Modern intranets: What are they and do you need one?
Modern intranets can be a great way to keep people connected and engaged. They can also be useful as a repository for company information. Here we look at what intranets are, how they work, and explore how they might evolve in a future of work that will be open by default.
What's the difference between an intranet and a website?
Intranets are private networks set up by organisations and act as a portal for sharing best practice and important internal information. The best examples also enable employees to collaborate and work together more effectively. Intranets are usually part website and part collaboration platform and are separated from the wider Internet by firewalls.
What content should be on an intranet?
Every organisation is different, so there's a lot of variation, but an intranet might include:
- company news and announcements
- discussions and forums
- important business documents
- HR policies and procedures
- company forms
- employee directories
- resources that automate tasks such as expense claiming, leave and meeting room booking and IT service requests
A modern intranet is also likely to feature some degree of personalisation, as well as tools for messaging and commenting.
Intranets shouldn't exist only to store information or allow management to cascade messages from the top down
There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to an intranet. Organisations increasingly find themselves customising their intranets and integrating them with the various other applications and business tools that they use.
How big does an organisation need to be to have an intranet?
Traditionally, intranets have been used mainly by larger organisations. But with demand for instant access to information, increasing remote working and the relative simplicity of setting up a modern intranet using cloud-based services, this may be changing.
The Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) says that while organisations with fewer than 1,000 employees often don't create intranets, they can actually benefit companies that are much smaller. Particularly where employees are spread across different locations.
NNG also points out that messaging and file storage systems can quickly be outgrown, making an intranet a good solution for storing information centrally, even for smaller companies.
What's the difference between an intranet and an extranet?
Extranets extend access to intranets – or areas of them – to people who are not employees of the organisation. These are usually other companies, suppliers, partners or customers.
What's the future of the intranet?
But intranets shouldn't exist only to store information or allow management to cascade messages from the top down. Modern intranets should be a way for people to communicate, collaborate and share ideas. That's where communication tools come in.
Modern platforms, such as Workplace by Facebook, can integrate with your intranet to enhance its capabilities. It can be used alongside the other tools that people use every day to allow comments and reactions on company communications. It enables discussion in public or private groups on specific projects.
A digital solution could be better than building an intranet from scratch
A personalised company news feed will surface relevant information for people so you can make sure that your most important messages reach the right audience. It can be a better solution for some organisations and can even remove the need for an intranet.
Does my organisation need an intranet?
Regardless of the size of your organisation, you may well benefit from an intranet. They can help those organisations with a high staff turnover or that have a lot of staff due to retire. Central repositories can help maintain and store knowledge so it isn't lost when people leave an organisation.
Platforms, such as Workplace, can give you access to a dynamic, searchable, shareable and secure repository
But if you don't already have an intranet, a digital solution might be better than building an intranet from scratch. Platforms, such as Workplace, can give you access to a dynamic, searchable, shareable and secure repository. They give a mobile-first approach that enables people to access and share the information they need wherever they are.
And in a world of work that will be open by default, that's particularly useful for companies who lack the dedicated resource to build, monitor and maintain an intranet. And for those organisations that need employees to access information from behind a firewall from their own devices.
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