To assist you with creating your own Intranet checklist, the following are high-level functions that any modern Intranet should provide.
Managing users within the Intranet is fundamental in defining which staff members can access what content within the new Intranet site.
Organizations require people, and a good Intranet supports the management of people. Managing user accounts and profiles is perhaps the most fundamental component of any Intranet platform. Some platforms do the minimum, while others have taken User Management to a whole new level. At the very least, the Intranet should enable you to define what users can view and author within the product. At the more sophisticated end, some Intranet platforms provide a LinkedIn-style profile management environment enabling users to manage their personal profiles; skills, experience, education, projects they’ve successfully delivered and more. Good User Management also drives services like Staff Directories, Organizational Charts, Expertise Directories and more.
Active Directory Integration
Long before establishing user profiles, managing the authentication of staff with the Intranet is required. Typically this authentication is provided using a service like Microsoft Active Directory. Staff profiles are first created in Active Directory enabling staff to authenticate with various applications across the enterprise, including the Intranet. Any modern Intranet platform will support Active Directory Integration as standard.
Single Sign On (SSO)
Taken the concept of authentication one step further, and many organizations are treating the Intranet as the ‘portal’ to other applications across the enterprise. As such, once a staff member has authenticated with the Intranet, they can then freely navigate to other enterprise applications through the Intranet. Achieving this seamless navigation is possible through SSO, or Single Sign On. Any serious Intranet platform will provide its own SAML 2.0 compliant SSO agent.
All Intranets manage content. Whether its web content in the form of Intranet web pages (HTML), documents or media.
A modern Intranet is capable of managing different content types, and web content is perhaps the most common type of all. Most Intranet authors will design and publish web content directly within their web browsers. The content authoring tools within the Intranet platform will determine how sophisticated authors can be; the most simple Intranet will only allow simple text entry with some basic formatting like bold, italicizing and underline, while more comprehensive text editors will support inline styling, rich media embedding and spell checking support.
Managing document content can be simply displaying a document, through to highly sophisticated document management that supports the full document lifecycle of check-in, check-out, rollback, restore and more. In some cases your organization may already have in place a dedicated Document Management System, however modern Intranets provide very good environments for managing the full document management lifecycle. The benefits of considering document management within the Intranet is that it closes the gap on common work flows that occur within any organization; allowing documents and Intranet processes to share direct context.
Some Intranet platforms will simply display a listing of media objects, while others will provide methods for utilizing media intelligently within an Intranet in the form of embedded video players, image galleries and more. In an age where staff can capture 1080p video using their smart phone, a modern Intranet can be expected to support the publishing of multiple video formats.
Metadata is ‘data about data’. In social media, we all know it better as ‘tagging’. These are #example #tags. Metadata is how content, primarily web content and documents, are tagged within an Intranet. Imagine your organization has 100 staff and each staff member publishes on average 10 documents a week, and lets propose that half of these documents are checked into the Intranet where they are version controlled and where appropriate security is applied. Within a year, that’s approximately 25,000 documents being published to the Intranet. Without metadata how do you categorize, filter, search and discover this content? You will need to define a metadata taxonomy. This is a hierarchy of how you will tag web content and documents within the Intranet. A typical taxonomy might look like the following:
The best way to view a metadata taxonomy is to consider it to be no different to a traditional folder hierarchy.
Perhaps one of the most powerful features of any modern Intranet is the ability for non-technical authors to design, create, publish and manage forms on the Intranet. Most organizations are littered with paper-based processes where Intranet forms provide one of the greatest opportunities to replace these inefficiencies and step towards a paperless environment. Coupled with Workflow Management, organizations can start to consider the Intranet as a platform for automating true business processes.
Most organizations deal with workflows of all shapes and sizes. If you email certain documents to particular team members at certain times of the week or month, that’s a workflow. If you aggregate information from various parties into a single document for distribution, that’s another work flow. Using the Intranet to automate these tasks is considered as Workflow Management. Intranet platforms vary in their workflow capabilities; some offer simple ‘triggers’ to influence areas of the Intranet when something occurs, while other Intranet platforms allow authors to design and establish very complex multi-step/multi-conditional workflows that effect multiple people and processes. It’s important to establish if your organization is ready for change that can come with workflow automation.
As Intranet’s grow in content over time, the ability to provide relevancy when staff search for content is critical to the Intranet remaining purposeful and effective. Some Intranet platforms rely on 3rd party search solutions, while others provide their own integrated search. The search experience varies from Intranet solution to the next; the most simple experience is returning a list of results for the keyword or phrase entered, while others will provide weightings, highlighting of searched terms and the ability to search within search results. As most Intranets manage both structured and unstructured content, search should also be indexing within document and form data.
In Part 3 we'll cover the steps in evaluting and choosing your Intranet vendor.