The Best Intranet: Out of the Box or Custom Built?

What makes the best intranet software? Frequent readers of this space will know that a variety of factors play into making your intranet work for you and your employees. In many ways, the “best intranet solution” is not an objective statement; it’s subjective, depending on your unique company needs.

How to Find The Best Intranet

One of the first questions you’ll have to answer for yourself when implementing or updating an intranet for your company is simple: do you want a custom solution, or are you satisfied with the out-of-the-box variation your vendor offers? The answer depends on your unique needs and situation. To help you find it, here are six factors to consider that should help you find the best intranet possible for you and your workforce:

1. Desired Timeline

First, it’s important to know that a custom-built intranet solution will always take more time to implement than its pre-built counterpart. If you need your platform to function earlier rather than later, foregoing custom modification may save you and your organization valuable time. Getting up and running may be as simple as a few brand adjustments along with providing basic training for your employees, after which you can go live even while making final adjustments.

On the other hand, your timeline may be more flexible. You may have a former or temporary solution in place, which does not require an immediate switch to your new intranet. Or you have managed without an intranet so far, meaning that nothing is lost during a lengthy implementation phase. In these cases, going with a custom solution might be an option, depending on the other factors below.

2. Available Budget

A second and similarly important consideration should be the budget you have available for the platform implementation. Custom-build solutions will always cost more, simply because your developer will need additional time to build out the platform according to your unique needs.

Depending on these needs, the added cost may be worth it. If you are looking to add features such as an in-depth niche business solutions that a pre-built solution simply cannot offer, a custom-built solution will be valuable for your business. But if you experience budget constraints, an out-of-the-box platform should be a viable alternative. Some off-the-shelf intranet solutions even have the ability to configure fields attached to for example your users allowing a degree of customization that may well be enough to meet your requirements.

3. Feature Needs

Speaking of which: before making a decision on how much you should customize your intranet, you should have a good idea of which features you need in the finished solution. Potential intranet features range far and wide, from internal company blogs to site reports and (limited) external access. Which of these features you need and how you plan to utilize them, will be a crucial part of deciding whether to take the pre-built or custom route.

In most cases, even pre-built solutions come with a wide variety of features that will serve most business needs. But naturally, these types of intranets cannot cover every single potential feature, which means that simply understanding your needs can help you uncover whether you should embrace a custom-built solution.

4. Training Capabilities

Any intranet can only be successful if your employees both embrace and know how to use it to enhance their productivity. That’s why training sessions are crucial to successfully implementing a new intranet software.

Any implementation should include some level of user training, but how that training is structured can make a significant difference in how fast and smooth the implementation goes. An efficient way to approach this is by having super users in each department take on the responsibility of training users rather than relying on the implementation team.

Completely custom solutions may mean additional training sessions and workshops to help everyone get on board and started.

5. Management Resources

The best and most successful intranet implementations ask two questions: when will the ‘hand-over’ from the developer to your company occur, and who is in charge of managing its operations and backend once that happens? Answering each of these questions also gives you a better idea of whether your organization will be able to handle a custom-built solution, or whether the out-of-the-box platform is a better alternative.

If the handover occurs relatively early in the process, and you do not have an IT department experienced in CMS intranet to maintain and upkeep your platform, a custom-built solution could be disastrous. With little in the way of support channels should something go wrong on the backend or frontend, you may run into serious trouble. That’s why knowing your management resources before making the custom vs. pre-built decision is crucial.

6. Necessary Updates

Similarly, even the best software may need periodic updates to ensure that it remains both functional and secure. For pre-built solutions, the updating process tends to be relatively easy, as it takes place simultaneously for all clients.

Custom-built solutions, on the other hand, are a bit more problematic. Updates may have to be performed manually, which once again adds time and budget to the process. Even customizations built on a pre-built platform may run into trouble, because a modified code may not update as it should along with the rest of the base code. If you rely on a custom-built solution for your intranet needs, updating the platform will be more difficult than it would be for its out-of-the-box counterpart.

Intranet Software Customization vs. Modification

Of course, the decision of pre-built vs. custom made is not entirely black and white. As alluded to above, you may choose to build customized code onto a pre-built solution, enabling you to build out a platform that is both robust and uniquely suited to your needs. Even those types of platforms, however, come with limitations. Altering base code both requires in-depth technical knowledge and additional resources, along with the above-mentioned updating issues.

In addition, it’s important to note that even most pre-built solutions come with some modification possibilities built in that do not require a base code customization. For example, you can brand your intranet colors and logo to match your company, helping your internal marketing.

In addition, adding widgets, navigation, and other custom page entities is often possible without touching the base code. Look for your intranet provider to help you learn how to modify your intranet in ways that help your business, without having to get into the coding necessary for a completely custom application. For example, are you able to embed Google apps easily into your intranet?

These modifications make it necessary for your vendor to provide a platform that can be modified easily and without the need for technical know-how. Drag-and-drop editors, widget managers, and other user friendly platform management tools should be part of your solution.

Thanks to these modification possibilities, pre-built solutions are often the simplest alternative for many businesses with the most potential for success. The ‘best intranet platform‘ does depend on your unique business needs – but if you can find a solution that helps you modify its functionality to suit these needs, it’s difficult to go wrong.

The above six factors should help you determine which approach works best for you. Knowing that even pre-built solutions are often easily modified to suit better your organizations should help you focus in on what to look for and help frame up the different options.

If you have any questions about the process, or simply want to learn more about what it takes to get your business the best intranet possible, contact us today. We’ll be happy to chat with you.

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