The Basics of Building an Efficient and Secure Intranet Portal
Most businesses view in an Intranet portal as a solution that is able to meet the needs of both employees and enterprises. Indeed, a well-developed Intranet portal enables better employee interaction, improves teamwork, and fosters company culture. But without a clear understanding of what the intranet should include, a company takes the risk of designing a product that does not match its purpose. But how does one approach intranet development and what pitfalls should a company avoid? Let's move to the answers.
What is an Intranet?
An Intranet is a private communications network used by employees to access enterprise resources. Authorized employees can access company news, policies, records, databases, and announcements whenever they need to. It helps companies to improve communication and collaboration among employees and to make corporate information easier to use and share.
The main goals of the intranet are:
- Improved internal communication;
- Efficient management of organizational knowledge;
- Employee engagement;
Thus, an organization's system can help maintain corporate culture and serves as a single point of truth. Note though, that each organization designs its internal system differently based on its needs. So before discussing the process of website development, let’s first look at the different types of intranets. This can help you figure out which one is the most appropriate to your needs.
What are the different types of an Intranet?
Perhaps you’ve heard other intranet names, which may confuse you and make you think that all of them are the same thing. But that's not true. To gather a full of understanding of different types of internal networks, let’s walk through the differences between them:
- Intranet: a private internal network used by authorized employees that helps manage content, communicate, collaborate, and maintain the company culture;
- Extranet: a network that is used by both employees and external parties (vendors, clients, and suppliers) to communicate or share data within an organization. Examples are universities, colleges, or franchise operations;
- Portal: a digital platform that integrates with the company’s CRM, provides communication with internal employees and stakeholders, and provides access to corporate resources.
Now that you understand what an intranet is and what its main types are, let's turn our attention to its benefits.
The answer is below:
Benefits of having an Intranet
We’ve briefly outlined the main benefits of having an intranet - now let’s look at them in more detail below:
- Improved communication: helps HR and communications specialists to keep employees engaged and informed and prevent staff separation;
- Improved productivity of employees: makes it easier to store, retrieve, and access information at any time and from any device, which boosts productivity since employees spend less time looking for the needed information;
- Improved knowledge sharing: it is an up-to-date knowledge place that can help build a strong knowledge-sharing culture where employees can share and manage essential data;
- Eliminated silos: it comes equipped with built-in chat apps or can be integrated with necessary third-party apps that, in turn, leads to strong collaboration across departments and helps eliminate data silos;
- Improved engagement: it allows employees to efficiently interact with their company and hence increase loyalty and engagement.
While internal system capabilities are growing over time, one thing stays the same - a company's portal must always address the needs of employees. Hence, let’s discuss the essential features of intranet portals.
Main features to include in an Intranet portal
Before getting down to the intranet creation, remember that it will be unique for every company due to different needs based on how the company is structured and its business goals. However, there is a set of main features that every internal website should have in order to help companies build strong employees relationships and meet their goals.
A high-performing intranet should integrate with the work-critical apps and programs that coworkers use day by day. Thus, consider those intranet portals that provide built-in integrations with tools like Google Workspace or Slack. A full integration with your business suites will make access easier for employees and will help create a unified work environment.
Communication and collaboration
An intranet is a great place for business communication and for building a strong company culture. Most modern internal websites contain features that allow co-workers to chat in real-time or exchange files of different formats. The main idea here is that an portal provides a space for employees to share ideas, build networks, collaboration, and create strong brand advocates.
With the diversity of devices that we use these days, it’s crucial that a portal should be accessed from various ones. Employees should be able to connect from their mobile devices, communicate and network with a team no matter where they are. Hence, a responsive design is a must.
A functional portal should have an integrated CMS to make digital content management easier. A content management system is the best platform for improving the productivity of employees and information management. So the right CMS platform for your portal should be easy to manage, have an advanced functionality, and offer customization options.
Another highly valued feature of an intranet is analytics. You should be able to track employee engagement and analyze the results to understand what works the best (and what doesn’t work at all). You can analyze the following metrics:
- The number of users and sessions;
- Number of page visits;
- Devices and browsers used;
- Most visited pages;
- Bounce rate.
These metrics allow an organization to identify patterns of the intranet portal usage and create and share relevant content with your staff. Hence, analytics identify areas that need improvement to improve a communication strategy over time.
How to create an Intranet
By now, you may be thinking: an intranet sounds great, but how exactly do you develop one? Good question! Below, we list the basic steps of portal development.
Determine your goals
When building an internal portal, it can be difficult to know where to start. So, the first step is to define the business goals that reflect your company's needs and to understand how the portal can help achieve those goals. The most common needs of a company include:
- Establish proper document and knowledge management;
- Smooth running of business operations;
- Manage and support teamwork;
- Enhance HR management;
- Ensure easy access to information and resources;
- Manage calendars, events, meetings, and important dates.
