Most modern companies these days are aware of what an intranet is and does, but to avoid any confusion from the outset, an intranet can be described as: “A browser based tool that allows employees to communicate, search and share company information.”
When beginning to plan, one of the most important aspects to this is justifying the cost to the finance department. To do this, it’s necessary to come up with a good business plan that will go some way to proving that there is ROI.
There are many benefits to an intranet which include:
- Happy workforce – this may seem like something which is neither here nor there, but happy workers are productive workers and it’s likely that this alone will prove ROI.
- Document creation and storage – creating hard copies of documents, printing them off and then storing them for tax purposes costs money – a lot. For the most part, a company will generate a huge amount of paperwork and in this day and age, the majority of it is completely unnecessary. Storage costs plus printing and consumables all add up to a significant sum quite quickly.
- Work is kept internal – these days, with the amount of regulations companies are required to adhere to, leaking any information outside of an organization can be fatal. With an intranet, everything is shared internally, doing away with the need for online public cloud storage solutions and external email. This can prove ROI in terms of risk management and as a part of a disaster recovery plan.
- Measure – think about how the intranet will be measured in terms of usability, ROI and general operations. If you have a CMS then include how much time is gained by automating work processes. Look at how it has enabled collaboration and search and allow for this when it comes to requesting budget.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are key points which need to be fleshed out in the planning stages to keep the finance people happy. To really justify it, it will be necessary to look at every aspect of the time and money saving that an intranet can afford a company and set this out clearly in the plan.
- Increased productivity and collaboration
- Information exchange via wikis and bulletin boards
- Lower staff turnover as everyone’s job becomes more enjoyable
- A 2% increase in productivity can equate to a 100% ROI when comparing staff returns to system costs
It’s worth thinking about scalability too – will the intranet stand the test of time? Does it have the latest technology and upgradability? Is it better to have an on-site solution than a cloud-based infrastructure?
It’s important when planning to look at the overall picture. What are the goals for the intranet and what are the key points which support the need for one. A mistake at this stage can be extremely costly so it pays to take the time to complete a full audit of the existing and planned technology.
The next thing to decide is whether the IT department within the company has the skills to build an intranet, whether an outside consultancy and build service is the best solution, or if you can use an ‘off the peg’ solution.
The business/intranet plan should be forward-thinking, take into account user permissions, as well as application deployment. In the plan, include a site map as well as a build plan, so that you can demonstrate how it works both technologically and practically.
It’s important to plan the social aspects, if they are to be included too. These can include social intranet as part of an integrated CMS and will have elements such as:
- A personal profile page for each employee
- Bulletin boards
- Image Gallery
- Project management
- Collaboration and video calling
This is just to name some of the aspects that can be included, but obviously it often depends on your industry sector as to what elements are best for you.
Permissions & clouds
Permissions are a very important aspect to an intranet and should be fully worked out and steps taken to ensure it is scalable from the beginning. Roles, user groups and sub-groups etc. should all be defined at the beginning of the project, with planning in place to accommodate expansion in the future.
As an intranet is an investment, it should be future-proofed as much as possible. This may mean using Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) in the cloud, as this is generally more scalable than an on-site infrastructure. Cloud models are also more cost-effective for some businesses, but compliance issues should be taken into consideration depending on the industry.
It may be that your applications only can be deployed from the cloud but the infrastructure remains on site. Whatever the case, it pays to have a complete audit of the cloud supplier’s network carried out in order to determine whether they meet compliance regulations for your company.
For reputable cloud suppliers, this shouldn’t be a problem and the majority of them will be completely transparent when it comes to this as they are as aware of compliance issues as you are.
Remember the end user
It’s important to remember when you are designing an intranet that the people who are working on it will be employees with varying degrees of skill when it comes to using technology.
The best way to overcome this is to keep it simple and keep in mind usability and ease of navigation. This is one reason why it’s a good idea to first make a site map and work out a home page framework.
Conduct a survey amongst the employees, see what they are comfortable with and ask yourself how much training will be necessary to use the intranet. Obviously, if it is so convoluted that a lot of training is necessary for each employee, then have a rethink as this is going to take a large chunk of the budget.
Getting employees involved will mean that they are more likely to engage with and use all of the features of an intranet. This will, in the long term, make for a much more cost-effective solution.
Finally, deploy! Once the intranet is in place, it’s important to obtain feedback from users and adjust accordingly until everyone is happy!