When businesses consider any major project, usually the first question that arises is “why” quickly followed by “what” and “how.” Why do we need this? What benefits will we reap? What are the requirements? How do we go about implementing the best business intranet for our organization? Will we see a return on our investment? Intranets for business first became popular among large corporations in the early 1990s. While some dismissed their popularity as just another tech fad, Inc. magazine admits, “That soon changed as businesses with intranets began to reap the benefits that were apparent to others.” Since then, intranets have completely evolved, and their benefits have grown exponentially. What’s more, business intranet solutions are not just the preserve of the big corporates either. Many small businesses have woken up to the benefits intranet solutions offer. So, what’s the situation in your business? Is your business considering implementing an intranet? The chances are that if you’re reading this post, then you are actively considering it and so here are the why, what and how to help guide your decision. We look at business intranet solutions from the perspective of the large company as well as the small enterprise.
The answer to why you need a business intranet will vary from company to company. However, it is an important step in not just determining whether or not to get an intranet; it will also guide what kind of solution you choose and what features you activate. Determine why by asking what problem you are trying to solve. The truth is for most companies, business intranets are introduced in response to some issue, problem or pain point. And so, being clear about why an intranet is required in your business is the essential starting point otherwise how will you be able to determine whether your business intranet is a success? Here are some of the top reasons for intranet deployment we’ve heard from our customers. And the reasons tend to be consistent across all companies regardless of their size.
- We need to improve collaboration. Departments are often isolated with only email chains to connect employees. Team or departmental silos may well be a problem with information going unshared. In this environment, joint working is only an aspiration. It is, however, possible to foster a creative and collaborative environment by using your business intranet as the platform to bring multiple departments and locations together. Project spaces, document collaboration using embedded G Suite or Office 365 apps as well as team or project pages will help to break down information silos and will promote joint working across the company.
- File storage and sharing is a challenge. Are your employees finding it increasingly hard to locate company policies, data and information? Are they buried under a mountain of paperwork or complicated email trails? Perhaps your company has outgrown Dropbox and other file-sharing platforms? Whatever the case may be, if employees are struggling to easily and quickly locate the key company information necessary to do their jobs, then there’s no doubting that a change is needed. A business intranet can simplify document and file storage in your organization, making it easier to share information both internally and externally. What’s more, with unlimited numbers of files and folders, a business intranet will be fit for purpose no matter how small or large the company is.
- Our employees are disengaged. A Gallup poll reports that engagement levels are at the lowest since 2000, and younger employees are the least engaged. The evidence is clear though: employee engagement has a big impact on team morale, productivity and recruitment and retention. And engaged employees are less likely to take time off with absenteeism or a duvet day. Turn that around with a social intranet that connects employees on a professional and personal level. Engage them by using your business intranet to gather feedback, keep employees in touch with the CEO and upper management, build camaraderie and simply give them a voice.
- Productivity needs a boost. Improving productivity is, of course, a goal of every business. But perhaps you’ve identified an over-reliance on paper or email-based systems and processes as being an issue in your company. Business intranet software can be used to automate administrative tasks such as timesheet submissions, vacation requests and approval forms as well as sales and purchase orders. As well as being a more streamlined process, online forms also eliminate the potential for information going missing or being misfiled. In addition, business intranet solutions will put the tools employees need at their fingertips whether it’s the corporate calendar, document management system, shared project workspace or online staff directory.
- Internal communications need a shakeup. Internal communications are essential to the smooth operation of every business no matter the number of employees. And if the traditional team meeting set up is no longer working in your company, then business intranet software offers a complementary platform to support face-to-face communications. Utilize the business intranet’s news feed and team or company blog pages to update, inform and engage with the workforce.
- We need to stay better connected to our workforce of remote workers or on-the-road personnel. In an increasingly mobile world, employees need to be able to access files, find what they need quickly and utilize the tools of the trade wherever they are. An intranet solves these challenges. And so, if you employ freelancers and remote workers, or your staff are frequently out of the office providing services or generating sales, then business intranet software could be the solution you’re looking for to maintain connections, oversight and communications with out-of-the-office staff. In turn, personnel on the road can check in to head office and complete processes while in the field via the business intranet thereby providing a more responsive and enhanced customer service.
So, now that you’ve identified the case for a business intranet and the issues or problems you want it to address, it’s time to move on to examine the question of what type of business intranet you need to achieve your goals.
When it comes to business intranets, what options are available? Well, there are two basic choices: an on-premise bespoke business intranet built on-site or a cloud-based solution.
On the face of it this may seem like a good option as you end up with a business intranet that is a perfect match to your requirements; however, the truth is that developing a business intranet from scratch is not for the faint-hearted. It involves downloading business intranet software such as SharePoint or a CMS such as WordPress or Drupal and developing your own intranet which is then hosted on the company server. It also involves having the technical know-how and the ability to navigate your way through the software. What’s more, the software hasn’t always been developed for the express purpose of creating a business intranet. WordPress, for example, is more commonly used as a web creation or blogging platform. Many business intranet developers have, therefore, discovered that add-ons and plug-ins are required to achieve the functionality that you’re after. And once you have managed to navigate your way through the software and created a bespoke business intranet, an extensive period of testing is required to ensure it does what you want it to do and meets the needs of end users. The truth is you’re looking at a process that could take several months from start to finish and a considerable investment of time and resources. And don’t forget the ongoing management and maintenance costs associated with hosting a business intranet on the company server as well as the issue of the space needed to house it.
