Intranet For Small Business: What Should You Know?
The working environment in the last few decades has changed drastically. Every organization, be it big or small, is molding itself to these changes accordingly.
While it was uncommon in the past for organizations to have employees working remotely, nowadays, it has become the new norm. Even the smallest of the organization needs to provide its employees with flexible working condition.
This leads to another critical aspect - "sharing of information" - the phase where most SMEs face a challenge. The implementation of Intranet solutions can change that. The intranet helps to get the job done in a better way.
So, let's understand in detail about intranet for small businesses and how it can benefit them.
But before that, here’s a quick introduction.
What Is Intranet?
In simple words, the Internet is the World Wide Web, with millions having access to it.
On the other hand, Intranet is a private network used by the people of a particular organization. It is a platform that allows you to share information internally within your business, especially information you would not consider to be shared with the general public.
Initially, when intranet was introduced, not many understood the concept and the technology behind it. Most of the critics dismissed it as “The latest in a seemingly endless parade of technological fads and buzzwords.”
Also Read: Intranet vs. Internet
This slowly changed the way businesses operated. Eventually, they adopted intranet and started reaping the benefits offered by it. Now in today’s scenario, the number of businesses implementing intranet within their organizations have inclined.
Intranet is not just a mode of communication anymore. What started as a simple information-sharing tool for the management (such as company announcements and various corporate enrollment forms) has now morphed into a dynamic engagement tool.
The way small businesses use them has evolved significantly over the years. The intranets that were built in the early nineties were solely used as a private and secure form of communication from the top management to the employees.
One of the most common examples of this type of intranet is the digital memo. The Intranet today is much more than that.
Today, the intranet helps employees to stay connected with the latest company happenings, reports, and much more. The newest version of an intranet is what may be called the "social intranet" - an interactive space where the data is being constantly updated.
Why Do SME’s Need Intranet?
One of the most common misconceptions regarding Intranet is that it is suitable for only larger organizations with a broad base of employees. However, it is not the case always.
Larger corporations use intranet solutions to manage their large workforce, but this does not mean that small businesses cannot use them.
Every business irrespective of the number of employees needs to have effective communications facilities in place to improve workflow, productivity, and efficiency.
While SMEs (Small & Medium Entrepreneurs) do tend to have a smaller workforce, which enables them to take quicker decisions; however, there does come a point when the organization outgrows this arrangement.
They increasingly become prone to organizational and management issues. As they continue to grow, they will develop certain pain points that will have a direct impact on their overall productivity and business profits.
The reasons SMEs are now moving towards Intranets are:
1. Lack of proper communication
For a company to be successful, all the employees must understand their goals. A company with communication issues cannot succeed. When there is a communication lag from the top order to the employees, people tend to find out what is happening, through gossips during break time. As expected stories change from one employee to another, it leads to a misinformed and possibly disgruntled staff.
2. A decline in the productivity
Disgruntled staff/employees results in the decline of the overall productivity, hampering the growth of the organization.
3. Information storage
As team size grows, the information created will also increase. Many organizations are finding it difficult to store this information.
4. Tedious data sharing processes
If your employees are finding it increasingly hard to locate company policies, data, and information, or if they are buried under a mountain of paperwork or complicated email trails, then it calls for a drastic change. This will hamper the growth of the organization.
5. Wastage of time and efforts
For any organization, time is key. As clichéd as it may sound wasted, time is wasted money. The HR department especially is one of the prime examples of such instances. They repeatedly get requests to share the same policy details by different employees every day. If this process is eliminated, the HR department would be able to focus on different pressing matters.
A corporate intranet is an answer to all the problems listed above. It is practically a virtual space, which allows sharing of ideas, knowledge, documents amongst colleagues, clients, etc. It replaces the need for emails, forums, and cloud storage.
Intranet has revolutionized the way many companies do their businesses. Managers and CEOs of companies are astonished at the boost the right Intranet gives to their bottom lines.
By using an intranet to stay connected, can benefit the business in the long run. A modern intranet system can give an organization, powerful collaborative and communications benefits, with an added advantage of being secured.
Organizations now can create a fully customizable, tailored intranet software for their specific business needs. Unlike the old rigid software, it provides a flexibility that is vital for the growth of the organization.
As the organization grows, the intranet solution can be easily scaled-up. One can add more users, include additional features as and when required and even add essential business applications like Human Resource, Payroll, etc.