User-friendly and brand-focused design
The name and design of a company's portal are all about its brand. Employees should relate to it and refer to it frequently. So when it comes to design, the simpler means the better. The design should be modern and eye-catching but also reflect the company's style. Otherwise, a company takes the risk of having a website which is overloaded with unnecessary visual elements. Here are some tips on creating a user-friendly design:
- Choose a simple, intuitive user interface (UI);
- Test how your Intranet looks on both desktop and mobile apps;
- Choose layouts, colors, and graphics that reflect your brand;
- Incorporate visually dynamic content (videos, images);
- Put extra thought into navigation;
- Use consistent and readable fonts.
Stay focused on:
Any organization needs to build a digital portal that continues to function well as the business grows. An increase in the number of users, the volume of content, or high simultaneous workloads can affect the performance of your portal. Therefore, it should have high scalability in order to withstand high loads and possible functionality expansion. If the portal cannot handle the volume of users and provide the performance that they expect, it will fail quickly.
Assemble a team
The development of the intranet portal requires cross-functional coordination and agreement between stakeholders. Therefore, the company needs to define responsibilities of each user. Some of the most common team roles for building digital portal are:
- Sponsor/owner: ensures the association between the portal and the organization’s objectives, deals with both resource and financial requirements;
- Business analyst: ensures the work of the organization on internal and external issues, identifies trends (communication with customers, analysis of business case, etc.);
- Manager: manages and notifies changes that affect internal operations;
- Architect: sets standards for how information is organized and navigated within a portal system;
- Content manager: monitors and validates updated information about business news or departments events.
Establishing clear roles for your team makes it easier for any company to manage all the elements required to build an internal portal.
As mentioned above, the purpose of a portal is to facilitate your workflows. But it is pointless to have an шntranet portal if your employees don't use it because it lacks relevant information. Having good quality content increases both proposed value and employee trust. Examples of content that you might want to include are:
- Official policies, documentation;
- Onboarding support;
- Team-specific content;
- Access to external content;
- Other corporate material.
The best solution to avoid overload is to create a map of the sequence of pages of the portal and a site menu. As well, make sure that you update the content regularly.
Cyber threats keep on being a significant problem. Therefore, a company should develop expertise in firewalls, encryption technology, and virus protection to ensure employees' knowledge is secured. An portal must be reliable and provide trustworthy information to the employees.
Test your Intranet
When you are ready to launch the portal, it’s wise to test it for functionality and user-friendliness. Any intranet provider should be able to give you a demo or a free trial to assess the suitability of the software. Afterward, you can tweak the design and content as needed before it is made available to frontline workers.
Pitfalls to avoid when building an Intranet
When designing an intranet portal, consider possible issues that may negatively impact the usability and value of your portal. Let's break them down so you are aware of these pitfalls in advance.
Missed user requirements
The most common pitfall is lack of understanding of user requirements. The success of an intranet portal depends on users' acceptance of the system. So, if employees do not see the value in using a company portal, it will be a forgotten tool that nobody uses. Hence, it’s easier to listen to user requirements at the beginning of the development than to update the portal over time.
The idea that a portal will always be successful is a huge mistake. A company needs to consider change management from the beginning of the development process. The corporate system must be constantly updated and properly managed to provide employees with relevant and up-to-date information.
Another pitfall a company may face is the lack of smooth navigation. If a site isn’t user-friendly and convenient, it’s difficult to find the necessary information. So employees will rarely use the intranet portal (or never). It's important to incorporate features (i.e. search bars, drop-down menu) into your internal portal if you want employees to find what they're looking for.
One more reason why company websites fail is useless content. Employees typically expect шntranet data to help them get work done and find it quickly when needed. However, if the information is ineffective and doesn’t produce results of the search, the risk of employees may not come back to the Intranet portal increase. It is important to have content editors and meetings to keep information fresh.
A successful Intranet portal can transform how your business connects, communicates, collaborates, and tracks progress. A user-centric approach allows the organization to keep up with modern employee requests. It is not necessary for businesses to stick to certain intranet portal development strategies and templates. Make your internal platform stand out and give it a shot.
Q: How to set up an intranet?
A: There are two ways to set up a corporate portal. The first is to choose the most suitable intranet software available on the market. The second is to build the digital portal from scratch. In this way, an organization needs to design a blueprint with requests that meet both employee and business needs, and the features the portal should contain.
Q: What are intranet portals?
A: An Intranet portal is a digital system that integrates with CRM, provides communication with internal employees and stakeholders, and provides access to enterprise resources: company news, policies, links, records, databases, and announcements. The main purpose of the portal is to improve communication and collaboration among employees and make corporate information easier to use and share.
Q: What companies use intranet portals?
A: Businesses, both large and small enterprises, have used a company's portal for a long time. Among the prominent companies are IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Guardian, and a lot of others.