Cloud-based, SaaS Business Intranet Software
While on-site intranets have benefits, cloud-based technologies are perfect for companies that want immediate implementation with the minimum amount of hassle. SaaS intranet solutions are easy and quick to implement, fully customizable and affordable. They require no change to your on-site infrastructure and are perfect for small businesses that lack a full IT staff. What’s more, your business intranet comes fully tested and piloted so you can have absolute confidence that the software is fully functional as well as being user-friendly. In addition, the cloud SaaS provider takes care of all updates, backups and ongoing security as well as management and maintenance of the server, which makes it a simpler option for many businesses.
Even once you have settled on whether you need an on-site or cloud-based intranet, there are almost endless features and options to choose from. Here are just a few.
- Intranet, extranet or portal? What type of business intranet is appropriate for you is the next most important issue to decide upon, so let’s run through the options. An intranet is for internal purposes only. It’s accessible only to employees and contains a variety of tools and services designed to support staff in their daily work. An extranet, by contrast, provides limited accessibility to the network for selected external partners. It could be customers, suppliers or clients. And so if your business needs to share information backwards and forwards with clients and customers – perhaps you’re a graphic design company, or a firm of accountants for example – an extranet can make it easier for you to communicate and collaborate when compared to the standard emails or phone calls.And a portal is a gateway that allows your intranet or extranet to interact with enterprise systems and applications. These typically include CRM software or HR apps and means that staff only need one login to access all the apps they need in the course of their work.
- Security. Being confident in the security and integrity of your sensitive company information or personal data is more vital than ever in the light of the Facebook data scandal. With a SaaS cloud-hosted intranet you can have peace of mind that your data is protected by the very latest web standard security measures. From firewalls to data encryption and secure socket layers technology, the SaaS provider retains responsibility for all security matters leaving you with one less and potentially significant headache to worry about. So, if you’re more interested in fishing rather than phishing, then this could be a major consideration influencing your choice.
- Customized access. Internal security threats are just as big an issue as external ones. And security is often a concern when companies look at cloud-based solutions. Choose an intranet solution that allows you to set user permission rights by job roles, teams or departments. In this way, you can limit access to modules, individual pages, content or files so that staff members are only able to access data that is relevant to their job.
- Search functionality. What is the best way to organize your data to improve productivity? Should document tags be task or subject-oriented? Website magazine weighed in on “Why Your Employees Hate Your Outdated Intranet,” and identified “low-quality document management” as one hurdle to companies reaping the rewards of an intranet. You don’t want your employees agreeing with the article saying, “My intranet is a document dumping ground, where documents go to die.” Search functionality and overall site navigation should, therefore, be top of the list of features to get right.Social or not. Social intranets are hugely popular and have a role to play in improving employee engagement. Message boards, user activity walls, photo sharing, the ability to “follow” other employees, social notifications, and enhanced staff directories are just a sampling of the social features available. Depending on the needs of your company and the preferences of your employees, you’ll want to determine what features will enhance their work experience.
- Intranet mapping. Cloud-based solutions are completely customizable. Those companies that opt for a bespoke business intranet, however, will need to design an intranet that is user-friendly. Thankfully, SaaS solutions use pre-tested business templates that allow you to design a look and feel that is unique to your company. What’s more, every company expands and evolves over time. Needs change. Files grow. Users adapt. Make sure you select a solution that allows you to add pages and modules through an interface that is easily navigable even to the non-technical novice. Software that is unappealing and hard to find your way around could actually be counter-productive and result in decreased output and a difficult employee adoption phase. Design your intranet in a way that is appealing to the average employee.
- Speak to employees. What is the primary way you want to disseminate news to your employees? You can set up a news feed on your intranet homepage, write an interactive weekly blog with everything employees need to know, or set up a special module that houses all news, policy changes, and important announcements. Employees crave transparency, and the virtual community is the perfect platform to share policies, strategies and other management documents that previously would have been buried on your network.
How do you achieve the goals outlined in the “why” section? A recent study from Harvard Business Review found the common attributes among top companies include collaboration, honesty, innovation, and agility. An effectively designed business intranet can get you well on your way. We’ve already discussed identifying the problems you hope to solve with business intranet software. Once you’ve done that, here are your next steps.
- What’s your budget? While cloud-based solutions are affordable for small businesses, cost structures do vary. Talk to possible vendors about how their fees are tallied. Is there a per-user, monthly or one-time cost? What is included in technical support? What additional costs might come up? Does customization cost extra? If so, how much? Be clear about what the costs are from the start to avoid any nasty surprises further down the line.
