Here at Phase2 we get many requests from organizations looking to use Open Atrium as an Intranet portal or internal group collaboration tool. While Open Atrium is well-suited for these needs it can also be leveraged to create public-facing project sites as well, see http://inec.usip.org/.
Public-facing sites on Open Atrium can utilize Atrium’s group features to engage community members and project participants in discussion. Open Atrium can be customized to meet an organization’s community engagement needs by leveraging its base set of features and adding new features as required to meet the specific needs of your internal groups.
Beyond creating one public-facing site, organizations large and small struggle with the question of how to create, manage, and maintain multiple program specific sub-sites in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Most of the time, the need for building program sub-sites are not one-off requests, so creating a single site for every instance becomes too cumbersome and time intensive, and can adversely affect organizational branding.
The real savings (time and costs) to an organization are realized when the flexible and extensible Open Atrium distribution is built into a platform using a management tool like Aegir for rapid deployment of new sites. Although not commonly used in this fashion, we think this is an amazing adaptation of Open Atrium and are currently implementing this approach on our community engagement sites for OpenPublic and OpenPublish.
Developing a unified collaboration platform for program sub-sites will reduce the management and development efforts of creating multiple sites in any organization. Although programs manage the sites individually, the master platform contains the unified source code for all program sites. So, if any program in the organization wants to build a new feature for enhanced functionality, it will then be available to all other programs once the code is rolled into an updated version of your Open Atrium install. Additionally, using the platform approach allows for the creation of master branding across all sub-sites while still affording flexibility in how each program presents its content. Since Open Atrium is a Drupal distribution the administrative interface is intuitive for program staff to easily manage content as well as group permissions. This allows for consistency in training and content management across projects within your organization decreasing the learning curve and training efforts over time.
In addition to using public facing branded sub-sites, organizations can also set up private groups for work collaboration. So while you are building a public community of awareness around your program, your experts can be working behind the scenes on creating their next publication, event or related tools.
If your organization is thinking about how to strategically create and manage a network of project sites, Open Atrium is a great starting point. To see a an example of Open Atrium as an extranet platform visit the U.S. Institute of Peace’s additional extranet sites (http://peacemedia.usip.org/, http://iranprimer.usip.org/, http://glossary.usip.org/). Also, be on the lookout for the OpenPublic community site in the next few weeks for another example of how this works.
We love to hear from the community so let us know how you are leveraging Open Atrium in your organization.