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What is an Intranet?

By Cathy Dew on May 19, 2016

An intranet portal site is designed to allow information to be quickly disseminated to employees, to make common internal business processes more efficient and to provide a sense of community within an organization. In essence, an intranet is a business' own private website that:

  • Shares news about what is happening within the different departments
  • Sends alerts that contain information that employees should be aware of and potentially action
  • Provides forms for working with various internal processes such as leave requests, purchases orders, expense claims
  • Offers a central repository for policies, procedures and document libraries with online versioning of all policy and procedure documentation.
  • Organizes employee communities with collaborative features like blogs and discussion boards

An intranet portal can also have a personalized home page specifically tailored for each employee that is dynamically built by using a set of rules that retrieve content based on the current user's role, department, and location. By tagging the content and then matching that content with the current user, only content that is appropriate for the current user is displayed.

Microsoft SharePoint as a prominent Enterprise Intranet

Microsoft SharePoint is the Microsoft Intranet platform for collaboration and sharing of knowledge throughout the organization that facilitates decision making in enterprises and increases employee productivity.  SharePoint facilitates business collaboration in its broadest sense and enables employees, customers, and partners to work together in an innovative and effective way.

How do I know if my organization needs a SharePoint Intranet?

SharePoint improves your company’s effectiveness, collaboration and competitiveness in general. Regardless of the location of its users, SharePoint facilitates efficient knowledge management of the company and simplifies how people work together. By facilitating how employees find and share information, a SharePoint intranet creates a context that encourages innovation and helps employees to make better decisions, simultaneously retaining knowledge of the company in-house. It helps to increase and even boost business productivity, save costs and improve customer service, resulting in a direct impact on the success of the company. Consider some of the scenarios that follow, and if any of these seem familiar or are issues you’d like to address, it’s possible you might need to consider a SharePoint intranet portal for your company:

  • Employees are spending too much time locating information and documents
  • Lost knowledge among current employees and former employees and inefficient knowledge transfer
  • Excessive use of email, and/or email is used as a document repository or archive for approvals or processes
  • Lack of business process automation
  • File duplication and lack of control

Benefits of using SharePoint as an Intranet

SharePoint is the leader in Intranet innovation by a considerable distance from other competitors in the market. Some of the benefits that SharePoint can bring into your organization include:

  • Team Sites: SharePoint provides a web based platform for an Intranet site known as SharePoint Team Site. SharePoint Team Site is a collaboration tool where communities of users can share documents, calendars, tasks and provide announcements. It is also a content management system that acts as a central storage and collaboration space for documents, information and ideas and it can be accessed anywhere a user has an internet connection. The version control function allows for documents to be reviewed and shared easily while simplifying version control. Another important capability SharePoint Team Siteprovides is user permissions capabilities that allow access control by a site administrator who sets permissions on the content that can be viewed and which users can make contributions to that content. As a robust content management system that provides the ability to upload, share, comment and distribute files and content easily and quickly across an organization, SharePoint Team Site adds significant functionality to any SharePoint intranet.
     
  • Document Management: Most businesses struggle with efficient document management. If you have multiple locations with people in offices in different countries, working in different time zones and languages, ensuring they’ve completed a task is much more difficult. SharePoint can reduce resistance and enable task completion by allowing colleagues to store and access documents from one single place, ensuring they’ll have all the latest updates to every document. Because all documents uploaded to SharePoint are versioned, it’s also possible to see how and when a document has been edited by different users.
     
  • People Search: If there are few people in your company, finding colleagues is easy. If there are five thousand, finding the right person to help you becomes a lot more challenging. Employees are often looking for advice, information, and guidance on how to do certain tasks. In large companies, doing this becomes very tricky. SharePoint’s people search capabilities allows employees to easily find another employee, their role in the organization, who they report to and more.
     
  • Regulatory Compliance: Most of today’s large organizations are burdened with extensive regulations regarding how they manage customer and employee data. With thousands of employees in many different countries, ensuring everyone is complying with the rules can become extremely complex. SharePoint includes a large range of privacy controls and permissions levels, which make it much easier to control who can access specific documents and what they can do with them.
     
  • Corporate Communications: Big corporations often struggle with encouraging loyalty and a sense of belonging from their employees. In some cases, an organization can become so large that teams simply stop feeling a strong sense of place within the company. In these circumstances, employee loyalty and engagement can be significantly impacted, with individuals more likely to ‘jump ship’ and be enticed to move to another company.  An offer from another company may even look more attractive and their motivation and desire to improve the business can even decrease. With its customizable interface, and the ability to share company news and communications from the landing page, corporations that use SharePoint are able to develop a stronger corporate identity, provide valuable information to employees in a timely manner and help employees feel engaged and motivated. Additional features, such as video, banners, links and sharing features go a step further to helping share corporate news, and increase a feeling of belonging among colleagues.
     
  • Workflows: In a large organization, workflows form the basis of most employees’ day-to-day activities. While they may have specific tasks which they do independently of colleagues, employee workflows – receiving a task to do before passing it onto the next person in the chain – are the backbone of most businesses. However, a major pain point for corporations is that workflows often break down. Colleagues may make mistakes, or forget to carry out their specific task in the chain, or the process may have been changed and undocumented or managed. Sharepoint workflow features automate and simplify complex task management processes by ensuring that processes are captured, followed and repeated according to the needs of the department or business. User permissions and management or department approvals can be configured as part of workflow management in Sharepoint, providing additional flexibility and granularity.
A Sharepoint Intranet portal has many benefits for an organization, and can offers multiple functional capabilities that benefit both employees and the business overall. Improved employee engagement and productivity, better workflows and process, centralized document repositories and vibrant communities are all possible to achieve with a Sharepoint Intranet. If you’re considering a Sharepoint Intranet for your organization, or want to improve the effectiveness of your current Sharepoint Intranet installation, feel free to call us at (510) 652-7700 or please complete this form to talk to one of our experts. 

Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.