Outside of client related activities, I spent a large portion of 2013 dedicated to the creation of our agency’s first intranet. We’ve grown significantly over the last few years and day-to-day tasks – things like sharing files and locating forms – had begun to impact productivity. As our circle grew, it was becoming increasingly more time-consuming for us to ramp up new team members, keep up with everyone’s schedules and find the “latest and greatest” version of important documents. This led us to the decision that an intranet could help with all that.
As you probably already know, an intranet is much like a web site, but it’s open only to members of a company. While larger businesses aren’t strangers to intranets, many smaller ones may be wondering if having an intranet is both feasible and necessary. The answer for us, at least, was “yes and yes.”
While our intranet is still in what we’re calling Phase One, we’re already seeing value. Here are some ways to determine if an intranet might be a solution for your business:
· You’re repetitively looking for the same content, or trying to figure out which content is the newest. Having a single, searchable document repository on your intranet means the latest versions of important documents are always easily and quickly accessible to everyone. This eliminates emails asking, “Hey, do you have document ABC?” and “Why am I looking at old numbers here?”
· Your HR or office manager takes a day off and everyone freaks out. You know these people – they’re the “hubs” of your office, the person who knows exactly where the vacation requests forms are or the process for ordering office supplies. Having this information inside an intranet means the place doesn’t fall apart when your main knowledge keeper isn’t there. You’ll also find that many tasks requiring paper forms can go paperless, being handled interactively via the intranet.
· You spend too much time coordinating schedules. All businesses have one big thing in common – lots of meetings. Intranets can be designed with a group calendar feature that gives visibility into who’s available on any given date. This means no more back and forth group emails trying to settle on a time that’s good for everyone.
· You have employees working outside of cubicles. From workers in home offices to salespeople and techs who are in the field, many companies have employees who are geographically dispersed. An intranet can serve as a virtual water cooler, a place where employees can “gather” in forums and chats. This not only establishes a sense of community, but also enables collaboration on projects (i.e., group creation of content) online.
· You’re on email overload. Sure, important announcements can still be routed by email, but many of us are drowning in that form of communication – to the point that it’s losing impact. We’re missing emails or deleting them soon afterward to clear out space on our mobile devices. An intranet can function as a virtual corkboard for important announcements that need to be seen and retained.
Before you undertake an intranet project, think about what you most want it to achieve. Just as we’re doing it here at Carabiner, I recommend rolling it out in incremental phases so you can decide what works and what doesn’t, and so you can keep the process from becoming overwhelming. You might simply start with one or two needed functions and build from there.
What components would you find most useful in an intranet?