13 Apr 2012

How to build an effective intranet

Mobile and “anywhere/anytime” computing are changing the way we work, allowing us to be more flexible and productive.

One consequence however, is a rise in situations where staff are working either at different times or in different places.

Good collaboration technologies are therefore vital for getting things done and sharing knowledge.

Most businesses have an intranet solution (such as a wiki or Microsoft SharePoint), but for a variety of reasons many don’t make the most of what these platforms can achieve, leaving them to become backwaters for out-of-date information.

That’s a shame because, done right, intranet platforms are powerful business tools.

Here are some steps that will help your business get the most from its intranet solution:

1. Make sure it’s searchable – and fast

One of the reasons that an intranet will stagnate is if it’s too slow to search through (and as a result, too slow to use).

Having prominent and fast search capabilities will make your intranet easy and attractive to use. When it’s easy to find, information will also be more easily maintained. Once your intranet has reached a certain size, it’s also important that search results can be easily filtered or customised.

2. Make sure it’s attractive

Like any website, user experience counts.

If you’re to make the most of an intranet platform, it must be attractive, clean and intuitive.

Encourage staff to post information in formats that are easy to both publish and consume. Don’t simply post word documents or PDFs – copy relevant information into the intranet pages themselves.

3. Use it to execute tasks, as well as for sharing information

The best intranet systems aren’t simply passive stores for information, but are also tools for streamlining day-to-day tasks.

Use electronic forms and workflows to simplify and speed up common jobs, and train staff in how to create and manage these systems. An intranet that supports active collaboration will go a long way in making your business more efficient.

4. Make sure it can manage documents

We know the time wasting and errors that can occur when out-dated versions of company documents (like contracts or fact sheets) escape into the wild.

Using an intranet platform to manage important documents will prevent this. Make sure that yours has comprehensive document management capabilities, including authoring, approval and revision systems.

The more integrated the platform is with your email and word processing systems, the more effective your staff will find it.

5. Make sure it has business intelligence

Business Intelligence (or BI) capabilities are a key feature of the best intranet solutions.

Whether for tracking or reporting, take advantage of your platform by making it a hub for collecting and disseminating business information. As I’ve blogged previously, BI and business data analysis can provide powerful results, and an intranet solution can play an important role.

Summing up

With the shift towards more flexible work patterns, collaboration tools are having a big say in how effectively your workforce is able to take advantage of mobile and other trends.

Make sure that you’re getting the most from your intranet platform by ensuring that it’s fast and intuitive. With the right features, it should become a powerful first point of call when your staff want to collaborate to get things done.

Dave Stevens is MD, Brennan IT.

(This blog post was first published on the SmartCompany website on April 12 2012).

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