end of this month for discussions among the chief information officers chief financial officers and computer security staff in various Treasury bureaus.

* A database of small businesses interested in Treasury contracts which was demonstrated earlier this month that procurement officers can use to identify contractors.

* An Administrative Intranet Service or AdminNet which Treasury expects to roll out this summer that Treasury employees involved in TCS planning have started to use to set up meetings post presentations and discuss project proposals.

"There's a lot of interest in using the intranet also as a way to actually redesign the way work flows across the department " Carman said adding that applications involving forms processing and document approval are in the works.

The small-business database and AdminNet were developed with Lotus Development Corp.'s Notes a groupware platform. By using Lotus's Web-compatible Domino server Treasury is able to deliver both applications to employees who do not use Notes clients.

"What they wanted to try to do is provide a capability that anyone could get a hold of whether they had a [Notes] client or a Web browser " said Alicia Paddock director of collaborative network services with DynCorp which is building AdminNet.

"Web technology provides a common user interface " Carman said. "Once users are familiar with a Web browser it's fairly transparent to them whether they're working at some Internet site or working on an intranet application."

In addition McKeown said Web technology can provide a bridge between different proprietary systems so users with different platforms can communicate. For typical users an intranet application may be just another icon on their desktops.

So far intranet applications are not so widespread that most Treasury employees use them. For example Carman said interest in capabilities such as the electronic forums are likely to "trickle down" as executives incorporate them into their office operations. "We've basically created a model or template that we can use and establish additional forums for other communities throughout the department as we identify the need or they identify the need to us " Carman said.

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