Howard McQueen – an intranet pioneer

by | Sep 4, 2014 | Intranets

Very few of you will have met Howard McQueen as he retired from his consulting business several years ago. He was very much in my thoughts when I received my award at the Intranet Now conference this week as he was my mentor and guide throughout the period from 1999 to 2009 when we worked together on a range of projects.  I first met Howard in 1997 when we were both active in the use of CD-ROM tower systems. He was already talking about intranets with great enthusiasm, and in 1999 set up the Intranets 1999 Conference and Expo for Online Inc. It was held in San Francisco in April and I was there!  I set up Intranet Focus Ltd later that year and returned to San Francisco for the 2000 conference. Howard made sure that I met everyone of importance in the nascent intranet community, though looking through the 2000 programme only Lou Rosenfeld is still associated with the web community. At that time Howard was the founder and editor of Intranet Professional which was initially published by Online Inc before being acquired (along with the conferences) by Information Today.

In 2001 I won a contract to develop an intranet strategy for the International Monetary Fund and Howard was instrumental in winning the project. It was an immensely challenging project, not only because of the reputation of the IMF but because we started it one day before 9/11. Howard’s calmness in the face of chaos was invaluable. Most of the frameworks I use in intranet projects were developed in the IMF project, usually over breakfast and supper. At both meals Howard would consume substantial quantities of iced tea. It was at the IMF that Howard developed the concept of a persona advocate in adapting personas to an enterprise environment. We used this approach in a subsequent project for the Food and Drug Administration with considerable success, as well as our interview spider approach. A few years later we worked on a CMS project selection for in Philadelphia which turned out to be a personally enriching project.

Of the projects we worked on together the most complex was an intranet (and in the event information management) strategy for Boehringer Ingelheim in 2007/2008. For this project I was able to assemble a ‘dream team’ which included Janus Boye, Jane McConnell and James Robertson. Howard worked on an extensive survey of the North American operations and perfected his persona advocate approach in doing so. Overall we ended up with 176 interviews in 13 countries, including China and Japan.

Following the BI project Howard decided to wind down to his consulting work, moving initially into landscape gardening and then retirement. His enthusiasm for intranets and intranet professionals was infectious and the energy he created in the early intranet conferences were a major contributor to the development of intranets and the ethos of being able to share intranets in an open forum. Throughout the years we worked together it was rare for a week to pass by without an exchange of emails and then a long telephone conversation about some interesting way of developing and promoting intranets. Even now, when I am stumped for a way through an intranet strategy project, I ask myself what Howard would have done in the same situation. So far he has never let me down.

Martin White