The Internet has become an almost inexhaustible reservoir of knowledge that we use massively, both personally and professionally, to find, share and exchange information. Yet the Internet is also fragmented. It is not always easy to distinguish reliable information from nonsense. There are also risks involved in sharing and exchanging sensitive or business-critical information via the public internet.
This is why many organisations work with a closed counterpart to the Internet: the intranet. But what exactly is an intranet? How do you design and use it? And what are the benefits of an intranet for your organisation? In this article, we will answer all these questions.
What is an intranet?
An intranet is a closed communication system that is only accessible to authorised users. Usually these are the employees of a certain organisation, possibly supplemented by a select number of external users such as freelancers or employees of partner organisations. You can see an intranet as a private network within an organisation. A kind of private internet. Someone gets access to the system by logging in with the right credentials..
What can you do with an intranet?
Many companies use their intranet as a central internal information and communication hub. For example, it can be equipped with an internal mail system. It is also an environment in which the board, management and employees can share internal information. For example, announcing events and meetings, sharing important news, putting employees in the spotlight or sharing feedback on tasks or projects.
As a tool for knowledge management, the intranet is also a great place to create a digital learning environment. For example, you can use the intranet to offer e-learnings or webinars that help employees improve their work or learn new skills.
It is also possible to connect different applications and systems to an intranet. Think, for example, of the integration with a document management system (DMS). This makes it possible to save files centrally in the intranet environment and to work together on and in documents (also remotely).
The benefits of an intranet
Having an intranet offers your organisation various advantages. We list the most important ones.
A central information environment
In a modern intranet, all information flows within the organisation come together. You bring applications, communication tools and components that are normally separated together in a central environment. This way, everyone can work together and communicate without having to search for the right files, information, applications and tools. All information, expertise and documents are in one central location and are kept up-to-date. Especially within large organisations with many employees, departments and branches, this saves a lot of e-mails and phone calls.
Co-creation becomes the norm
An intranet facilitates working in teams and thus encourages co-creation. Especially with the advent of the cloud, you process information in real time and other users see the result immediately. No more different versions that you have to e-mail to many colleagues, but current versions that you can easily share within the intranet environment. Because you can also open up an intranet (temporarily) to external parties such as chain partners, subcontractors or freelancers, you can also extend the cooperation beyond the borders of your own organisation.
Compared to solutions that rely on the public Internet, an intranet is very secure to set up. You can, for example, link access to a mandatory multifactor authentication. Users must then go through one or more additional verification steps in addition to their username and password. With single sign-on, you also create convenience. Users only have to log in once to get access to all their files and applications in the intranet environment.
An intranet can also have a social function. People benefit from each other’s talents and expertise and easily share interesting news and professional information with colleagues. This creates involvement, inspiration and social cohesion, all elements that are conducive to collaboration and productivity. A good social intranet is therefore a platform for and by employees.
How to set up an intranet
But how do you set up a good and future-proof intranet? It is wise to go through the following fixed steps in any case.
- Determine the objectives. What exactly do you want to achieve with the intranet? Do you primarily want to inform employees or are you aiming to provide them with a better communication and collaboration environment? Or are you aiming for a combination of both? The goal determines how you set up your intranet.
- Look at what you already have. Perhaps it is sufficient to link a number of applications and systems that you already use. But you may also have to build your intranet environment from scratch.
- Get a good picture of the users and stakeholders. Which people are going to use the intranet and what should the different users be able to do with it?
- Choose the content you want to put on the intranet. Do you want to create a knowledge bank or learning environment, or do you mainly want to share company information? And will you keep it purely business-like or will you also give the intranet a personal touch (for example, a calendar with birthdays and corresponding possibilities to congratulate)?
- Determine the technical requirements and look and feel. What technology do you use to build and manage the intranet? Is the technology capable of moving with future IT innovations? And how do you design the platform in terms of appearance and UX?
The value of an intranet
If you think carefully about the design of an intranet, it is a great way to take digital cooperation and communication within your organisation to a higher level. You create a centralised cooperation and information environment with a social character.
Read the next article: “What is document management?“