In today’s competitive economic climate, every business needs efficient, effective, and simple working practices in order to succeed. 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. One of the most effective ways of keeping employees connected with clients and other external parties is via an extranet.
This is a particular type of network through which information can be shared digitally. Using a web portal means it’s not necessary to be in any specific location to use the extranet. This makes it ideal for businesses to share information with outside parties, such as customers and business partners.
Extranets can be used across all industry sectors, because everyone needs to share information with third parties. There are many examples of extranet applications, such as distributor portals, customer portals, partner portals, team workspaces, and collaborative project workspaces.
The extranet allows businesses to create a secure online environment to share and store information. Members can access the information, which is stored centrally, saving time and enabling users to access up-to-date and accurate information, whenever necessary.
Read on to find out the top five ways an extranet and its unique characteristics can help your company achieve its business goals.
1. Information sharing is easy
If you don’t have an extranet for your clients, files can be shared via email. However, the important information and various versions of documents may be stored in different locations, which means it’s easy to miss things and make mistakes. Also, large file attachments can clog up email inboxes, or may not be delivered at all if the recipient’s inbox is full.
It’s time-consuming and stressful searching your inbox for information that might be hidden within hundreds of other emails. It can be a long task opening new emails and searching for older ones, actually slowing down productivity.
By using an extranet, the required information, including relevant uploaded documents, is all stored in one place and just a click away.
2. Keep your business assets secure and safe
Using the extranet will ensure all your documents are stored securely, so that only those people, or groups, who need access to particular information will have the relevant permission to view it. Passwords can be used to log in, to ensure nobody outside the group of approved users has access to the system. Servers use encryption, which is hard for hackers to beat.
When sharing a large file attachment, there are no worries about an email inbox not accepting it, as everything is stored within the extranet.
3. Project management made easy
Employees and third parties can collaborate 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. This also means project teams, clients, and outside partners can work online on shared documents at their convenience, even outside regular business hours.
The numerous collaboration tools ensure you won’t have to attend endless meetings, make numerous phone calls 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 actions that take place within the extranet are stored, so you have a record of projects, present and past, which you can access at any time.
4. Your business has a professional image
In these competitive times, it’s increasingly important for your business to have a professional image and brand. To this end, you can have an extranet that is customised to your personal requirements. You will have not only a secure online extranet, but also one which is branded to your organisation. By having a professional-looking brand, 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. 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 or specialist IT equipment for its day-to-day running. 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.
In the long-term, the extranet can save your company money, as employees will have more time to concentrate on important tasks, rather than being bogged down by unnecessary administration work. This will increase productivity and cut overheads.