What is an intranet? It’s an extremely common question, and one that’s been doing the rounds for at least a couple of decades. Perhaps the question still needs asking because what defines an intranet has changed over the years.
The most obvious intranet definition is this: intranet platforms are a combination of productivity, internal communication, and collaboration tools that enable employees to communicate, easily access company information, and work from a central digital workplace, regardless of their working location (i.e. office-based or working remotely).
However, as you’ll soon discover, this intranet definition is a little too simplistic. Read on to find out why.
What’s the difference between an employee intranet vs the internet?
Going right back to basics, it’s important to understand the difference between intranets and the internet.
The original intranet sites of yesteryear were very tied down to a company’s internal network – no one outside of that network could get to it.
The Internet – traditionally stylised with a capital “I” – is a system of global, interconnected networks that can be accessed by the public from anywhere.
The confusion between the two definitions often lies in the fact that many modern intranet platforms are accessible via the internet. But they are still, for all intents and purposes, restricted to a group of users, who need a valid username and password to gain access.
What are the types of intranet? Cloud vs self-hosted
In essence, there are two main types of intranet software – those that are hosted in the cloud, and those that are hosted within an organisation’s infrastructure.
A self-hosted intranet means that staff need to be connected to their company’s network, and have valid login credentials, in order to access the site. This makes self-hosted intranet software a close relation to its ancestor, where access was restricted to a private network.
Typically, a self-hosted intranet application requires a dedicated IT team to look after it. This can be quite costly, because you need to budget for extra resources as well as the server on which to host your intranet. But it does mean you have total control over server security, maintenance, and firewalls.
Cloud intranets, on the other hand, are hosted securely in the cloud by an external provider. They’re usually subscription-based, so all costs – such as security, hosting, updates, and maintenance – are covered in one monthly fee, and no in-house IT team is required.
What is the purpose of an intranet?
In their youth, intranet solutions delivered limited collaborative functionality and were little more than a static company news site with an added employee directory.
Over the last decade, however, intranet portals have evolved dramatically in terms of functionality and design. The importance of intranet software has grown exponentially as well, especially as the business world moves into a hybrid working model, with distributed teams working from home or the office.
The purpose of an intranet relies on the individual needs of an organisation. And if your intranet lacks purpose, it will lack a clear vision – making it impossible to measure its success. So it’s important that you define what you want your intranet to achieve.
Common intranet platform purposes include:
- Providing teams with information to help them do their job
- Enabling employees to collaborate within a transparent and supportive environment
- Sharing two-way corporate communications that generate employee feedback
- Streamlining internal processes to increase productivity
What are the advantages of an intranet?
As the platform evolves and business needs change, the benefits of intranet software are forever growing.
We’ve hand-picked a few advantages of intranet software below:
Effectively communicate organisational culture, mission, and values
An intranet helps organisations move beyond the one-line mission statement, and enables them to meaningfully convey their mission, values, and culture on a regular basis.
Teams can communicate real-life examples of the organisation fulfilling its mission and culture using a variety of communication tools, such as corporate social media and collaboration spaces.
Internal comms like these will have a positive effect on employee experience and behaviour, and provide much more value compared to corporate (read: boring) mission statements.
Increased collaboration and communication
Social intranets contain a number of applications that support employee communication and collaboration.
For instance, intranet collaboration tools allow employees to share ideas and project updates securely, while allowing them to pose questions and gain answers on a variety of topics. Increased collaboration amongst employees increases morale, which ultimately leads to greater productivity.
Improved knowledge sharing
Intranets are one of the most effective ways of sharing knowledge across your organisation, because it provides teams with a central repository for retaining and accessing information.
Staff no longer need to rely on mislaid notes or hard-to-reach documents that are only accessible from the office filing cabinet – a bugbear for field and remote workers alike. Instead, they can simply jump onto their intranet mobile app to quickly get to the information they need to do their job.
Streamlined business processes and time savings
Intranet software – in combination with business process management (BPM) capabilities – provides organisations with the power to replace paper-based processes with interactive e-forms and workflows.
Not only does this save time from busywork – freeing your staff to focus on more valuable projects – BPM software also improves accuracy and accountability in your teams.
Increased employee engagement
When employees feel engaged, they are more productive and motivated to go that extra mile to fulfil your organisation’s mission.
Providing an intranet for employees means providing them with a space to voice their ideas and contribute to the company, which will make staff feel trusted and valued – vital for improving engagement levels.
Employee intranet examples
Ready for some real-life examples of intranet software? Here are a few of our favourites from our very own customers:
The teams also make good use of social intranet features on the homepage, such as company news widgets and activity feeds, as well as promoting internal events.
Boost.ai, an innovative tech company that specialises in conversational AI, heavily utilises knowledge management features on their intranet.
Doing so allows them to centralise information in one place, so that partners can easily access onboarding, certification, and project delivery tools.
Emergency Physicians of the Rockies
EPR are an emergency healthcare provider, and so naturally utilise their intranet to promote the latest e-learning resources and quality documentation to support their teams.
The fast-access links to these essential resources are designed to grab people’s attention, making it easy for staff to find the information they need.