With intranet in place, companies can now easily share information, maintain a central knowledge bank, which is accessible to all employees with their specific access codes, improve, provide a social networking platform, etc.
A successful intranet solution offers the following benefits to an organization:
1. Efficient project management
The process of scheduling projects, tracking their progress, sharing documents collaboratively is time taking and complex. But with intranet in place, the entire process is completed quickly and efficiently. It also allows different team members to interactively share their feedback irrespective of the geographies involved.
2. Enhanced internal communication
For the growth of the organization, neither long-term nor short-term goals should be confined to upper management meetings. Everyone needs to be working toward common goals, and an intranet is a perfect place to post weekly reports, memos and goals. This way, everyone is on the same page.
3. Document sharing
The problem of not being able to have access or share necessary files, policies, presentation, etc. can be easily resolved by implementing an intranet solution. This system makes it easier to store the information in a single space to which access can be provided based on the rankings and designations.
4. Faster and easier than sending an email
E-mailing multiple versions of the same document or presentation leads to confusions and at times, information overload. By using the intranet, people can work on a shared file simultaneously and have a central location for the most recent file. This will also help save space on the server.
5. Better Collaboration and Connectivity
In an increasingly mobile world, many employees are working on-the-go, which require files to be accessed frequently. Moreover, they might need to utilize the tools of the trade wherever they are.
For example, an employee working from a remote location may need access to data for a report but is unable to locate it. In such situations, intranet comes into play. Through intranet, he/she would have the same connectivity to all the documents, as he would have when he in the office premises.
6.Built-in social networking features
Though this feature may be more apt for more extensive businesses, chances are that even small-scale businesses might have offices in multiple locations. This feature is a bonus for such organizations.
7. Site pages
This helps create pages that are used to post company policies, share important information with a specific group of employees with access to it or an announcement to the entire organization, advertise internal events, and other such things. These pages can also be used to create feedback forms for employees for any new key decisions taken by the management.
Now that we have understood and identified the reasons and benefits behind opting for an intranet solution, we now come to another vital aspect "which intranet suits the needs of your organization?"
What are the features that would be required by the team to function better? If the organization uses instant messaging for communication, choose a platform that offers you this function. Also, before choosing any intranet, it is necessary to look at the tools it provides.
For example, project & task management are a few of the basic tools that are most commonly used by a team in any organization.
To decide which intranet will suit your business, these factors need to be considered:
- Budget: Budget always plays a vital role in determining what solution is best suited. A big organization typically has a separate budget allotted for these activities whereas a small business does not.
- Security: Securing the company’s vital data and employees personal data is the top priority of any business owner. While the on-premise solution may sound more secure, the firewalls to data encryption provided by a cloud-based solution are what keeps all the data safe and secure.
- Possible ROI: Any investment requires a thorough determination of the possible return that will benefit the organization. A common question that is raised is "will this have a positive impact on my bottom line?" If the answer is yes, then you are ready to move to the next phase.
Now once the basic details are in order, an organization can choose from the following two options available, according to their budgets and technological know how.
Traditional or on-premise intranet
These intranets were initially used only by a large organization, which had the technical skills and the knowledge to develop it from scratch.
It is a tedious process and requires the intranet to be hosted on the company server. This involves a hefty investment of time, money, and resources. Alternatively, it can also be developed by using downloadable software like SharePoint etc.
While this might seem easier than above, it is still quite a task to as it requires one to choose the right option from the numerous plug-ins available, testing, piloting, etc. which is not possible without having a considerable knowledge about the entire process. In the long, this option will become obsolete and organizations will move towards the more advanced Coed solution.
Unlike its counterpart, this option is built to facilitate the entire set up process with ease. It comes with pre-tried and tested built-in tools and modules. This eliminates the need to check each module separately.
Due to its simplified process, the cloud-based intranet can go live within a few hours. Another benefit that this type offers is of being cost-effective. It is especially useful for small businesses who generally have very tight budgets. By opting to pay a nominal amount as the fee, an organization can also avail unlimited cloud storage, unlimited number of users and much more.
Another important aspect that makes cloud hosted intranet more viable is that it provides flexibility to the growing business. As the business/organization grows, it can quickly adapt the required changes in the mainframe.
Whether you opt for an on-premise solution or a cloud-based, implementation, it is just the beginning of the project. As the business grows, the needs and priorities will change.
What was once critical might not be as crucial in the current situation. Thus, it is required to continually review these need of the organization and use them to tweak the intranet solution accordingly.