It can be overwhelming to run and manage an Intranet project. As a provider of Intranet software and services to small, medium and large organizations, we’ve assisted many people just like you in determining the real business need for an Intranet, and then supporting you in delivering a successful Intranet project.
This post aims to provide an understanding of what you should be looking for in a modern Intranet. By no means is this three part post a complete end-to-end checklist, but if you’re new to sourcing an Intranet for your organization or have been tasked with finding a replacement product, then this post serves to position you well in comparing solutions and what you should be looking for when undertaking your evaluation.
Determining your business needs
The most important step in developing an Intranet checklist is to first understand what are the key business needs you and the organization are looking to solve. We’ve summed this up as:
- What is the business pain?
- What else can we leverage from the Intranet?
What is the Business Pain?
Implementing an Intranet won’t solve all of your business problems. In order to understand the value proposition of an Intranet, you first need to determine what is the pain you’re hoping an Intranet will solve. Following are common points of business pain for organizations, both small, medium and large.
No unified voice
Typically as organizations grow in size, or become teams that are separated over geography and even time zones, the ability for the organization to operate as a fully informed entity where every employee is on ‘the same page’ as the CEO, becomes increasingly difficult. Not everything happening inside an organization warrants an email from one person to another, or to many. In its most basic form, an Intranet operates like a discussion at the water cooler. In its more complex form, an Intranet harnesses ideas from the ground up allowing the executive team to improve decision making from the top down. A good Intranet allows anyone to understand what the ‘beat’ of the organization is.
Duplication of process and procedure
Another challenge for any busy organization is the scaling of process and procedure. Without a central ‘trusted source of truth’ like an Intranet, staff will usually email the tools to others to get work done. This commonly results in the duplication of process and procedure. Business efficiency is quickly lost when staffs rely on the wrong tools to get work done. If an Intranet provides the correct and most up to date tools to achieve different work types across the organization, then a reduction in duplication and lost effort will be realized.
Fragmentation of business applications
As organizations expand, the need for solutions to fill more gaps in the operation occurs. Typically these requirements use to be, and largely still are, managed and provided by the IT department. However the trend is that more and more non-IT departments are sourcing technology to solve operational problems. Thanks to SaaS (Software as a Service) applications being very easy to sign up and start using, staff representing HR, Marketing, Corporate Affairs and PR are now onboarding business applications to get things done. This causes application fragmentation. Departments aren’t aware what each other might be using. As more organizations continue to use external applications to facilitate a need, an Intranet can solve this fragmentation by allowing the entire organization to see what other applications are being used. It can also handle the authentication to these various business applications, allowing staff to first authenticate with the Intranet and then be automatically logged into these other applications (depending on the user permissions).
Email is troublesome
The most prolific communication tool in any organization is email. It’s also a big problem. We all use email and have watched it evolve into a communication protocol that can handle just about anything. But it’s broken. Like a link in a chain, when people leave an organization, the communication chain they have created or participated in becomes broken. Email is the root cause of duplication. You and I can exchange the wrong documents, and either one of us can send it onto one hundred other people with the wrong action item. We can immediately cause confusion, complication, and frustration. When managed properly, an Intranet can reduce the reliance on email and remove the fragmentation and inefficiency of communicating to multiple parties.
A network drive is inefficient
Most organizations have network drives in all corners of the network. Some are used frequently; others haven’t been touched in years. In most cases there is no ability to search and understand the context of the content stored in these locations. An Intranet changes all of this. Typically a new Intranet considers the migration of some or all of this content from network drives to the Intranet platform. Once stored in the Intranet, security, metadata and search are powerful layers that can be applied and provide context to the silos of operational information that are stored within any organization.
What else can be achieved using the Intranet?
An Intranet should deliver multiple benefits. Whilst the basic principle of an Intranet is to communicate information to various audiences, a modern Intranet can be used to automate data, security and workflow tasks that greatly improve how work gets done. Consider approaching your Intranet checklist with the idea of what other business processes can the Intranet be employed to manage. This could be any one of the following:
- The Intranet is the ‘go to’ environment to securely access other business applications currently running within the organization. Instead of signing into each of these applications, authenticating with the Intranet will then determine which users have access to these other applications
- Forms - Turn those current paper based forms into online Intranet based forms that can capture and route information electronically to a various audiences
- Workflows - Add workflow to form processes and command the routing of this information based on business rules, time of day, type of information, etc.
- Analytics - Create reports on form and workflow activities occurring across the Intranet in real-time. Build Executive Reporting Dashboards that enable management to view how a variety of business processes are occurring across the organization in real-time
Micro Web Applications
- Exposing 3rd party data - Connecting to and exposing data from other applications within the Intranet, and applying forms and workflow that are provided by the Intranet platform, enable organizations to create simple yet highly valuable micro applications inside the Intranet. Some of these could include HR Job Boards, Asset Registers, pairing Customer Invoicing with Customer Contract documents stored within the Intranet, and much more
- Capturing data - Using Intranet Forms enables the ability to capture and manipulate custom data, and then write this data into existing applications within the organization
- Some Intranet platforms provide comprehensive social networking tools that support user engagement, community building and tools that enable staff to setup groups, conduct open discussions and create a voice on a range of topics
In Part 2 we'll cover high-level functions that any modern Intranet should provide.