Five ways universities are benefiting from intranet implementation

author Brett Dixon, March 21, 2017

There is no industry crying out for positive ‘disruption’ in the software field more than the education industry. Universities and other Higher Education institutions can benefit immensely from the application of dedicated intranet software and a socially-focused digital workplace, yet few of them are quick to embrace this type of change. A sense of tradition is important in education, yet it need not be applied steadfastly in the approach to IT systems. Those establishments who have embraced newer, bespoke digital management software solutions have found many advantages, such as:

1. Streamlining of internal information and dedicated extranets

A typical campus already has an internet, however it is usually implemented in a different way by every department. This can result in too much information being lumped together in one place. Additionally, departments are not consistent in keeping with each others’ methods of storage, indexing and updating, resulting in poor usability or confusion. A digital workplace that includes dedicated extranets makes internal information relevant to those who need it most – for example, the board of trustees would have a portal separate from that of the student body or the advisory board. Custom information can also be streamlined – instead of having to search for relevant forms, guidelines, application stages or other frequently accessed information, universities have found it helpful when this is customised, streamlined and updated in tandem across the intranet.

2. Incorporation of third party applications

One of the more prominent reasons why Higher Education institutions such as Universities are slow to improve their intranets is that they mistakenly believe that this means the intranet developers will only implement their own software. This is not necessarily always the case. Any Intranet Software Developer who provides a REST API is also providing third party application incorporation, usually to fit the bespoke needs of the institution. Additionally, the IT resources (such as PHP coders) within the university itself can also be authorised to modify certain aspects of the intranet and the third party applications used. This means that a ‘new’ intranet can be an ‘improved’ intranet, without an overhaul of the systems already familiar to its users – which also cuts down on additional training costs.

3. Replacing hierarchical bureaucracy with socially-linked collaboration

Intranets can, and should be more social. We all use social media, yet this collaborative aspect of data sharing is often left out of university intranets. Information relevant to internal and external stakeholders (with a built-in permission system) can link people throughout the organisational chart. Universities are a hotbed of communication, from staff briefings and emails to external stakeholders – this can be shared and distributed in a intuitive way, with instant comments and activity streams. This not only speeds up collaborative communication, but can make it much faster and less cumbersome for users. Most of us are already familiar with many aspects of how social media works and therefore it can be an intuitive approach.

4. More efficiency, less duplication

In an institution where knowledge sharing is both frequent and voluminous, efficiency is paramount. Many university intranets unwittingly duplicate information, which decreases efficiency and uses up unnecessary resources. With a specially created digital workplace, faculties, departments and individual staff members would, for example, have their own calendars, but colour coded to distinguish them from each other. Automated invites, responses and comments can all be implemented into the same system to avoid duplication and unnecessary cross-checking of information. Shared content authorship is another example – Wikis are nothing new, yet these can be used for instant cross-collaboration of information distributed or held throughout the campus.

5. Morale

Morale is infrequently talked about in the context of intranet software implementation. It is, after all, difficult to measure yet is palpable when it is lacking. IT systems are now entrenched in Higher Education establishments and little attention is paid to how frustrating, time-consuming and difficult an old, outdated or cumbersome intranet can be. A digital workplace with increased social aspects has the benefit of people working ‘together’ on a more personal and collaborative level. Socially-focused software also helps the university’s external relationships via social learning (including distance learning), better digital dialogue and a more collaborative feel, even to individuals working remotely in the field or on solo research projects.

The above is only five examples of how a more modern approach to a bespoke internet can improve the way universities manage and distribute their information. With staff having more administrative tasks to do all the time, implementing a digital workplace that works for everyone can leverage all the knowledge throughout such an institution, in tandem with its main educational goals. Combined with a robust approach to security, access and information management, it is hoped more universities take this more involved and improved approach to their intranet models in the future.