Your company intranet has the ability to be an engaging and dynamic corporate communications tool that functions as a depository of important corporate knowledge, shares news and updates and enables employees to collaborate and share information. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many organizations: intranets are bloated, contain outdated information or information is hard to find. It may be time to take a fresh look at your intranet to determine if it is still fit-for-purpose, or[p=if you need to consider investing in more up-to-date company intranet software.
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What is intranet software?
An intranet is essentially an internal internet system that can only be accessed by employees within an organization. It is used to provide a range of different information to employees about corporate information including policies, procedures, protocols, guidance, news, training, forms, and other types of knowledge that are critical for people to be able to do their jobs.
Intranet software is essentially the platform that hosts the intranet. It can be a standalone software system, or it may be a collection of different software products that are combined together to provide an intranet solution for a company.
Benefits and downsides to intranet software
Like almost any corporate software system, there are both benefits and downsides to intranet software.
The benefits include:
- An easy way to provide information to employees in a centralized location
- Usually cost-effective
- If implemented properly, can increase employee engagement and improve communication
- Being able to integrate features such as built-in social media, forums and blogs
- Can be integrated with other collaboration tools such as Skype, Yammer, Slack and Trello
- Can provide a way for employees to collaborate and share information
- Customizable to suit organizational needs
- Can be used as a centralized document storage library
- Is able to be accessed by any device that connects to the corporate network, in any location, at any time.
However, there are some drawbacks to intranet software:
- It can be difficult to roll out the software
- Software deployment can end up being costly, or costs can blow out, because it isn’t right for the organization’s needs
- It can take a while for employees to adapt to a new intranet system
- People forget to check the intranet to find information
- People have trouble finding what they need on the staff intranet as it becomes too big and unwieldy
- Too much material on the intranet can also lead to information overload
- It can end up needing a lot of maintenance and even dedicated staff to run it.
How to choose the right corporate intranet software
When it comes to choosing the right intranet software for your organization, you will need to do some research and planning.
Every business has its own unique needs and that will need to be captured in the intranet platform that you ultimately decide on. Because this is an investment that can come with a big price tag, it’s really important that you know what your business goals are as well as any problems you are hoping to solve with your intranet solution, so that you get the maximum benefit from your investment.
These are the factors that you should consider when you are choosing intranet software for your company:
1. How the software will be hosted
There are different types of intranet software on the market. Some are hosted on-premises (based on your own servers) while others are hosted in the cloud via a Software As A Service (SaaS) provider.
There can be a big cost difference depending on which choice you make here. On-premise intranet software can sometimes be expensive as there are associated costs with running and maintaining these systems. This might not be a problem for larger organizations, while it may be prohibitive for smaller ones.
Conversely, cloud-based intranet software can be easy to deploy and may be more affordable, and can be customized to meet the company’s needs and don’t require installation or maintenance on the client’s side.
2. Software costs
Intranet software is available via different payment models, and some may not fit the budget that you have allocated to creating an intranet.
Some software providers will let you pay for the cost upfront and your company will own the intranet software. There are also subscription models where you are granted a license to use the software, with a regular bill that is payable either monthly, quarterly or yearly.
3. Ability to integrate with third party systems
The modern workplace has employees using multiple digital systems and tools every day, so it relies on systems working seamlessly with one another. It is therefore imperative that your intranet software has the capability of integrating easily with other systems your company uses such as Windows Active Directory, MS Office, and other tools.
This is also important for your employees’ digital workplace experience: when you have too many redundancies and inefficiencies in your software systems and processes, it can become very frustrating and can affect engagement and morale.
4. Can it be maintained by your existing staff?
Is this software something that is easy for your current IT and comms employees to administer and update? Is it easy to publish information? Will it add to productivity or detract from it?
In a previous role of mine, the company used complicated bespoke intranet software that was time-consuming to use for simple tasks. For example, there were more than 50 steps required to publish a simple internal blog post and the process would take more than an hour, compared with less than 10 minutes on a different platform.
Will there need to be regular maintenance? Will this add to workloads of the IT team? Does your comms team have the capacity to create enough new content for the intranet to keep it fresh and engaging? Will you need to appoint new staff who can be responsible for the intranet?
5. Can it be scaled?
Another important factor to consider is scalability. If your company grows and you end up with many more employees, is the software still going to be fit-for-purpose? Factors to consider here include:
- Will your corporate structure change?
- Will there be internal teams that need their own part of the intranet with their own content?
- Is the intranet for small business or for larger organization?
6. Does it cover the basic features on an intranet site at a minimum?
While every company’s intranet needs and, eventually, its intranet are different, there are some basic features that most organizations will need:
- A newsfeed
- An effective content search function
- The ability for employees to comment
- Corporate blogs
- Calendar integration
- The ability to manage policies
- A content management system
- Forums or discussion boards.
