Why have an intranet?

If you are thinking about building an Intranet it is critical to understand and communicate to others why you need one in the first place.  Intranet projects initiated without a clear set of goals and priorities are almost certainly headed towards failure from the start.  The success of an Intranet essentially stems from any cost savings and productivity gains you can make by deploying it.  If you think an Intranet might help you, but can’t demonstrate where cost savings or productivity gains will be made by implementing an Intranet in your organisation, you have come to the right place.

Perhaps the best place to start when considering an Internet is to ask employees about the things that they think an Intranet could be used for.  Doing this will serve several purposes. You are beginning a process of communication. Some staff might not know what an Intranet is, whilst others may already have had experience of an Intranet. Either way, you should ensure that your organisation collectively understands what is meant by the term ‘Intranet’.

Once you are sure that everyone understands what an Intranet is, you should move the dialogue forward and ensure that everybody gets the chance to voice an opinion on what they would like to see on the proposed Intranet.  With any luck, you will be presented with all sorts of gripes and problems which an Intranet will assuage. By becoming involved in the process of consultation about the Intranet staff become more likely to accept the concept of having an Intranet, some may even become “champions” or “evangelists” of the Intranet in your organisation.

When you have a list of problems then you should consider how an Intranet could help with those problems, and if allocating the resources required to solve those problems using an Intranet will pay off in the longer term.

Typically, an Intranet is a doorway to all sorts of tools (or “applications” or “systems”) which employees can access at any time.  Here are some of the common ones:-

  • Corporate News
  • Vacation Management System
  • Time-sheet System
  • Knowledge/Document Management System
  • Search function (documents or people)
  • Employee Directory
  • Meeting Room and Resource Booking System
  • Staff Surveys
  • Staff Training
  • Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboards
  • Shared Calendars
  • Department specific information
  • Key Documents (such as an employee handbook)
  • Integration with legacy applications and Single Sign On capability (sign in in one place, access all required systems)
  • Staff discussion forum
  • IT Helpdesk function/Issue tracking
  • Wikis

You get the picture.  The above isn’t even a complete list, but as you can see, one of the benefits of having an Intranet is gained by placing lots of helpful tools in one place.

A normally unsung reason for having an Intranet is to avoid employees “context switching” between different applications.  For instance, if an employee is using a time-sheet application, and then has to look up the phone extension of a colleague in a paper-based telephone directory and then after making the call needs to book a meeting room by walking to a book in which meeting room bookings are made, time is lost in having to use different tools to complete separate tasks.

Having a single system (or “portal”) where multiple tasks can be performed means that the time switching between each task is minimised.

A well designed Intranet will be consistent in terms of look and feel regardless of which part of it you are using.  Over time it will become faster and easier to complete basic tasks – such as booking a room – or even tasks which naturally chain together such as checking colleagues calendars, booking a room, sending an e-mail inviting colleagues to attend the meeting and tracking responses to that e-mail.

An “Intranet” could be as simple as a shared network drive which holds folders and documents, or a sophisticated web based portal which improves collaboration and streamlines basic procedures.

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