Intranets

Why have an intranet

Most if not all large organisations have an intranet, an internal website usually available to employees only.  Small and medium sized organisations can also benefit greatly from having an intranet to improve communication and collaboration.

As with any website, the contents and functionality vary dramatically depending on the clients' requirements. 

An intranet is a living system and must have the flexibility to change with the organisation's requirements, whilst encouraging collaboration.  It is not owned by an individual or even a single group but by the entire organisation as a team effort and all users should be involved in the content of the intranet.

The following benefits are some of those to be gained by a specific medium size manufacturing company:

  • Simplify internal communications and engage employees by:
    • centralising and organising information to make it easier to find e.g. telephone list, links to useful websites, factory shutdown dates
    • reducing reliance on emails to disseminate information e.g. company news articles, new starters
    • providing an online forms sections grouped by area e.g. HR sick forms
  • Reduce the number of ad-hoc spreadsheets e.g. job id generator, client list, which will:
    • ensure that appropriate users have access to the latest version of information in real-time without the need to reissue
    • provide easy record creation, editing and configurable display options
    • allow flexible information storage (different fields and data types) within the database for each set of information
    • record version history if required
  • Help achieve and maintain quality by organising processes, procedures, work instructions
  • Increase collaboration, reduce meeting times and increase awareness by:
    • giving users access to topic based discussion forums for company business and social interests
    • allowing all users access to wiki pages to add and modify information easily and without restriction e.g. team pages, meeting notes, project information, ideas
    • creating a staff directory to show individuals’ photos, desk location, projects worked on, skill set etc.
  • Improve information management by:
    • allowing searching and tagging (grouping) of content
    • providing alerts/notifications to users when new content is available or updated
    • providing user specific access e.g. read-only, create, update and delete ability based on content and login
  • Increase efficiency within IT support and other task/project based functions by implementing an online ticketing system to record all tickets (problems and work requests) to:
    • make it easier for users to raise problems or request work to be done
    • allow appropriate prioritisation, tracking and resolution information
    • ensure no problems or requests are overlooked or forgotten
    • make multitasking easier
    • create a knowledge base
  • Have the ability to implement reactive, flexible and interactive solutions for business requirements

A more generic list of potential advantages can be achieved according to Wikipedia.

  • reduces printing, distribution, and paper costs - particularly on policy manuals, company newsletters, product catalogues, technical drawings, training material, and telephone directories
  • easy to use - no specialised training required
  • inexpensive to use (once it is set up)
  • moderate initial setup costs (hardware and software)
  • standardised network protocol (TCP/IP), document protocol (HTML), and file transfer protocol (ftp) already well established and suitable for all platforms
  • can be used throughout the enterprise
  • reduces employee training costs
  • reduces sales and marketing costs
  • reduces office administration and accounting costs
  • ease of access results in a more integrated company with employees communicating and collaborating more freely and more productively

There are also potential disadvantages raised here, all of which should be considered when creating an intranet and none of them is unavoidable with a little thought and planning.