In today’s competitive economic climate, every business needs efficient, effective, and simple working practices in order to succeed. And extranet software could be the way to achieve this.
If communicating and sharing information with external parties and clients is an important part of your company’s day-to-day tasks, it’s time to assess whether your methods are as effective as possible to achieve a professional level of service.
With rapid advances in technology over the past few years, most businesses have realised we’re in the era of the digital workplace and have made efforts to reap the benefits of some of the amazing software available.
For these reasons, extranets are one of the most effective ways of keeping employees connected with clients and other external parties. Read on to learn more…
What is extranet software?
Extranets are a particular type of network through which information can be shared digitally.
The software allows businesses to create a secure online environment to share and store information centrally, which saves time and enables external users to access up-to-date and accurate information, whenever they need to.
Using a web portal means it’s not necessary to be in any specific location to use an extranet solution, making it ideal for businesses to share information with outside parties, such as customers, external supply chains, and business partners.
Why do businesses use extranets?
Businesses of all sectors and industries can use extranets for the simple reason that everyone needs to share information with third parties. This could range from sharing practical data such as price lists or inventory information, to sharing collaborative communications like ideas and feedback.
Ultimately, if your organisation works with any number of external distributors and suppliers, then it can make good use of an extranet.
Examples of the application of extranet software
There are many ways in which organisations use an extranet, depending on their needs and team structure. For example, companies with a large business network of distributors can use their extranet as a distributor portal, connecting their external partners to important documents, as well as providing the means to communicate with internal teams.
Organisations can also use extranets to build a customer portal. This provides their external customers with a controlled private network from which to report issues, contact technical support, and access training program materials. In fact, this is what we do at Claromentis. We used our own intranet and extranet software to build our Discover support portal, which connects customers to our support teams and self-help materials.
Claromentis customer support portal – built using our own extranet software
Read on to find out the top five benefits of an extranet and learn how its unique characteristics can help your company achieve its business goals.
Top 5 benefits of an extranet
1. Extranets make it easy to share information
Without an extranet, file sharing has to take place via email – which is insecure and wastes time. For example, if you have multiple versions of the same document, which may be stored in different locations, then it’s all too easy to email the wrong version to your external business partners.
It’s also time-consuming and stressful searching your inbox for critical information that might be buried within hundreds of other emails. It can be a long task opening new emails and searching for older ones, and slows down productivity.
By using an extranet, all the information you need is stored centrally in one place and just a click away.
2. An extranet keeps your business assets secure and safe
One of the key benefits of extranet software is that it keeps your organisation’s data secure. Extranets have in-built access controls, which means only the individuals or teams who need to access particular information will have the relevant permission to view it.
Extranets can only be accessed via passwords, ensuring nobody outside the group of approved users has access to the system. Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security, by requiring an additional code – usually sent to a user’s device – to be entered before gaining access to the system.
3. Extranets simplify project management
Employees, partners, vendors, and suppliers can collaborate on projects with ease using an extranet, including those based in remote locations or working from home.
Even employees who are field-based and on the road frequently can access the tools and information they need through an extranet, via their smartphone or another mobile device.
Extranets contain multiple collaboration tools as standard, which means you won’t have to attend endless meetings or send emails to stakeholders. Instead, the extranet allows you to store, edit, and upload documents; manage tasks; organise conference calls; start and contribute to group discussions; make announcements; and gather feedback, all within the same central hub. All actions that take place within the extranet are stored, so you have a record of projects, past and present, which you can access at any time.
4. Extranets solidify your business brand
In these competitive times, it’s increasingly important for your business to have a brand that stands out.
To this end, an extranet allows you to create a personalised portal that reflects your organisation’s brand, including elements such as logos, colour schemes, and backgrounds, giving you a system that has both style and substance.
By having a branded extranet, within which clients and stakeholders can communicate and collaborate, your company has the edge over businesses whose methods of communication are not as technologically advanced.
5. Extranets are easy to set up and cost-effective
An extranet is simple and inexpensive to set up. Once up and running, it’s easy to maintain and it doesn’t require extra IT staff to keep it going. On the contrary, very little training is required to use the extranet, as it’s so simple to use, once employees are familiar with its principles.
One of the advantages of the extranet is that it can save your company money in the long term, as employees will have more time to concentrate on meaningful work rather than being bogged down by unnecessary admin tasks. This will increase productivity, cut overheads, and ultimately make your business leaner..