What is an Intranet
and how can it benefit
your organization?

You're probably familiar with the term "intranet" however, there is a lot to consider.
We're here to demystify the world of intranets, explain their inner workings, and reveal
how they can seamlessly integrate into your workplace, ultimately elevating the employee experience.

Intranet definition, what is an intranet?

An intranet is a private internal communications network facilitating work processes, collaboration, communication, information storage, and knowledge-sharing among employees. Modern intranets often use social media features allowing employees to blog, comment, share, discuss and interact with each other easily and efficiently.

Common uses of an intranet.

From SMBs to large corporations, companies of all types use an intranet to support a wide range of requirements and outcomes.  Here are some common uses.

  • Distribute company news and information.
  • Connect employees and support smooth internal communication.
  • Facilitate a well-structured storage, accessibility, search, and sharing of documents and other files.
  • Make collaboration easier and more productive.
  • Strengthen organizational cohesion and boost employee engagement.

What is the business value of an intranet?

In the early days of intranets, they served primarily for top-down communication and file storage. Nowadays, modern intranets promote both top-down and bottom-up communication. A well-designed and used intranet will help organizations achieve alignment with a company's vision and mission. The best intranets foster genuine employee engagement, facilitate natural interaction between management and employees, and enhance productivity.

An intranet leads to many value-adding business improvements:

  • Easy access to internal information and files.
  • Effective connection of employees.
  • Improved productivity.
  • Strengthened organizational cohesion and engagement.
  • Better internal communication and smoother internal collaboration.
  • Consolidation of information, files, tools, and collaborations in one place.
  • More effective sharing of knowledge and skills and better innovation.

Intranet platform options.

There are three main ways to build an intranet:

1. Custom build an intranet from scratch and host it on your local (in-house) server or in the cloud (online hosting service).

2. Build it with off-the-shelf intranet software and host it locally or in the cloud. Software like Microsoft SharePoint can either be licensed for an on-premises installation or a cloud-based solution.

3. Build it using an Intranet CMS platform. An intranet CMS, or intranet-a-box solution, is a package of common intranet features you can customize to meet your needs. These platforms are typically updated and advanced on a regular basis.

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What are the top 3 intranet best practices?

An intranet best practice is one that truly supports and engages the entire organization. To make that happen, first and foremost, you need to have a strategy outlining before embarking on the implementation project. Read the blog post Building a Successful Digital Workplace. Step 1: Create a Strategy.  Here are three intranet best practices that’ll help you build a successful intranet:

1. Make the intranet the organization’s preferred choice of communication.

Even though your company has an intranet, employees often continue to use email to deliver information best stored and shared via the intranet. Make your intranet the go-to-place for internal communication.

2. Fill the intranet with engaging and relevant content.

Ask employees what content they want. If your organization is large and diverse, use the intranet platform’s targeting functionality to get the right content to the right user with personalization tools. Read the blog post Building a Successful Digital Workplace. Step 2: Create an Efficient Structure to learn more about targeting and personalization.

3. Create a great user experience, navigation, and information structure.

Easy navigation and effective search results make the intranet a tool employees will want to start every day with. Secondly, it will boost productivity and employee engagement. This requires a well-structured information architecture behind the scenes.

What should an Intranet include?

To build a successful modern intranet there are a number of features that should be included in the platform. Some of these are:

Content creation, publishing and governance

The publishing and governance support life-cycle management functions, ensuring constantly updated and relevant content. This helps ensure that stale content will be archived automatically or reviewed by its owners. It also supports publishing and editing rights.

Personalized timelines and notifications

Personalization helps users find relevant information quickly. This drives user adoption and engagement and improves productivity. This includes a personalized start page, a subscription-based notifications panel, my tasks, and other content for users and groups.

File sharing and Document Management

Integrate your intranet with existing file-sharing solutions, like Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox, or use its own file storage solution. A document management system lets users see when a document has been created and edited. It also eliminates duplicates and supports version management.

Employee profile and directory

An employee directory lets users search for colleagues and competencies across the entire organization. This requires employees to provide comprehensive user profiles. with education, competencies, certifications, experiences, responsibilities, and roles. So, it’s a good idea to make key profile fields mandatory.

Search

The search function helps users find information, files, news and even discussions on the intranet. This saves time versus navigating via menus and scroll pages. Search filters can help users find collaboration spaces, conversations, and communities.

