So, you’re in the market to upgrade your organization’s current intranet – or maybe create your first one. Your company has gotten large enough that an intranet would do your employees good.
Early on in the planning process there are some necessary steps that will help to get you on the right track: like creating an internal project team and outlining your goals and objectives. Inevitably, the question “what software to use?” will be staring your team directly in the face.
Depending on the size and experience of your project team, this question can be hard to answer with confidence. (I’m sorry, I don’t have the magical answer for you.) The question you should ask is “what solution is best for us?”
Don’t worry – I’ve outlined the three basic issues you’ll need to investigate and answer.
How easy is implementation?
Regardless whether you choose a custom approach or a more well-known entity like the "Sharepoints of the Internet", there’s a level of commitment needed from your team during implementation.
A lot of times companies choose an out-of-the-box system hoping to save time and money – but rarely it does. There’s still a level of customization needed even with intranet products marketed as “everything you need” and “out-of-the-box”. Inevitably, as the team starts getting their hands dirty with implementation, they’ll realize they wish they could customize features or options a bit more.
No matter how badly we like to box up companies into similar industries, services or customer base, all organizations run in their own unique way. The value of having an intranet is not about it being a repository for all the boring yet necessary company documentation. It’s not about being an archive. It’s about collaboration. You need to give your employees a solution that is intuitive and stimulates active communication among employees, rather than stifling it.
How is the user experience?
Which brings us to user experience (UX). For your intranet project, engaging your employees through a great UX is imperative. An easy-to-use system will be used. A confusingly complex one will not. It’s that simple.
Now that we’ve started thinking about the cost of implementation in terms of manpower, we need to also consider how the intranet will be administered day to day – and by whom?
Having administrators that are familiar with the system will go a long way in providing a personalized experience for your employees. Your Intranet is a solution that your employees will be using every day. Fresh and targeted content – from news and events to corporate communications and resources – that are relevant to their job and interests will keep them coming back and re-engaging with the platform.
Another big trend we’ve seen in the intranet space is the integration of social functionality. Blogs, chat, “Like” buttons, digital workspaces and video conferencing are all great social tools that increase collaboration and productivity. Much like your favorite social media network, intranets are including features to allow employees to create profiles, share their work and provide updates on current initiatives. We’ve learned that these techniques really do encourage employees to engage better with co-workers.
One last point on personalization and UX: take extra consideration for how your intranet will work on mobile devices. More and more employees are accessing their work remotely or on-the-go – whether or not you want them to! Your intranet should be a mobile-optimized tool, easy to use on any device. Simplifying the navigation and UX, while allowing for touchscreen performance will keep employees happy when accessing the intranet – whether they are on the road or simply walking down the hall.
What’s the financial investment?
This can be a tricky topic. One of the first things to consider is whether you would prefer an ongoing subscription fee, or a one-time build cost.
If you’re leaning towards something like Sharepoint or SaaS solutions, you should budget for recurring fees. Those costs are based on how many users you serve and how many features you want. This could end up becoming costly if you have thousands of users. And we aren’t even scratching the surface on paying a Sharepoint developer or agency spend to customize it for your organization.
The other approach is to build a custom intranet tailored precisely to your company. That’s the route we take here at Imarc.
Unlike the typical SaaS model, we build and bill like a web development agency; not a software company. In this scenario, you’re billed for the time spent to build the intranet. That’s it. No recurring licensing fees to deal with. Because we design and develop on a scalable platform, the custom intranet solution can be deployed to as many users as you want. Over time, a custom solution will pay for itself – and then some.
Intranets touch almost everyone in a company, so there can be a lot of stakeholders involved. Be sure to use these three key questions to create an internal discussion about what approach is best for you.
There are lots of choices out there. Once you start drilling down into implementation, user experience, and the true financial investment, you’ll have a much better idea of what solution is best for your organization.
If you're looking to get started, download our RFP template and start addressing these important questions.