The humble intranet has been used by businesses for many years, but in more recent times has evolved to become a much more powerful tool than it was in the past. This has been helped along by the advances in technology that we’ve seen take place over the past couple of decades.
An intranet is like a scaled-down version of the internet, where employees can access shared documents, social profiles, wikis and more. Given the right tools, the intranet can also be used for collaborating with colleagues and other key stakeholders.
Whilst once connecting to and using the internet was a tedious affair, now high-speed connections and improvements to the web overall have made the internet a vital business tool. The majority of organisations now have a web presence, but more importantly, the intranet has improved to the extent that it’s now possible to collaborate online via the cloud and shared workspaces.
Collaborating with Colleagues
Online collaboration tools (eg Skype Video Chat, Google Hangouts, screencasting tools, etc) have greatly improved, along with various other tools that are often initiated on the intranet.
Collaboration benefits an organisation by:
- Facilitating better communication between departments and offices
- Giving employees the ability to carry out their job more effectively, in turn boosting morale
- Allowing an organisation to better manage knowledge
- Enabling employees to work together and produce better outputs
If we add the portal to this, which allows those outside of an organisation to connect to parts of the intranet, then we also see improvements in communication and collaboration between the organisation and supplier and other partners.
Connecting with Partners
Extending the intranet to include portal access for all partners can significantly improve these relationships. Portals provide a self-service hub for partners to access at their convenience.
They provide information and communications that will assist the partner in effectively executing their part of the partnership such as partner program documents, pricing information, new marketing campaign assets, sales templates, online training, as well as important news and updates to be aware of - in one easily accessible, online location.
Portals often act as gateways to other systems used by partners such as CRMs and ERPs, surfacing summary information from these systems within the portal, and turning it into an 'one-stop shop'. When partners need to go to these other systems to see further information, single sign-on capabilities should be available. This allows them to visit these systems without having to enter their credentials/logins repeatedly.
The intranet and the portal, through providing a means of more effective communication, can improve relationships between employees and other key stakeholders. According to a recent study carried out on ‘employee activism’ 39% of people who use social media on a personal level have “shared praise or positive comments online about their employer.”
This is encouraging as it indicates that these users are engaged with their employer. On the intranet, social tools, when implemented and used by staff, can increase engagement with both the intranet and the employer.
Enterprise collaboration tools found on an intranet include:
Why is employee engagement so important? Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. You can expect this high productivity to translate into better financial gains for the organisation. The reverse is also true. Disengaged employees cost U.S. companies up to $550 billion a year
So effective communication can not only improve on morale and relationships with suppliers and employees, it also contributes to improving an organisation’s revenue.
Of course, organisations that can improve communications on the intranet and the portal with social enterprise network features, will also enjoy a lower turnover of staff.
In recent years we’ve seen businesses shift from owning all of their IT infrastructure to deploying parts of it to the cloud. This has enabled even better employee collaboration as cloud services can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, improving business processes across the organisation.
It has also seen a rise in the number of remote workers as it’s now possible to have an entire workload hosted in the cloud. For example, Desktop-as-a-Service (also known as virtual desktops) allow a user to access all of their work applications and documents from any location. The desktop is presented to the user in such a way that it can be fully personalised, including everything from wallpapers to documents, so that they are available as soon as the user logs in.
Mobile too has changed the way that we work and it’s now common to see staff using personal devices at work.
We’ve also seen online learning become increasingly popular in recent years, as technology has improved enough to ensure that it too can become a social experience for staff.
Integrating online learning with your intranet and portal can assist in furthering an employees training, providing supplementary resources to help employees gain a deeper perspective in the form of video content, social posts, Q&As, related documents, case studies, as well as details of the best colleagues to contact.
So to sum up, intranets and portals helps in connecting, communicating and collaborating with others - colleagues, suppliers, partners and other key stakeholders.
Collaboration platforms such as intranet solutions should be implemented to better facilitate this and the rewards for the organisation can be plentiful. Not only can revenues be significantly improved by offering cost savings and improved productivity, but morale and relationships can also be cemented.