Collaboration

Well-integrated intranets allow users to work and collaborate directly on files, without having to exit the intranet and fire up an external application. This includes working directly on files and applications in Microsoft 365. This makes collaboration more efficient. Many intranet platforms also provide templates for collaborating on apps like SharePoint, Planner, Teams, Yammer, etc.

Forms and polls

Regular employee surveys are a great way to learn what drives engagement. You can use surveys and polls to check the organization’s opinion about anything and get people’s attention. Use survey and poll analytics to measure results and find insights.

Calendar

Having an events calendar on the start page is a hygiene factor. This allows you to promote important internal and external events such as product campaigns, kick-off events, sports activities and more.

Mobile access and experience

An intranet’s mobile experience is vital to optimize internal communications. In many workplaces, employees may not even have a computer; a smartphone or tablet is perhaps the only digital communications device available. The mobile experience is a key feature of a well-user intranet.

Custom branding

Your chosen intranet platform should naturally allow you to brand it in your colors, themes, fonts, and of course, your logo. If the intranet is designed with your brand’s look and feel, it will make the employees feel more at home and united.

Communities and social interaction

Social features help employees interact, bond, and get involved in conversations about business improvements or even casual small talk. Use tools for creating and managing communities and social media features such as liking, commenting, and sharing a blog, news, and other content. Use gamification to boost employee engagement and encourage knowledge-sharing.

Analytics and reporting

To improve the intranet over time, you need to have value-adding analytics tools. Use analytics to create reports on usage, outdated or under-used content, checked-out pages, user patterns, etc. With these analytics, you’ll be able to measure and gauge employee engagement on a broad scale or for a specific blog post, campaign, or announcement.

What is a modern intranet?

A modern intranet supports flexible/hybrid working and is designed for bottom-up, participative and inclusive communication and collaboration. It typically ditches top-down communication and hierarchical information structures. Instead, it’s structured for personalized and targeted distribution of information and news so as to increase the relevance of its content to each user. A modern intranet is more or less synonymous with a social intranet as it’s developed to engage the organization and help employees to connect and build relationships, as well as share information and knowledge.

A modern intranet usually acts as entry point to an organization’s digital workplace, thereby consolidating all information, internal collaborations, tools and other digital resources in one place. This helps employees to find just about anything faster, which makes them more efficient and more productive.

More Frequently Asked Questions.

What is the purpose of an intranet?

An intranet's main purpose is to facilitate efficient, transparent, participative, and inclusive internal company communication. An intranet makes it easier for employees to collaborate, find and share information, resources, internal competence and knowledge. Ultimately, if designed and maintained, an intranet can boost efficiency, flexibility, organizational cohesion and productivity.

What is an intranet site?

You’re probably well familiar with websites. It’s a collection of web pages and other related content which are held together by a common domain name and published on a web server. An Internet website is always public in the sense that anyone can surf to it via the Internet.

An intranet site is a website being hosted on a private network, only accessible to authenticated users, for instance the employees in a company or an organization. On the site users can search for internal information and colleagues, partake in discussions, collaborate on projects, share their thoughts and knowledge with the entire organization, access various work tools and much more.

Why is an intranet important?

An intranet is the most efficient platform for organization-wide communication and sharing of information, tools, competence, and knowledge. In most organizations, it also serves as a digital hub for internal collaboration, allowing easy access to collaboration spaces, tools, teams, files, project templates, etc. Gathering all information, documents, media files, tools, and other resources in a single space also makes an intranet considerably easier for users to access and find what they need to execute their work tasks. When used effectively, an intranet can become a company’s “single version of the truth.” This reinforces the information’s reliability and trustworthiness, eliminating unnecessary misinterpretations, and bad decisions based on inaccurate information.

Without an intranet, internal communication is often a mixture of e-mails, chat messages in siloed collaboration spaces, SMS, and verbal announcements in ad hoc and regular group meetings. It’s difficult to keep the information uniform and accessible to everyone simultaneously. With an intranet, however, you can eliminate all inefficient channels and discrepancies in how the information is conveyed. An intranet is a digital hub for company information, documents, media files, and other resources, thus boosting productivity.

How do intranets, the internet, and extranets differ?

The internet is a global public communications network, accessible to anyone. The Internet is not owned or controlled by anyone. Instead, governments, corporations, and organizations such as the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the Internet Society (ISOC), and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) collaborate on Internet governance policies. This includes, for instance, IP address space allocation, protocol parameter assignment, domain name system (DNS) management, etc. All of which is necessary for the Internet’s stable and secure operations.

