If you need an intranet template, the first question you’re asking is, “Where should I start?” There are two general choices: you can build your own from scratch, or you can subscribe to a Saas or cloud-based intranet provider. Which decision you ultimately make will depend on the unique needs of your business, but there are a few factors that you should consider before diving in.
The Cost of Building Yourself
If you plan to design your own intranet from the ground up, you need to have the skills necessary to handle this complex undertaking. While it can be done with a lot of Google searching and a heavy dose of determination, the end cost of that kind of undertaking may surprise you: building from scratch may cost as much as $40,000 to make it work. The financial bottom line isn’t the only cost, however. Implementing your new intranet program could take as much as 15 months if you try to do it on your own. In some businesses, or if you’re tackling other assignments and problems at the same time, it could take even longer! One European study found that, depending on the size of the company, the number of employees the intranet is expected to service, and the complexity required of the intranet service, it could require between 20 full workdays and 200 full workdays to implement the new intranet.
The Process of Developing Your Own Intranet
Developing your own intranet starts with developing the set of requirements. Those requirements will determine the entire shape of the intranet for your business: what it will cover, how many people it will be able to support, and how well it will grow with your business. Many people who might have the technological expertise to help with the project may find that they don’t have the skills necessary to determine exactly what components are necessary across the business as a whole.
Next, you’ll need to find and engage a software company that will be able to meet your needs. There may be a lengthy interview process in order to determine whether or not a given company will adequately meet your requirements. Once you’ve chosen a company, you’ll have to wait for them to develop a product. Delays are fairly common, especially if you need to change your original template for some reason–including the possibility that your requirements are unclear or the software company has added something that you didn’t initially consider. There will also be a revisions process before your intranet is ready for launch. You’ll have to go through several trials before you’re sure that you’re ready to release the intranet to the company as a whole.
Building Your Own Intranet: The Challenges of Change
If you’ve chosen to build your own intranet from the ground up, you’re now handcuffed to your software company for any changes or additions to the existing structure. If you want new features, need to grow the size of your intranet due to unforeseen growth within your organization, or need to make changes to the way the intranet functions months or years after launch, you have no choice but to go back to the original company. Your intranet will stand still from a growth perspective unless you pay for the privilege of additions.
Getting to the End Goal Quickly: SaaS/Cloud-Based Providers
Cloud-based/SaaS providers allow you to roll out your new intranet quickly. Because they come with an existing template, there’s no need to write code from scratch or to create a new product simply to fit the needs of your company. Because you aren’t starting from scratch, it will be much less expensive. Chances are the company you’re considering will have many of the features you want. The possibility exists that you will have to compromise on a few features or accept some solutions that aren’t exactly what you had in mind–the sacrifice of using an existing template instead of building from scratch–but you’ll also find that with some ingenuity, you can make the existing system work for you.
The Key to Choosing a SaaS Provider
If you’re looking for a SaaS provider for your intranet, the first thing you want to look for is your ability to customize the product to the unique needs of your business. Flexibility is key in your provider. The best solutions will allow you to add template pages to develop your site, then customize the content with apps or modules. Your business isn’t like any other out there, and your needs aren’t the same, either. Don’t assume that all solutions are created equal! While saving money with a SaaS solution is one key reason to go with an existing provider instead of building your own intranet from scratch, you shouldn’t compromise on your ability to customize your intranet to your business.
What You Need in a SaaS Provider
There are several characteristics of a strong intranet, and you want to be sure that yours will have them all. You want to know that they are implementing best practices across the board. Look into flow, structure, and layout. Is the system easy to use? What’s the end user experience: not for admins, but for the employees that are going to be using the system every day? Remember, if the system is clunky, doesn’t flow well, or is slow to load, your employees will be less likely to use it–and that defeats the entire purpose. Each time you consider a SaaS provider, ask to test-drive the system with a free trial. Make sure that several individuals within your business check it out, preferably from each level of the organization. Does it fill the needs of everyone that it’s expected to serve? Does anyone have complaints with the initial setup of the template? There’s only so much that customization can do for poor flow or a slow-loading system. You want your intranet to be able to support engaging user content: text, video, and photos that will interest your users throughout the lifetime of the system.
Where to Start
When you’re ready to decide where you’re going with your intranet, start by developing a plan. Ideally, you want to put together a site map that will define the structure of your intranet. Then, ask yourself how much customization you really need. Does your business have specific, unique needs that are unlike other businesses and unlikely to appear as part of a template? If not, you probably don’t need the customization of building an intranet from scratch. Think about what IT and development skills you’ll need to work with your intranet. If they aren’t part of your existing skill set, you’ll need to consider the IT support that’s available as part of your contract. Then, set it in motion!