- Determine the possible ROI. Does a business intranet positively impact on your bottom line? Forbes recently highlighted the positive benefits of engaged employees. They found employee engagement improves service, sales, quality, safety, retention, profits and total shareholder returns. In fact, research suggests that companies with lots of engaged employees have 22 percent higher profitability than companies with low rates of engagement. And businesses that have 60-70 percent of their employees engaged had an average total shareholder’s return of 24.2 percent.So, the ROI that’s on offer with a business intranet in relation to enhanced employee engagement alone is potentially considerable. And don’t forget to also add in the reductions in printing, distribution and paper costs as well as streamlined business processes when calculating the ROI for your business intranet.
- Take a test drive. The best way to find out if the business intranet solution is a good match for you is to test it out. Many vendors of cloud-based solutions offer free trial periods. This is a real opportunity to get your hands dirty and check out whether the business intranet is what you’re looking for so take advantage of this and test the product and individual features. Why not select a sampling of employees from different departments and job levels to pilot the product and provide feedback before rolling it out to the entire staff. That way you can be confident the business intranet software addresses the needs of all staff.
There’s a lot of things to consider and information to take on board when selecting business intranet software so let’s summarize the issues from the perspective of small businesses as well as larger companies.
Small Business Intranet: Issues To Consider
Businesses with small numbers of employees need a solution that is easy to set up and straightforward to manage on an ongoing basis. With fewer personnel and no internal IT resource to fall back on, the small business intranet needs to be simple to deploy so that the benefits are maximized from the outset. The provider should be willing to offer help and advice with any implementation or operational issues if it’s needed. A cost-effective business intranet solution will also be a priority for the small business when resources are often tight and cost certainty around monthly budgets is essential. In addition, small businesses often employ freelance staff or contractors and are also likely to have staff regularly out on the road drumming up new business. A business intranet that provides full remote access and ensures connectivity for employees wherever they may be will also be on the list of priorities.
So, what’s the best option for small businesses? A SaaS, cloud-based option will tick all the boxes, including the following priority areas:
Simple to setup. The pre-built template format of the cloud intranet means that setup is quick and easy. A simple to follow five-step site builder process will see the small business intranet up and running in just a matter of hours and without the need for any great technical know-how. In fact, it’s so easy that pretty much anyone including the office technophobe can deploy a cloud intranet. Another important consideration is that the cloud intranet doesn’t require any extensive piloting or testing because the provider has already covered that off when developing the software. This means that the small business intranet will be addressing the organization’s needs from day one.
Easy to manage. An intranet that is super easy to manage on an ongoing basis is another major priority for time- and resource-limited small businesses. And once again the SaaS cloud option comes out on top with its intuitive set of administration tools. Whether it’s managing users – deleting, adding or assigning access rights to pages and information – or editing content be it text, videos or images, it’s a straightforward task with the cloud intranet. This frees up staff members to get on with other business-critical tasks rather than spending their time navigating convoluted intranet management processes.
Set monthly fee with unlimited data and users. As we’ve seen, transparency around costs is important to small businesses and that’s exactly what you get with a SaaS provider. There’s no prospect of any nasty surprises by way of unexpected costs as the charges are clear from the outset. As well as being very competitively priced, it also makes budgeting and managing cash flow much easier for the small business. What’s more, the SaaS cloud intranet is capable of growing alongside a business. With unlimited data and users already built in, the small business intranet is largely future proofed leaving plenty of scope for growth and development.
Mobile optimized for remote access. The foundation of many a small business is a workforce of freelancers, contractors or remote workers. In a single platform the SaaS intranet will help in keeping open the lines of communication, maintaining oversight of tasks and projects as well as facilitating joint working. Optimized for the smaller screens of tablets and smartphones and with all the same functionality of the full site, a SaaS intranet will see staff members being productive and connected no matter where they are located.
Full support service. It’s reassuring for the small business to know that there is help and expertise readily available should they need it. With a comprehensive series of FAQs, how to videos and detailed guides on just about every aspect of an intranet, a SaaS provider offers a helping hand every step of the way.
Business Intranet Solutions For Larger Companies: Issues To Consider
For larger companies, the motivation behind seeking a business intranet solution will be an organizational pain point or problem that needs to be addressed. Larger companies may well have the internal IT resources and budget to develop a business intranet from scratch but that process will take time – usually several months at best. In the meantime, the pain point will continue to fester. Not many businesses can afford to wait for several months before implementing a solution. With a SaaS cloud business intranet, all the hard work has already been done. The functionality is tried and tested, the tools and features you need are already there just waiting for your customization and unique stamp. Larger companies will be as interested as smaller businesses in solutions that are easy to deploy and manage on an ongoing basis and that are cost-effective. And once again, the SaaS, cloud intranet will satisfy all those needs.
SaaS Cloud Business Intranet Software
Whatever the particular requirements of your business may be, building an intranet is only the start of a project. You will need to continue to review and analyze your company’s needs and let your business intranet evolve with you. Choose a partner that’s in it for the long-haul, a vendor that will be around to help you expand as your business grows. Selecting the best business intranet solution may seem like a daunting task. However, with a software partner like MyHub Intranet Solutions, you’ll be accomplishing your goals in no time. Contact us today for a no-obligation demo or a free 14-day trial.