Successful directory projects require a dedicated effort

How many directory geeks does it take to change a light bulb? First, you have to form a cross-functional team to inventory how many light bulbs are in use across the company. Next, you must form a schema committee to name the light bulbs. You must also map the flow of each light bulb back to its authoritative sources.

In this case, humour does not exaggerate. Integrating and consolidating your intranet and extranet (or e-business) directory environment will optimize administration, increase security, improve productivity, enable faster application deployment, and help lay the foundation for scalable e-business rollouts. But the benefits can only be realized through a long, complex process.

This directory process isn’t about ever getting to a “single” directory. It’s about managing directory information more efficiently across multiple, ever-changing systems, applications and platforms. It’s a dual-pronged effort to consolidate your numerous redundant, special-purpose directories into a smaller set of general-purpose directories and integrate the directories that remain.

Regardless of which directory your project is focused around, some truths are immutable. You never fully finish a directory project. You can’t rush to deployment. You need to develop a sound directory architecture and migration plan. The architecture must specify naming, schema and authoritative sources for data as well as security policies and hosting criteria. The migration plan must select products and define a roadmap for directory integration over time.

Master the process by taking these problems in order. First, establish a directory team and project plan. Then develop a sound architecture and migration strategy, select strategic vendors and partners, deploy a Phase 1 general-purpose directory system, and begin integrating directories and data sources throughout the company on an ongoing basis.

Most importantly, early on you need to decide who’s really responsible for the directory. Although no one person can really “own” the whole directory infrastructure, someone needs to own the process of building and caring for the directory infrastructure. The directory owner could be the directory development manager, an enterprise architecture manager, a security manager or a manager of enterprise applications. Whoever it is, that person must have the backing of an executive sponsor and a team of directory stakeholders.

System and application owners must be willing to participate on the directory team, follow change control procedures and meet deadlines. When the going gets tough, they must be willing to contribute resources to clean up dirty data or perform other tasks. Users must be willing to pilot, application developers must be willing to follow guidelines and business units may need to give up some flexibility.

Simply put, changing directory light bulbs requires a company-wide effort that is 80 per cent process and only 20 per cent technical. It requires a supportive team, and an owner who cares passionately about directories.

Blum is senior vice president and principal consultant with The Burton Group Corp., an IT advisory service. He can be reached at