Updated: 15th December 2016
Recently, there seems to have been a re-emergence of the term community portal. There’s no mystery to it though and it’s a concept that’s been around for some time. Nowadays, you may hear it referred to as a social intranet, for example, as it’s quite similar.
Ideal for large organisations such as government departments, community portals offer a central place for employees to interact, consume organisational content and connect with communities. As technology and the internet has improved, intranet setups such as this have of course become more powerful.
Generally, community portals allow employees and those with access the ability to use a browser to access intranet information. Permissions can vary as to who sees what and this is determined by logins. A very good example of how a community portal can be used effectively is seen in education. Even in the past few years, these have grown from being a basic intranet setup to become online environments where essays can be submitted, questions asked of tutors, learning materials accessed and more. The power of these portals and the internet means that more universities around the world can now offer distance learning courses.
These can often be taken from any country and the portal enables it through:
- Online learning content such as video
- Q&A sessions with tutors
- Shared learning space where students can collaborate
- Tutorial interviews via VoIP apps such as Skype
- Instant chat
- Access to resources such as journals for research
So you can see that these portals are now enabling further education to become more prevalent and universities to gain extra funding through distance learning courses.
How Do These Apply to Business?
As mentioned earlier, community portals work best with larger concerns, rather than small business. The opportunities offered to business are plenty. Adding social elements to an intranet increases engagement and without this, a portal will not be providing ROI. Additionally, just like in education, a business can use the portal effectively for training its staff.
So an e-learning environment and LMS can be added to the portal to add:
- Induction training
- Equality and Diversity training
- Common qualifications that are necessary to staff development
And much more. Social elements can be included in this to also up engagement and to add some competition into the mix between employees. As social animals, we tend to enjoy doing things with others, so the ability to be able to see if you can score higher in a test, for example, perhaps via a shared scoreboard, is a motivating one.
This is something that can also take place through the portal. Shared spaces, discussion forums and instant messaging can all boost the ideas throughout the organisation to ensure that productivity, morale and creativity is encouraged.
This doesn’t all have to take place in one building, or even one country, it can be accessed by anyone with the appropriate permissions. For large organisations which may have members spread out geographically, this is an obvious bonus.
The Mobile Revolution
Since many of us now access the organisational intranet on our devices, this gives the portal even more power. Logistically, it does also mean that the company in question will have to give some thought to responsive layouts though. However, this is something that’s easy enough these days and to gain real engagement is also necessary.
A good, well thought out and implemented portal can also facilitate remote working. This, alongside the sense of worth that’s lent to an employee when they have the ability to have a voice through the portal, can really enhance an organisation in a few ways.
- Increased productivity
- Happier workers
- Fostering of knowledge workers
- Increased awareness of organisational policies and procedures
- More effective communication between departments
- Lowering of costs when it comes to travel, training and more
We’ve talked before on how collaboration can increase productivity and how engaged employees tend to be happier in their work. This is something that can’t be emphasised enough as it inevitably affects the bottom line.
Happier workers take less sick leave, take on more responsibility and do their jobs more effectively. Remote workers are generally happier because they can balance work and home better. All of this essentially cuts costs for the organisation in terms of less sick pay, a higher rate of employee retention and in terms of productivity.
Whilst some reports suggest that the intranet is something that has become a little staid in recent years, this is now changing again. Adding an effective community portal that engages employees and partners allows an organisation to bring the intranet into the modern era. This is of course enabled by fast-moving technology and internet speeds and means that when it comes to the crunch, the intranet is something that remains a huge asset to every organisation.