Intranets have come a long way since the early 1990s. Originally the preserve of the IT department, and used as a loosely controlled domain for technology wizards, an effective intranet today is an integral part of an organisation’s internal communication and workflow processes. That is according to Deidre Dawson, director at Technology Concepts.
"Historically driven by the IT department, the intranet used to be a fairly informal arrangement that the technology buffs would tinker with. From this perspective, it is hardly surprising that when organisations started taking an interest in the intranet as a business tool, it was a dismal failure," says Dawson.
But the intranet has not been left to languish in the Book of Failed Projects.
Subsequent developments, and a better understanding of which business department should own the intranet, has resulted in the technology's potential being harnessed to play a vital role within organisations.
"An intranet should be pivotal in intra-company communications, and as such, it should be controlled and regulated by those responsible for the flow of information through a company - the marketing and communications department," Dawson says.
The costs associated with establishing an effective intranet have also come down dramatically - Dawson says any project should be tackled in incremental steps, which makes it more affordable as well as demonstrating value at each step.
"Larger companies that have dispersed operations can benefit significantly from an intranet controlled by the marketing and communications department. Consistent company documents can be accessed and created, allowing more employees to engage in the critical process of content creation and submission," adds Dawson.
The intranet should empower knowledge experts, rather than IT professionals, to manage and publish content, dramatically improving the process and providing a single easy-to-access repository. The intranet can also be used as a Web meeting centre, providing a forum for employees to interact and even conduct internal discussions and meetings.
Other functionality can include collaboration to bring together company employees and connect them to business partners, suppliers and customers, to streamline efficiencies and workflow automation as well as business process management (BPM).
"With the acceptance of e-mail as a preferred communication mechanism, the need for accurate and consistent information throughout the enterprise has increased greatly. Companies need to impart sensitive information in a controlled manner - the intranet is an ideal platform to enable this," Dawson says.
She notes, however, that an intranet must attract users in order to be successful. "If employees do not use the facility, it will be a failure, no matter how much functionality and business value it may add on paper. Therefore, to ensure success, the creation of an intranet has to be an inclusive process, providing employees with the tools, documents and information they need to do their jobs better. With this approach, an intranet can deliver significant improvements in business processes and employee productivity," she concludes.
For more information contact Technology Concepts, 011 803 2169.