Most intranets are largely static sites. On its own, an intranet is essentially a shared drive, serving up centrally stored documents alongside internal articles or communications. Some organisations use words such as “communication hubs” to describe them, but for the most part that communication is one-way.
These days, however, an intranet really can be a hub for your company. The intranet portal now closely mirrors employees’ expectations of world wide web functionality. Systems such as Microsoft SharePoint allow users to communicate with each other and collaborate, much as they would using social media tools such as blogging, Facebook and Twitter.
There are a number of capabilities that you can implement relatively easily, with SharePoint in particular making many of them available as standard.
This is the fundamental benefit of a SharePoint intranet and the simplest to set up. Document libraries offer version control features as well as configurable access levels. The Microsoft Office 2007 suite also offers on-the-fly editing of centrally stored documents.
We’ve all seen discussion boards and forums on the internet, and they can be easily implemented on the corporate intranet. A discussion board can allow a regionally-fragmented team to keep in contact with each other, and to discuss issues or initiatives.
Some discussion boards – particularly in larger companies – may require moderation, but if a user is forced to participate using their real name, then the board is likely to be at least as polite as the actual office in real life.
We’re not suggesting that you give everyone in the company their own blog, but employees will appreciate reading short and concise announcements from high-level superiors, especially if a less formal tone is used.
Commenting and rating
Add comments or ratings to your features so that users can give their thoughts and discuss ideas online. These are measurable indicators to content editors that offer an idea of what visitors find useful and relevant.
Implement a Twitter-like ‘microblog’ on a department sub-site, such as the HR department, to keep staff updated on events in the company. Like blogging, it allows your department managers to communicate with staff quickly and easily, and the shortened nature of the ‘tweets’ makes for a friendly, informal tone.
A fully-fledged profile for every employee would be a bit much for an intranet site but employees would greatly benefit from a visually appealing ‘Who’s Who’ for each department. As well as email addresses and extension numbers, the page might offer employees’ particular skill sets, for example. This would allow for the functionality to search for certain skills or specialties in a group.
There really is no limit to the functionality you can put on your intranet. Theoretically, if you see it on the world-facing internet, you can build it onto your site. That said, you need to make sure that the functionality you implement is worthwhile: will it improve or add to your business?