When you have decided on the right intranet software for your company, you then have the task of rolling it out to your employees. This can sometimes be complex, for a variety of reasons. You may run into teething problems with the software and may have to iron out the bugs. If the user interface of the software is not good, and it isn’t intuitive to navigate, you may find that people won’t use it. Others may be reluctant to use it at first because they don’t like change, but with a nudge in the right direction, they’ll come to use and accept it over time.
These steps can help you to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible:
1. Involve employees early
Whether you are upgrading or replacing an intranet system or building a new company intranet from scratch, getting input from employees early in the process can help to guide what it will look like and how it will be rolled out to the organization.
You can show them concepts and get feedback about how they navigate, what they find frustrating about the current system, and what they would like to see included or improved. You can do this by having focus groups, a working group committee or even sending polls and surveys to everyone to get as much feedback as possible.
2. Ensure you have an easy-to-use interface
It’s important to keep the interface of your intranet as simple as possible, as well as being user-friendly. It’s important to balance this with providing easy access to all the applications and tools that employees need to be productive at work.
3. Launch your new intranet at the right time
If there are major projects and critical deadlines looming for your company, that isn’t the best time to launch a new intranet. You need to pick a time when you expect things will be a bit quieter so that employees have the time to learn how to use the new portal without it detracting from high-priority tasks.
4. Communicate regularly about the new intranet
Imagine launching the intranet one day to find that it looks completely different from how it looked before and you had no idea this was going to happen, and now you’re not sure where anything is. It isn’t far-fetched – I have had this experience in a company I used to work for. Like any corporate change, a new intranet system is something that you need to communicate with staff about early and regularly.
This means when you are in the planning stages for the new intranet, you should let people know. When the plans are advanced and you have a target date for launch, you should let people know. When you have a definite launch date, you should let people know. And even when it is launched, there will be hints, tips and reminders to let people know about the new intranet, how to use it, and why they should be using it.
While you can place content on the intranet itself about these changes, it might be a self-defeating way to communicate. In addition to email, use other tools like pop-up alerts, desktop tickers, corporate screensavers and digital signage displays to let people know about the new site and to keep reminding them about it.
5. Provide training if necessary
Depending on the nature of your new intranet software, you may need to provide appropriate training for staff so that they can get the most out of the new employee intranet portal. Training needn’t be lengthy or complicated, it could be as simple as producing FAQs, user manuals, some live demos or video tutorials they can view as needed in their own time.
6. Get feedback
When you have deployed the intranet, you can send surveys to employees to ask them for their opinions on it. Do they like the navigation? Is there anything that is missing? Is the content useful? Continuing to get the insights of employees can help you to grow and change your intranet to ensure it is the right vehicle for your company.
The best intranet software providers for 2022
If you’re starting to investigate new intranet software options for your company for 2022, here are some that you should check out:
- Microsoft Sharepoint: This is an intranet software system used in many organizations and is a content management and knowledge management system.
- Staffbase: A popular intranet system used by diverse organizations with a distributed workforce – it provides intranet solutions via desktop or mobile.
- GreenOrbit: An intranet solution that is based on creating connectivity between employees, enabling them to manage documents, control various workflows, share knowledge and content and have real-time collaboration.
- MyHub: A cloud-based intranet solution that is easy to install and deploy and doesn’t require any technical expertise.
- Jostle: A cloud-based intranet system designed around increasing employee engagement and participation.
Your company intranet is an important asset that can drive knowledge, improve productivity and even build workplace culture and engagement. If your intranet is stale and out-of-date, its time to make it work for you with a better system.
Frequently asked questions
Can the intranet use email for communication?
You can use your email system to direct people to content on the company intranet. However, you can also use the intranet strategically to replace many emails that are sent. And you can also allow people to opt into alerts on certain topics that are posted on the intranet, so that new, relevant content is emailed directly to them.
What is employee intranet software?
Employee intranet software is an internal internet-type platform that companies use to share information. It can include document storage, social networking, calendars, collaboration tools and other features that enable employees to be productive.
Do companies still use intranets?
Companies certainly still do use intranets. However, not all intranets are the same. A modern workplace requires a modern intranet solution – not a stale, cumbersome, difficult to use behemoth that many organizations have that haven’t been updated or overhauled in more than a decade. Modern intranets make the most of modern digital tools to make information sharing, engagement and collaboration easier.
Why do companies prefer intranets?
Companies prefer to use intranets for a variety of reasons. These include:
- As a way to consolidate internal communications
- A place to focus on employee engagement
- A place to keep important company policies, procedures, protocols, strategy documents and more
- A place where team members can collaborate and share information
- A place where employees can access HR information.