The world of office intranets is now more accessible than ever to small businesses. Google ‘intranet’ and you’ll find there is a wide range of providers as well as easily downloadable software for a do-it-yourself-type option. Indeed, the sheer volume of choice can be overwhelming for the small business owner who often doesn’t have the time to undertake the necessary research, or may not have the technical know-how to make an informed choice. In this article, we help to unravel the world of online intranets. We look at what an intranet has to offer the small business, the various options that are available and the cost implications. Let’s start at the beginning though by looking at exactly what an office intranet is and how it can help small businesses.
What Is An Office Intranet?
An office intranet is an internal website that is only accessible to your staff. Its purpose is to streamline business processes and to make it easier for staff to access the information they need to get the job done. Typically, an office intranet portal will include some or all of the following business tools:
- document management systems
- calendars and meeting management systems
- task and project management
- database solutions
- communication tools such as blogs, discussion forums, and webinars
- personnel functions such as online training, booking annual leave or recording time keeping.
Why Have An Office Intranet?
The advantages of having an office intranet have long been established and include:
- increased workforce productivity
- improved team integration and collaboration
- ease of communication
- less time spent on sourcing and updating organizational information.
For small businesses, though, which often lack a dedicated IT functionality, the plethora of providers and options can seem overwhelming. Many small businesses are simply giving up and are missing out on the undeniable benefits of intranets as well as failing to keep up with the digital world.
Which Office Intranet Software Is Best For Me?
There are many options out there and several big names such as WordPress and SharePoint. With these options, you download the software and adapt the core offering to create your intranet portal. The disadvantage is that often the core offering is somewhat limited. Many businesses are finding that they have to augment it with additional plugins. With up to 40,000 plugins available in WordPress alone, this is a pretty daunting task.
Another issue with these types of software is the lack of ongoing support. Who do you turn to if something goes wrong? For small businesses, with limited time and resources and perhaps a lack of technical savviness, these considerations are important.
There is another option available through the hosted online intranet.
What Do Hosted Intranets Offer Small Businesses?
Hosted online intranets offer a possible solution for small businesses as they have all the advantages without the investment of time or the hassle factor – there is no software to install and no plugins to consider.
Another important point is that online intranet providers are specialists and so have the knowledge and expertise required to ensure that your office intranet is fit for purpose. They will also offer ongoing support and can help with any technical issues.
How Easy Will It Be To Implement An Office Intranet?
Your online intranet can be configured to suit your organization’s needs, and a good provider will allow you to customize the solution to address your specific requirements. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask for a test drive first. Any provider that is confident about their product will be happy to give you a demonstration. A webinar or shared-screen guided tour is a great way to assess whether the software is a good match for your requirements. However, there is no substitute to actually playing around with the software yourself perhaps in a free trial scenario.
How Secure Is An Online Intranet?
Access to the intranet portal is achieved with the latest technology: secure SSL connections with real-time back-ups, free upgrades, and virus protection.
Furthermore, the intranet portal can be tailored to meet the needs of individuals in your organization. In this way, Jane in Accounts will only be able to access intranet content that is relevant to her role and team. Another member of staff will have an entirely different set of permission rights based on their job title and team function. Similarly, editing and reviewing rights are assigned on a permission basis so that only a limited number of personnel are allowed to create and edit intranet content. Intranet administrators are responsible for assigning and reviewing permission rights and also for setting up permission-based project spaces or collaboration areas to enable employees so they can securely work together.
How Is An Online Intranet Different From A Shared Drive Or Dropbox?
The simple answer is that in an online intranet each page and item of information is not isolated, but is part of a greater whole. Shared drives and Dropbox are simply document file management systems. In online intranet portals, all data is interconnected and linked. A good online intranet will present these linked intranet pages to the user – helping them to navigate through the data without having to search for each part themselves. Information will, therefore, be easier and faster to locate and should be understood in the context of the rest of the intranet’s content.
For example, in much the same way as Amazon or iTunes welcome you back each time you log in and present recommendations to you based on your previous purchases, so a good online intranet will link and promote information to the user based on what they have previously accessed or been reading.
Online intranets also have the functionality to enable management to ensure that certain content will be read by the right people and to check that this has happened. So for example, the legal compliance for key staff members to read safety and health mandates, for instance, can be easily tracked.
This All Sounds Great, But What Are The Cost Implications?
For any organization, but especially for small businesses, calculating the return on investment is critical to any business decision.
When considering the return on investment in relation to your online intranet, it’s important that you take into account the following important factors:
- reduced staff time spent searching for information
- faster resolution of business problems
- reduced duplication of effort
- promotion of employees’ self-sufficiency
- improved staff morale.
Many businesses have found that there are considerable savings to be made simply in the reduction of hard-copy versions of documents. An online intranet will replace the ongoing costs associated with the printing, distribution and storing of these hard-copy documents.
Moreover, all this is available to small businesses for a fixed monthly fee providing that all-important certainty over costs.
Intranet portals, therefore, offer considerable benefits and a cost-effective solution to small businesses. Improved efficiency while keeping costs down will enable the small business to maintain a competitive advantage.
Contact us at MyHub for a no-obligation consultation about how an intranet portal can transform your business.