Company intranets have been around now since the 1990s, and lots of businesses have realized the many benefits that they offer. And it’s not just the big corporates, either. Increasingly, small businesses are using intranet software to develop company intranets.
So, if you’re a small-business owner who is investigating utilizing intranet software, then congratulations on making a sound business decision. No doubt though you will have discovered that there is a wide range of choices out there. Making sense of those choices and selecting the right one for your small business can easily end up in the too-hard basket.
In this article, however, we offer some help by examining the intranet software options that are available so that you can make an informed selection.
The starting point for any important decision is to develop an appreciation of your organization’s needs. What is it you want your intranet software to achieve? What problem are you seeking to address? Having an understanding of the ‘why’ question and what’s important to your organization will help to inform the selection of the most appropriate software choice for you.
Common ‘whys’ from small businesses include the following:
- Document storage and sharing has become a challenge: Maybe your organization has outgrown Dropbox and is finding it increasingly difficult to locate, access and update policies, procedures or product and service manuals.
- It’s increasingly hard to maintain good lines of communication: Maybe your business involves staff members spending lots of time on the road visiting clients and drumming up new business. Or perhaps your company is a virtual one with employees working in disparate locations and different time zones.
- Opportunities for collaboration on tasks is limited: Maybe as a result of the above, there are few opportunities for staff members to collaborate on projects and to foster a real sense of a company identity.
- Productivity could be improved: With a small workforce, it’s important that staff are as productive as possible, so streamlined office processes and readily available data is a must.
Performing a needs analysis will give you a much better understanding of where the blockages are in your organization and what it is you are trying to achieve. Your choice of intranet software will largely be determined by which is the best match in terms of addressing your needs.
In addition, there will be a number of other factors that will influence the choice of intranet software.
Small businesses will typically have a limited budget for implementing an intranet, so it’s important that the identified solution, as well as meeting organizational needs, also offers value for money.
On the face of it, free intranet software solutions such as SharePoint and WordPress would appear to be the obvious solution. As the offering from Microsoft, SharePoint also has the advantage of being easily integrated with the MS Office suite of programs. And WordPress is one of the most popular web development tools in the world.
Both platforms, therefore, have some advantages, but the core offering from both can be limited. Many businesses have found that they need to supplement the functionality with additional plugins and add-ons. These, however, often come at a cost both in terms of initial purchase and ongoing licensing and updating. These are important costs that are often overlooked initially.
Cloud-based intranet software, in comparison, comes with a fixed monthly fee. There is, therefore, a greater certainty over costs. It usually covers a specified number of users—or, in some cases, an unlimited number. In addition, the agreement with the provider will also specify what you can expect in terms of storage and ongoing support, so the costs are transparent.
Most small businesses will not want to spend months developing and refining an intranet offering. Once they’ve identified the need, they will be keen to implement the solution and carry on with the important parts of the job as quickly as possible. Finding an intranet software solution that can be up and running quickly will, therefore, be a priority.
Intranet software options such as Drupal and Papyrus can require a certain amount of technical knowledge to get up and running. Adding or editing functionality requires a certain level of technical understanding and an investment of time and resources.
With these types of software, what may have initially been seen as a short implementation period of a few weeks can quickly drag on into several months. While you may end up with a solution that is closely aligned to the needs of your business, it may well have taken you many months and lots of dollars to get there.
Cloud-based intranet software is capable of being deployed very quickly. Most providers have templates that you can use as a starting point for your company intranet. These can be refined and customized to suit your company’s requirements.
Because the technology and features are already there, it means that the intranet can be up and running in a matter of hours. What’s more, you don’t have to be a technical expert either – even a novice can create a professional intranet using cloud software.
Easy to Use
Once your intranet is up and running, you will want staff to use it from day one. You don’t have time for it to slowly become ingrained in the workforce or for protracted staff training programs. To hit the ground running, your intranet will need to be intuitive to use with a logical site navigation and advanced search functionality.
With the free intranet software options, that isn’t always the case. The modular nature of WordPress and SharePoint, with their plugins and add-ons, often means that they are unwieldy and difficult to use. In addition, it’s worthwhile remembering that neither of those options was originally designed as intranet software. Instead, they have morphed over time and developed into intranet software tools without specifically being designed for that purpose.
Could-based solutions, however, have been specifically designed as intranet software and are inherently easier to use and manage on an ongoing basis. In particular, the search functionality is likely to be far superior to the free offerings. The potential for making savings in terms of intuitive ease of use for staff members is much greater under this option.
As we have seen, often small business employees work remotely or virtually from home, so having an intranet that is accessible away from the office and outside standard working hours will be an important requirement.
Cloud intranet software solutions by definition are accessible 24/7 via a smartphone or tablet and a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. These means that staff will be able to collaborate on work projects, share and connect regardless of physical location and time zones. Your office intranet will also be automatically optimized for mobile access rather than being merely mobile accessible.
A number of factors will influence your decision as to which intranet software is the best fit for your needs and business. Hopefully this discussion has helped you to identify the critical points for you and give you an appreciation of what the intranet software options are so that you can make a more informed selection.
Helen Borich is member of the editorial staff of MyHub Intranet Solutions. MyHub is a cloud-based intranet software solution that provides businesses with a range of powerful business tools via their own secure customizable intranet site.