An intranet is a private network, only allowing access to employees and others affiliated with the organization. An intranet can also be bought and implemented as a Software as a Service (SaaS).

An extranet is similar to an intranet in the sense that it is a controlled private network, and normally it’s a subset of the content and functionality of an organization's intranet. While the intranet embraces the employees of an organization, the extranet extends outwards, allowing access to authorized partners, suppliers, customers, and other external users.

How do intranets work?

The prefix “intra” in “intranet” is Latin for “inside” or “within”. Since the Internet and an intranet works more or less the same, you could say that an intranet is a miniature version of the Internet within a private network. A network confined within an organization, a company, a community, a municipality, a school etc. An intranet and the Internet use the communications standard TCP/IP to connect hosts to users on a network. They also use web pages to distribute and present texts, images, videos, forms, and files to download, as well as scripts to run and interact with (like chat rooms). A website on the Internet is hosted on a web server allowing for public access, meaning that anyone can access it.

An intranet can either be an on-premises solution, installed on a local web server at the company/organization, or a cloud-based solution. However, both solutions have restricted user access, for instance, only allowing a company’s employees to enter. A cloud-based intranet is a little easier to access when away from the office, as it can be accessed as any other website on the internet (although you have to log in to the site using various security/authentication solutions). Many organizations and companies also make their on-premises intranets available for users via the Internet using so-called VPN, Virtual Private Networks.

What is a social intranet?

Intranets which don’t allow for employee interaction, user-to-user communication or feedback are not social. Their main purpose is to distribute information and news in a top-down fashion and to make internal information and resources more accessible. A social intranet encourages employees to get involved in discussions, improvement projects, knowledge-sharing and ideation processes, etc., and to expand and strengthen their relationships within the organization. Read the blog post A social intranet boosts employee engagement to learn more about the features and benefits of a social intranet.

Can an intranet be hacked?

Practically any system can be hacked. Intranets are no exception. Some organizations choose to host the intranet on-premises just for that reason. But even if an intranet is hosted locally, with no user access via the Internet, it is susceptible to hacker attacks and malicious software. A nasty code can be introduced into the network via, for instance, a thumb drive. And since the users are using email and surfing the internet there are plenty of opportunities for hackers to bait them into clicking on malicious links or downloading infected files.

But there’s no reason to panic. With proper firewall and malware protection, a robust password and authentication (preferably multifactor authentication) policy, strict rules about what the users are allowed to do on their computers and the network, and keeping the entire software portfolio constantly updated you can keep most of the hackers at bay. A strong defense system is built in layers and the more valuable assets you want to protect, the more security layers you need around them.

What is Omnia?

Omnia is a modern and flexible Microsoft 365 and SharePoint-based intranet-in-a-box solution. It comprises leading-edge tools for communication, collaboration and governance, which help companies and organizations improve internal communication, collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

Why choose Omnia as your intranet solution?

The award-winning intranet platform Omnia delivers leading performance and an intuitive, personalized and task-oriented user experience on all devices. Its fully featured intranet capabilities cater for both simple and complex publishing scenarios and ensure that content is constantly fresh and accurate and that users stay updated. It provides tools for targeted internal communication, streamlined collaboration and advanced search, all of which reduce the time users spend searching for information and help them collaborate and execute their work more efficiently. The platform also includes functionality and support for Document and Quality Management Systems, coupled with a process visualization tool (Process Viewer).

Omnia’s rich social features, like its smart templates and wizards for creating communities, can support an organization in strengthening its workplace cohesion and boosting knowledge-sharing and employee engagement. Omnia’s integration capabilities also enable smooth integration with internal and external applications, providing the users a unified digital workplace experience.

With Omnia a company or an organization can consolidate and integrate its entire information archive, documents, processes, collaborations and tools in one place. This will make any item of information or other internal resource accessible via a single entry point and provide the organization a “single version of the truth”. All in all, this will boost productivity, engagement and the organization’s ability to create a better future for itself. The platform also provides unique capabilities for future adaptation and development, backed by Precio Fishbone’s support as your needs evolve.

Explore how Omnia can help you!

Want to rejuvenate your employee engagement but don’t know where to start? Would you like to learn more about Omnia or schedule a product demo? Contact us, we’re here to help!