Can you imagine life without the Internet? Think about how many tasks you complete each day with its assistance. There are probably too many to count. Now consider whether or not your company is using an intranet. If not, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to optimize efficiency and add value to the bottom line.
Understanding the Intranet
Internets, intranets, and extranets….oh my! Even for someone who has spent a career in IT dealing with varying networks, trying to understand and explain the differences isn’t always as easy as it should be. However, when you break things down into the most basic and straightforward explanations, it’s not as challenging as others make it out to be.
While perhaps not a technically sound illustration in every facet, the best way to think about the intranet is as an internal website that can only be accessed by those in your organization.
“It’s a website, communications channel and collaboration platform,” says Llana Friesen, an expert in the intranet space. “It helps people work better by combining the best features of wikis, blogs, document and content management systems. An intranet makes it easy for everyone inside an organization to contribute, not just a select few.”
James Robertson, the undisputed thought leader and author of the three best-selling intranet books in the world, says the modern intranet has five basic purposes: content, communication, activity, collaboration, and culture. We’ll get into some of these in the next section, but it’s imperative that people understand, from the start that the intranet is a versatile solution that adds value in a number of unique ways, all according to the needs of the end users.
It’s also worth noting the differences between intranets and extranets, something key decision makers in many organizations struggle with when presented the idea of investing in an intranet.
IT pro Tim Eisenhauer has one of the better explanations – one that you could definitely use when trying to help others understand the differences in layman’s terms. “An intranet is a network where employees can create content, communicate, collaborate, get stuff done, and develop the company culture,” he succinctly explains. “An extranet is like an intranet, but also provides controlled access to authorized customers, vendors, partners, or others outside the company.”
Four Key Business Benefits of an Intranet
Whether you’re trying to convince yourself or stubborn stakeholders in your organization, it’s helpful to understand the specific benefits your business will enjoy if and when you make an investment in an intranet. Every company can expect to get different things out of an intranet, dependent on its specific needs and friction points, but the following are arguably the most common advantages.
1. Broken Down Silos
Silos are a problem in most sizeable organizations. There’s rarely anything intentional about them – they just naturally emerge as a result of departmental responsibilities. The problem is that these silos do a disservice to the larger organization. When one department or individual needs information from another, it’s often hard for that information to be quickly and seamlessly conveyed without considerable excavating.
This is a particularly tender pain point for knowledge workers. According to Coveo (News - Alert), a leader in intelligent workplace solutions, six out of 10 knowledge workers report spending 75 percent of their time solving issues that have already been solved before. The problem is that they aren’t able to tap into that expertise because there’s no platform or solution that allows for quick and easy knowledge sharing. An intranet – specifically one with an AI-powered search solution – changes all of this.
2. Quick Dissemination of Information
An intranet is ideal when information needs to be quickly disseminated to a large number of people. Because it’s kept private from those outside of the organization, it’s possible to share important information securely without the need for email and other largely unsecured methods of communicating.
So long as the organization encourages people to access the intranet frequently – ideally, first thing in the morning and at the end of the day (at the very least) – it becomes a pretty valuable tool for publishing important announcements, giving and collecting feedback, recognizing employees, and distributing new policies.
3. Enhanced Collaboration
In large organizations, it’s not always possible for coworkers to communicate with one another by passing in the hallways or seeing each other in the break room. As a result, it’s natural for people to form small social groups and alienate others. There isn’t usually mal-intent behind this – it’s just the way things go.
An intranet can be designed to include social tools – such as forums, chats, and other information sharing features. This enhances collaboration and bypasses corporate hierarchies.
4. Better Push and Pull Support
In most cases, an intranet provides organizations with better push and pull support. Pull support generally refers to the access people have to information they need in order to make smart decisions. For example, most intranets have some sort of document management feature.
Push support typically comes in the form of RSS feeds that push in relevant external information that matters to the business and employees. It’s essentially a way of staying abreast of what’s happening on a larger scale.
Being able to improve both push and pull support from the same platform is highly beneficial and consolidates relevant information into a single place.
Maximize Value with an Investment in an Intranet
The concept of an intranet is something that few are totally comfortable with. This has less to do with the technology itself and everything to do with a general lack of understanding among key decision makers when it comes to use and implementation.
If you’re an IT pro trying to convince yourself or other stakeholders to make an intranet investment, review the specific benefits outlined in this article. What you’ll discover is that a good quality intranet yields numerous advantages, without requiring much in the way of risk. It’s definitely a possibility that deserves serious consideration moving forward.