Intranet: Is It Something Your Business Needs?

An intranet allows for the transfer of business intelligence within your organization and eases internal communications; fueling the growth of small to medium sized businesses. We already use several tools to communicate and connect with clients and prospects. Why are businesses slow to incorporate internal communication tools- specifically an intranet? The benefits of operating within the digital landscape today are clearly the ease of communication and our ability to quickly connect with one another. The business world uses several tools to interact with the outside world (Facebook, Twitter, E-mail Campaigns, etc.). But when it comes to flow of information within your very own organization, many organizations find it difficult to transfer their own business knowledge from person to person, or throughout multiple departments.

Time Consuming Tasks Just Got Easier.

Even small organizations can quickly outgrow their file sharing solutions. When basic messaging apps and e-mail are no longer effective methods, you may consider a formal storage space to hold business intelligence. Implementing an intranet can be the tool you leverage in this scenario. Several benefits will become apparent once your organization uses an intranet, among our favorites:

  • Access to Information without Distractions. Due to the volume and overuse of e-mail we send and receive on a daily basis, important information can get buried among hundreds of other conversations. Scan industry specific news, access the corporate phone book, examine standard operating procedures and process workflows from within a distraction-free environment. All the valuable information your employees need from various media, become searchable in a secured, protected portal.
  • Single Sign On. If you integrate authentication through Active Directory, your employees will have instant access to multiple systems without having to log in multiple times. This may seem like a simple “nice to have” feature, but users experience true frustration and spend valuable time entering credentials multiple times. To bypass this, users tend to create simple passwords and reuse them in every service they access. In an effort to make their daily tasks easier, users unknowingly leave your business vulnerable to security threats.

You’ll Know Your Business Needs An Intranet If…

  • You Have Multiple Office Locations. When you have several office locations, or remote workers that telecommute, the open lines of communication and accessibility to corporate information is invaluable. News-feeds, project timelines and document collaboration are all easily managed within an intranet network. Incorporating employee profiles into the portal also becomes a useful application for organizations where employees may never actually meet in person.
  • You Have High Employee Turnover. Don’ t let valuable business knowledge die when an employee leaves their position. The capture and retention of this intelligence is what your business relies on for growth. Onboarding of new employees, and transitioning into new roles becomes much smoother and faster with access to business critical assets. An intranet portal can be the answer to the proverbial question, “What happens if you were to get hit by a bus?”.

Personalize and Customize Your Portal.

Nielsen Norman Group (NN/G), a research an analyst group publishes annually a best intranet design report. SharePoint is the commonly used platform among these winners. With several innovative customizations available in intranet designs, its important to follow some of the commonly recommended best practices. This will ensure optimal and engagement and promote user success. What makes an intranet such a valuable asset for your business, is the freedom it allows for personalization and customization. When considering implementing an intranet within your organization, you can incorporate some of these following elements:

  • Discussion Forums. Let your team know the current status of projects. By publishing upcoming initiatives, each department will be aware of the projects timeline and impact. Having resources, document and discussions in one place, keep every department engaged and employees interacting.
  • Department Hubs. Keep all your marketing materials (logos, letterhead, PowerPoint slides) in one place so employees can keep your company’s branding consistent throughout their client interactions. The amount of administrative work can be significantly decreased by storing commonly used HR forms ( expense reports, leave requests, time tracking) on your portal.
  • OneNote as an Intranet. For smaller businesses, using OneNote as a portal may prove to be sufficient. Layout and display links, notes, websites, and contact details can all be kept in an accessible notebook. OneNote makes it easy to share the entire notebook or just a selection with users throughout your organization.

Things to Consider.

Don’t let price or features alone drive your decision making process. In order for an intranet to have long term success the business strategy and your business goals should be the primary determining factor for how to get the most out of your intranet. The life-cycle of your intranet is one that will continuously evolve so its important to get started on the planning and implementation of your portal. Your requirements may never come to a definitive end. This is a great sign, as it means you are striving to get the most out of your investment.

  • Organizational Size. Perhaps your business is small and you don’t think you can justify the use of an intranet. Keep in mind that even small companies can outgrow their e-mail and file sharing system. Don’t design an intranet based on the current size of your organization; design with your future growth in mind. Consider the amount of data you will be storing in the portal to ensure the solution is scalable.
  • On-Premise vs. Cloud based Solution. Since your intranet will be home to all your strategies, objectives or other private corporate information, you will want to make certain that it has the highest security and protection available.
  • Usability. The homepage of your portal, like the homepage of your business website needs to engage those that land on it. Descriptive and useful navigation menus will help employees move beyond the homepage and gain full appreciation of the portal and its access to information. The intranet you build should allow for flexibility in its design. As your business functions change and grow over time, so too should the portal.

The value of an intranet will grow over time. The initial investment required in developing a well planned and fine-tuned environment should result in a significant increase in long term productivity and efficiency within your organization.

(image via pixabay)