Organizations of any size have always had a deep need for the storage and transmission of information for all members. The concept of the intranet has been around since the early 1990s as a way of solving this common requirement.
Intranets are surprisingly well defined as a solution, with the name deriving from the application of Internet technology to the internal needs of an organization. Generally, this means only allowing authorized and authenticated use for organization members. Sometimes this is by using a private network, and sometimes by simply restricting access to authenticated users.
The durable popularity of intranets reflects the ability for companies to leverage technology designed for the Internet and apply it to intranet use. As time and technology speeds forward, intranets can adapt and gain functionality from products designed for a wider audience.
As the Internet has expanded in what is possible and what is useful, so the intranet has created opportunities for types of organizational communication. These opportunities easily exceed even the wildest requirements of what the early intranet pioneers found extraordinarily powerful.
Intranets are Content and Communication
The core value proposition for the intranet is the ability to disseminate information quickly and with low marginal cost of production and distribution.
Early intranets and some existing simple intranets are setup in a broadcast model where a small group of content creators publish information for a large number of passive consumers.
Using a CMS for an Intranet
It’s common to build an intranet out of Content Management Systems (CMS), which provide an easy to use and cost-efficient way of providing the core capability of an intranet in an organization.
The development of collaboration tools for Internet applications makes it simple to expand from the publisher/consumer model to an all-inclusive multi-publisher role. Communication blockages are removed when every organizational member has the potential to be both publisher and consumer of information.
The growth of crowdsourcing, social and messaging tools and technologies for Internet applications reveals the potential of having everyone involved in creating a rich repository of organizational information. This is indisputable, but everything is not always as it seems when providing content and collaboration tools originally developed for the wider Internet audience.
The primary differentiator of the intranet from the Internet, authentication and access control, provides the key requirement when looking to adapt technology for internal use. Not all collaborative tools are strong in content management, and not all content tools have collaborative features.
The following list details key benefits that many organizations look for in an intranet and which Content or Collaboration features are typically used to provide it. For extra help, some key considerations are also provided. Each section below represents a key benefit that a intranet provides.
A typical intranet user needs to find the correct information quickly and easily, from wherever they are.
Feature : Content Management, Document Management, Rich search
Using a Content Management system with built in Document Management and a unified search allows users to find the information they are looking for quickly.
Key Considerations : Identity and Access Control
An organization typically has a hierarchy, and with that hierarchy comes the need to have different access levels to information.
The Content and Document management must have the ability to restrict access to information based on the identity of the intranet user. This includes restricting the visibility of documents/content in the search results, not just disallowing the opening of content for unauthorized users.
Timely Communication and distribution of Content
Many organizational information requirements are time sensitive. Publishers need the ability to publish information on a specific schedule, and users need to view the information around specific dates and times.
Feature : Content Management with control over publishing time gives publishers the ability to build content prior to general release. Rather than make the publisher work odd hours to publish, a strong Content Management system allows for set-and-forget publishing.
Key Considerations : When time-critical information is distributed, it’s likely that many of the audience will not be at a traditional workstation when it is distributed.
An intranet designed for multiple device platforms allows organizational users to consume the information on corporate computers, mobile phones and tablets – all while authenticated and secure.
Incorporating Organizational Specific Functions
An intranet doesn’t need to be about distributing quarterly reports or the results of the corporate soccer team. It may also incorporate key components of organizational function, such as reports from other systems, integrations with third-party systems such as Customer Resource Management or Expense Reporting.
Feature : Extensible and Simple Customization of an intranet platform allows organizations to integrate and develop their own specific functionality. This can increase the value of the intranet and the other functionality as integration increases the likelihood of interaction with all systems.
Key Considerations : Identity and Authentication are key when integrating other systems into an intranet. An intranet that can authorize and identify an organizational user can save other systems from managing multiple identities. Everyone from the organizational support staff to the user will give thanks for that.
Fostering collaboration and teamwork
Many of the greatest organizational initiatives have resulted from encounters in the lunchroom or hallway. When multiple people can share their experience and viewpoint in a low-touch, informal way, great things can come as a result.
Feature: Collaboration Tools such as ideation, gamification and wiki publishing are ideal for fostering a environment of teamwork and innovation. When people from distant parts of an organization can see each others ideas and problems, interesting solutions can arise.
Key Considerations : While crowdsourcing tools like a wiki are an obvious application of Internet technology applied internally, the free-for-all wiki may not be the ideal solution to create a navigable, structured information source. Specific wiki technology with identity and access control is important for gaining a quality result.
Ideation is an ideal way to foster collaboration by encouraging submission and discussion of ideas. Using gamification of content creation, idea creation and all collaborative activities then provides the extra motivation that people thrive on.
Intranet Content Management Systems
The exact requirements for each organization intranet will always be unique. Content management will always be a key capability for an intranet.
The creation of collaborative tools for Internet applications has provided a cost-efficient way of harnessing the communication and innovation potential for intranet use.
An Intranet CMS from DNN
DNN recommends Evoq for the creation of modern intranets using time-tested technology perfectly suited for the needs of an internal information system.
Whether your intranet is in a self-hosted private network or to be deployed as an intranet in the cloud for wide access and low TCO, DNN has a solution suitable for your needs.
Contact our Sales team or request a custom demo and find out how quickly a modern, secure and powerful intranet can be delivered.
Note: This post was originally published on January 13, 2015. We updated it with a few new details on February 22, 2016.
How to Select an Intranet CMS
How to Select a CMS for Your Intranet
An intranet is an essential digital platform for organizations to communicate with its workforce. When selecting a CMS for your intranet, you need to ensure it has features that are right for your organization.
In this white paper, we detail the seven key features of an Intranet CMS. Download the white paper for the full details.