The IT Handbook...you're reading...
General

Intranets…what to use them for and why


Intranets are often overlooked in organisations as a fluffy tool that adds to the job of office administrators and doesn’t play much of a part for an office environment. Studies have shown that companies with an active intranet site increase productivity and employee morale because of its ability to communicate with the masses. Intranets have many useful features and they’re really easy to set up. Read on to find out more…

Intranets have a powerful communication ability to reach out and communicate with employees about latest company developments – new projects, individual’s achievement or office relocations. No matter how trivial or important they are, it’s still useful for employees to know.  Some would argue that this doesn’t bring the money in the door, but with proven theories about productivity and morale, perhaps they do, indirectly help the profitability of a company.

Intranets create a community feeling among remote workers or smaller branch offices, really helping people feel part of the team.  In today’s fragmented working culture with people working at home, travelling, flexible hours and remote office locations in some cases, it’s always a challenge to keep an inspiring and community spirit alive but also the morale of the employees. If your company offers an equal remuneration package to your rivals but their company is a more pleasant environment to work, you could have problems with people ‘jumping ship’ and would you want your valuable resources working for a competitor?

So other than news, what else can an intranet bring to a company? Well there’s ‘location’ calendars, so people can edit their whereabouts – particularly important if you are a company where travelling is a way of life. Meeting room bookings can be done through an intranet system, cutting down the administrative burden on people too – and any other resources for that matter.

If your company elects a Microsoft Sharepoint environment for its intranet, it will link to other Microsoft resources – Exchange and Outlook calendars can be shared.  It also integrates with Microsoft’s unified communication tool – Lync, assisting users’ feel for a sense of community.

Discussion forums are also a good feature – department heads can set up feedback areas to make the best out of what is available, or technical discussions about hot topics in your industry. The exchange of knowledge and opinions is a great way to move forward ahead of your competitors.

Document and project management can also be done through an intranet or sub-site – if your company uses Microsoft Sharepoint, almost anything is possible and have even been known to perform accounting duties. The beauty of something like Sharepoint is that all your systems can be under one umbrella, thus linking all your files and resources without having to worry about duplication and all the other issues that come with separate resource areas.

Links to company services, such as a website or a time management tool, can all be found from under an intranet page, meaning that when you go abroad or are working from outside your office – then your co-workers only need to remember is the intranet link and their login, rather than multiple web addresses for various tools.

If you’re a customer services company, or have customer services departments, such as I.T support or a quality area, there are really flexible facilities to create lists of issues, tasks or check lists – all these can be assigned to individuals and emailed to them.

Online FAQs or departmental help-yourself areas such as employee handbooks, procedures for submitting expense claims…all these can be built under a structured intranet environment. This in turn helps to cut staff costs because less queries will come through to individuals.

Most intranets come with a set of standard templates and granular permission structures, meaning security is easy to control.

So what leads to a successful intranet implementation? Well, there are various factors leading to this:

  1. Up-to-date information;
  2. A clear and easy-to-read layout;
  3. Consistent fonts and colours;
  4. Contact area;
  5. Well written content;
  6. Compatibility with most web browsers;
  7. A gradual implementation – because a big new system is overwhelming and confusing.

So what are the next steps? Well, you’ll need to build a set of functional requirements for your intranet – what is it you want to do? Other ideal requirements that could ‘seal the deal’ and of course a budget. Factors other than the functional ones, to consider include performance (is it fast), hosting options (internal or 3rd party), login integration with your network and customizability. The other important factor is of course useability. If you have a company where a lot of intuitive people work then a more complex product might be applicable, especially if you need to wring out every last ounce of functionality from it. Useability and flexibility are more often than not, inversely proportional.

The next steps is to research and decide on an intranet tool – most people on a Microsoft network will already have Sharepoint Foundation, to whichever version their server has been upgraded to – this is well worth a consideration and Microsoft have pulled in all their energies to make Sharepoint what it is today – it’s a truly powerful and intuitive tool to use. Of course, it automatically integrates with your user directory (Active Directory), meaning signing on and integration with other network facilities is really simple. Other intranet software can be found via Google but we recommend looking at Sorce, Interact, Bloomfire and Adenin.

Once you’ve decided on a tool, the next steps are usually the interesting ones – to actually build, test, train people and implement the solution. Remember – only implement it phase by phase – the main reason systems fail are either through lack of training or from overwhelming the user in the first place, and users not understanding how to use the system.

Advertisements

About theithandbook

Reaching every day people and businesses with simple, effective and modern IT advice.

Discussion

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Microsoft Sharepoint – what are you missing out on? « The IT Handbook - November 28, 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: