What is an Intranet - Best Practices & Tips

What comes to mind when you think of the humble intranet? Old-school IT infrastructure? Operating systems from the ‘90s? While it’s true that intranets have been around for several decades, they remain valuable tools for thriving companies. To help you make the most of modern intranet tools, then, we’ve put together a handy guide to building and maintaining an intranet.

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What is an intranet?

An intranet is essentially an internal collaboration tool that allows employees to communicate, share files and updates, and look up important information such as company healthcare policies or organizational restructures. Not to be confused with the digital colossus known as the internet, intranets are available only to assigned users. 

An intranet system typically contains some or all of the following:

  • An employee directory: This tool allows users to search for colleagues according to their job title, department, or location.
  • A page builder: Page builders allow users to create company-wide communications and alerts, as well as brand assets, informational guides, and IT assistance.
  • Search function: The search bar should provide quick access to all information stored on the intranet.
  • File sharing and collaboration functions: Most intranets are integrated with file-sharing solutions such as Google Drive, Dropbox or contain their own file-sharing tools. Cutting-edge intranets also allow for direct collaboration on documents. 
  •  Onboarding guides: Uploading onboarding materials to the intranet can help new starters feel at home in their roles. 

Why are intranets important for modern businesses?                                                  

Think you can cope without an intranet system? Think again! While very small companies may get by without access to intranet tools, growing enterprises can substantially benefit from investing in cloud-based intranet software. An up-to-date intranet system could deliver the following advantages:

1. Premium document storage and retrieval capabilities

We all know the frustration that comes when you can’t find a vital Word document or spreadsheet on a shared drive. With an intranet, you’ll never have to spend hours trawling through ambiguously named folders again! By uploading documents to a portal, you can ensure they are broadly accessible to anybody who needs them.

2. Simplified access permissions

Obviously, some files are not fit for company-wide access as they contain sensitive data. Fortunately, intranet technology allows administrators to authorize user access to certain apps or documents (or revoke it when appropriate). If you want to remain compliant with data laws, an intranet system will make your job much easier. 

3. Better company visibility

Most companies use their intranets to disseminate news and updates to all employees (or subdivisions of employees). Sharing updates on an intranet is much quicker than sending out emails and increases the likelihood of employees reading communications. 

What are the drawbacks of the traditional intranet?

Unfortunately, not all intranets are created equal, and outdated models can produce issues for otherwise flourishing businesses, including:

1. They’re unable to get through to busy workers

Modern office workers feel bombarded with information on a daily basis. As a result, many are more inclined to focus on immediate communications such as Slack messages than wordy news items uploaded to an outdated intranet.

2. They produce a lot of work for IT teams

Traditional intranets require heavy maintenance and often require IT staff to maintain multiple versions for security reasons. These processes can consume a significant amount of time or money.

3. They require users to switch between applications

You cannot integrate traditional intranets with external apps and tools. As such, they often require employees to flit between apps, screens, and tasks – a practice that can seriously damage productivity and increase stress levels!

4. They don’t facilitate inter-company communications

Traditional intranets are pretty useless if you want to communicate with partners and collaborators outside of your company, as they’re only accessible by internal account holders.  

Cutting-edge ways to build an intranet for your team

Ok, so now you know all the potential pitfalls of outdated intranet systems, how can you ensure you build an intranet to suit your needs? Here are our failsafe tips:

1. Invest in cloud-based intranet software

Investing in a knowledge management tool such as Kipwise is a great way to overcome the problems of traditional intranet software thanks to its impeccable search capabilities, integration options, analytics tools, and unbeatable UX. If your current intranet solution is letting you down, we’re here to offer a helping hand!

2. Survey your employees

What do your employees want from their intranet solution? What integrated apps would they like to see? Cloud-based intranet services are hugely flexible, and you can use them in any number of ways. Remember to seek employee input to help you make the most of your investment.

3. Configure your software

Once you’ve established how you intend to use your intranet tool, you can go about integrating your desired apps and setting relevant employee permissions. Restricting content in this way is very important if your company handles sensitive data!

4. Write and improve the content

No intranet is complete without rich content such as employee guides and news articles. If your content looks a little worse for wear, you may wish to generate new resources or make a few edits. See our knowledge base template gallery for inspirations on what documentation to create. 

5. Boost adoption with company-wide initiatives

Are employees reluctant to get on board with your new system? Incentivize adoption with a launch party or competitions that require the use of the intranet. Read more tips on how to encourage knowledge sharing in your company.

Best practices for maintaining your intranet

Once your intranet is in place, you must ensure it remains relevant. Here’s how:

  • Encourage all employees to upload files to the intranet: Cluttered local drives are so last-century!
  • Use the platforms to post updates: By establishing your intranet as the hub for finding out important information, you can ensure all employees remain well-informed of organizational changes.
  • Make the most of integrative tools: Encourage deep concentration by harnessing the power of integrated apps.  

Common FAQs around Intranets

1. Can an intranet be hacked?

Like virtually all digital systems, it is possible to hack an intranet. This is particularly true for outdated software with poor security provisions. Fortunately, most SaaS platforms are built with security in mind, significantly reducing the chances of data leakage.

2. Can intranets be accessed remotely?

Traditional local intranets typically require on-site access or access to a VPN (a virtual private network). Cloud-based platforms, on the other hand, can be accessed from anywhere and from any device.

3. Do intranets go by any other name?

Yes. Some people refer to intranets as knowledge management systems, knowledge management software, internal knowledge base, company wiki, internal wiki or something else entirely. As long as it performs the functions mentioned above, it falls under the definition of an intranet. 

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