There’s a lot of talk these days about social networking and intranet software. Unless you’re familiar with the terminology, it can be difficult to understand what it all means. If you’re not well-versed with the technology used to create a digital workplace, it’s easy to hear the words “enterprise”, “networking”, “social”, “collaboration”, “platform”, “intranet” and so on, and be left wondering what exactly each one does.
For example, if you’re considering enterprise social networking and social intranet software, you may be puzzled as to what the difference is. The truth is that there are distinct differences between the functionality of the two platforms. Anyone who is deliberating about the most suitable platform for a business needs to be aware of the different functions before making a decision.
Where do you start?
Going back to basics, an intranet is a static website that allows only individuals within an organisation to enter because of its access restrictions. An intranet is a means for people within a company to communicate information to other employees.
At the top end of the technology spectrum is enterprise social networking. Imagine it’s a kind of Facebook for the business world. It hosts a free-flowing newsfeed, where people inside the organisation can post, comment, share, like, and follow content.
Social intranet software lies somewhere between a basic intranet and enterprise social networking. It can combine the best of both platforms. It facilitates conversations from managers to employees and vice-versa. It enables peer-to-peer discussions. It also contains tools for document management, knowledge management, collaboration, calendars, chat, activity streams, blogs, and more.
Enterprise social networking
Enterprise social networks basically provide social communication and sharing. Organisations can use additional tools to manage all aspects of communication and workflow, including cloud storage for document management; a social platform for collaboration; project management software for managing workflow and assignments; and helpdesk software for support. They can perhaps add other channels for instant messaging, telephone conferencing, texting, and video conferencing.
Over time, this can prove less convenient, as it begins to promote the creation of information silos. This means it becomes an information management system which cannot communicate freely with other information management systems. Communication is always vertical, which means it is difficult for the system to work alongside unrelated systems.
Social intranet software
A social intranet has distinct advantages over an enterprise social network. A social intranet combines these functions into a single platform. It marries social collaboration, document management, communication, and knowledge management into one system.
This can benefit an organisation in a number of ways. Most importantly, you can make IT savings. Installing social intranet software means companies no longer need to buy and maintain several different pieces of software. With fewer tools to use on a day-to-day basis, social intranet software is simpler for employees to understand. Less training is required for employees to get up to speed on using the system.
In terms of workflow efficiency, a social intranet means employees don’t need to switch between various tools, as the required functions are all contained in one platform. Staff aren’t wasting time looking for the information that they need across multiple channels.
Communication is consistent
Using social intranet software means company communication is consolidated in one platform. This enables information to be shared consistently, so that everyone receives all the necessary bulletins. There are no worries about someone being inadvertently left off an email list, or about information maybe getting lost in translation. Social intranets eliminate the possible pitfalls of information becoming less accurate as it’s passed down the line, as everyone receives the same message simultaneously, in the same place.
In the same vein, discussions, ideas, questions and brainstorming can all take place around the relevant files, messages, or projects. This provides a context and a discussion history, with full transparency. The natural archiving of these interactions provides a repository for company knowledge that can be retained and called up at any future time.
Customise your social intranet software
The beauty of this software is that it’s not a case of “one size fits all”. On the contrary, social intranet software is flexible and can be customised. It’s possible to change the system to suit the way your organisation works, rather than having to change the way your business operates to suit the system. This means that employees will be more comfortable and happy to use the system. Improved user engagement leads to a more effective system on the whole.
There’s also greater access flexibility with social intranets, which can be configured to enable users outside the firewall (such as clients) to access certain areas. For example, customers can be permitted to access a knowledge base, or FAQs, while your internal communications remain protected.
Today’s businesses have progressed in leaps and bounds from the days of a fax being posted on a bulletin board. Employees can find all the information they need at the click of a mouse. They are more engaged in their day-to-day duties. This is leading to increased employee satisfaction.
Social intranet software appears to have the edge over enterprise social networking for the digital workplace. Not only is it easier to use in general, but also, as a result of this, in terms of return on investment, it generates a higher and faster return. For almost any size of business, a customisable social intranet offers all the necessary functions, flexibility and options to make working life a little easier and vastly more enjoyable.