When it comes to running a successful business, the importance of working towards streamlining internal processes simply cannot go overlooked.
There are countless intranet portals that have popped up over the years with the intention of making the day go a bit more smoothly, yet some have faded away just as quickly as they've arrived.
(Rant: This is especially true with free and open source intranet portals. A few software developers organize themselves and hack together software and then call it a platform. Although their intention is usually positive, any business, in their right mind should think twice before using one of these platforms. Case in point.)
An intranet portal can be a major benefit to just about any type of business, especially those which make heavy use of sales and marketing.
As one might expect, the popularity of intranets have resulted in a great deal of different options to choose from regarding social business software.
One thing that is important to note is that there's no such thing as a “one size fits all” intranet portal option — every organization has its own specific set of needs.
Fortunately, there are a handful of things to look for that all intranets should come along with, each of which can have a dramatic effect on user experience.
If you're in the market for an intranet portal software, here are 10 guidelines to push you in the right direction.
When setting out to choose an intranet portal, it can be difficult to know where to start. You'll get a great deal of mileage out of having a solid idea of what your goals are for your business before you even start, as it's important to find software that will help facilitate meeting them.
You may be looking to increase the amount of collaboration that occurs between employees, for example, which is one of the main reasons why businesses choose to adopt an intranet in the first place.
If you don't feel as if a particular piece of software is going to help you achieve your goals, it's recommended that you look towards other options.
An attractive UI can go a long way in terms of making your intranet portal easier and more pleasurable to use and should never be overlooked.
As intranet portal software becomes more popular, new and innovative styles are beginning to pop up all over the place.
This being said, many platforms tend to borrow stylistic elements from popular social media networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, and for a variety of reasons.
For one, it's quite likely that at least a fair amount of your employees are already familiar with these services and know how to operate them.
Second, established social networks are that for a reason — they feature a streamlined, effective design. The ways in which your intranet operates have to jive with you, as you'll be immensely unhappy with the experience otherwise.
Always take the look and feel of a potential software option into consideration before making any quick decisions regarding which platform to buy.
Integration is one of the most important things to look for when shopping for an intranet, yet many people forget all about it.
There's a solid chance that your business already has a fair amount of logistical processes already set in motion — sales and marketing come to mind.
The whole point of using an intranet, however, is to minimize the amount of applications that need to be utilized for daily business activity.
As a result, your platform needs to allow you to integrate all of your processes without any issue. If you can't get through your day without using the intranet portal for 90% of the activities you carry out, you're going to want a different piece of software to work off of.
Your business doesn't take a cookie-cutter approach, so why should your intranet?
Many intranet portals can be considered "one-size-fits-all" in that they don't offer even the smallest margin flexibility.
This is bad for a number of reasons, chief among them is the fact that you're unable to shift any aspect of your network to better suit your business needs.
As your business grows, your intranet needs to grow with it. Neglecting flexibility and the ability to customize it "how you see fit" won't do you any favors in this regard and should never be allowed to happen.
You can usually tell if social intranet software is "one-size-fits-all" or flexible, as the former often bills itself as being exceptionally easy to use and requiring very little input from the user. This may seem good at face value, but all you'll be doing by taking this route is restricting yourself.
Choosing a software provider to help bring your intranet portal to life is a rather big decision to make.
After all, you can plan on working off-and-on with whomever you buy from to allow your intranet to grow and breathe, so you certainly don't want to choose hastily.
Reputation can easily come into play here, especially considering the fact that there are so many new players in the market.
Choose an intranet vendor that has a proven track record in providing effective solutions to businesses in a variety of different industries. While you may get lucky and have a good experience with a young software company, you're far more likely to be pleased if the organization you work with has been around for a while.
If you're looking to transition into using social intranet software, there's a good chance that there are aspects of your business that you'd prefer to change if at all possible. No business is perfect, and some require a little tweaking in order for things to run smoothly.
Making a list of your current gripes regarding processes is a great way to ensure that the intranet portal you end up with will help to streamline things, as you can speak directly with whomever you're working with on a purchase and explain what you're trying to get out of an intranet.
The more clear and honest you can be, the better your chances of finding an intranet that is tailor-fit for your business.
Getting a new intranet platform off the ground can be a time-consuming and sometimes difficult process, especially for companies that have never embraced a social platform in the past.
Since you're likely to run into at least a few issues during the process, it's of the utmost importance that the company you end up working with offers the best technical support possible.
Technical support can make all the difference in the world in terms of how difficult it is to mitigate an issue, yet so many software companies neglect providing it to their customers.
If you're not getting the best technical support possible, you're no doubt going to run into some frustrating moments.
If there's one aspect of working off an intranet portal that makes doing so preferable over using any other platform, it's the fact that communication is made easier and more streamlined than ever before.
When this type of software is properly designed, communicating with other employees is not only a breeze, but your communications can be stored and retrieved without any issue whatsoever.
Not all software provides the same experience regarding communication tools, and some platforms are most certainly superior to others in this regard.
Always look for the most straight-forward system of communication that you can find, as you'll have a much better experience than you might otherwise.
Building an intranet can be a relatively big investment, especially if you decide to pull out all the stops.
Every business owner needs to take budget into consideration, but you should never let cost be the ultimate guide when you're trying to choose a piece of social business software.
After all, you're most likely going to be using your intranet portal on a daily basis, which means there's absolutely no room for having anything but the best on your side.
When price is all you're concerned about, finding the right piece of software is made far more difficult than it has to be. Set a budget, but don't hesitate to step slightly outside of it for the right intranet solution.
Over the course of just the next few years, thousands of businesses both small and large will be continuing to adopt intranets.
Know what to look for, and choosing the right software for your organization shouldn't be difficult at all.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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