Everybody knows about the internet. But what about the intranet?
While billions of people publicly surf the internet, many businesses use an intranet to communicate privately.
The reality is that the word “intranet” is often associated with clunky ‘90s operating systems. However, intranets have evolved over the past few decades and can offer organizations various benefits.
An intranet can be a useful way for companies to share information amongst employees to create a productive work environment. But while intranets offer businesses several advantages, there are certain drawbacks that may make them less attractive, depending on your company’s needs around internal communication and knowledge sharing.
In this article, we’ll look at what it is, how it differs from a knowledge base, and the advantages and disadvantages of an intranet for your business.
What Is an Intranet, and What Are Its Key Features?
Before diving into an intranet’s advantages and disadvantages, let’s back up a bit and define exactly what it is.
What Is an Intranet?
An intranet is a private computer network that helps employees share company information daily.
Small and medium businesses as well as large organizations like nonprofits and governments use intranets. They serve as a hub for employees to upload files, check out company announcements, and send messages to other employees.
Over the past 30-or-so-odd years, intranets have helped securely facilitate communication between an organization’s employees.
How Is an Intranet Different From a Knowledge Base?
While an intranet is a private company network for organizations to communicate with one another, a knowledge base is a centralized repository where a company can organize and drive engagement with all its knowledge assets.
Unlike an intranet, which seeks to connect a company, a knowledge base is a centralized hub employees can turn to to find different types of knowledge. These hubs allow them to find any information they need—standard operating procedures, company policies, HR documents, analytics, marketing materials, and more.
What Are an Intranet’s Key Features?
While the main focus of an intranet is to connect members of an organization, they typically come with some specific key features, such as:
- Company directory
- Company announcements
- Search capabilities
- Learning center
- Project management
Some intranets even include a knowledge base for improved knowledge sharing between employees to optimize performance.
The Advantages of Using an Intranet
Did you know that 16% of Gen Z and Millennial workers quit their jobs because they thought their workplace technology was inadequate?
Modern intranet technology can be engaging, easy to use, and aesthetically pleasing. In some ways, intranets are a miniature version of the internet with plenty of benefits for business owners.
Here are some of the advantages of using an intranet.
Improves Internal Communication
The primary benefit of using an intranet is to support team communication internally. Intranets allow your organization to centralize all workplace communication, making it easy to dive into your organization’s ecosystem and interact with other employees.
Connects Your Company Across Locations and Time Zones
If you lead a medium-sized business, enterprise organization, or remote team in different locations or time zones, you need a way to centralize communication. According to Gartner, 54% of HR leaders reported that poor technology or infrastructure was the biggest barrier to effective remote working in the organization.
An intranet can help connect employees who aren’t physically close to one another and improve team communication.
Helps Employees Find Information
One of the core features of an intranet is to help employees find information. Whether it’s a company announcement, an employee directory, or a knowledge base, an intranet is a place employees can go to access company resources.
Boosts Recognition and Reward
An intranet can be a great tool for management to publish company announcements. Managers use intranets to recognize and reward employees for different achievements publicly.
Simplifies Employee Onboarding
Hiring and onboarding can be one of the most time-consuming and resource-draining activities within any organization. Intranets allow employees to quickly go through onboarding by accessing important resources.
Provides Organizational Clarity
When an employee comes on board a large company, navigating their place in the organization can be overwhelming. An intranet is a great place to provide a company directory and org chart to give employees clarity on organizational structure and roles.
Encourages Knowledge Sharing
Intranets are a place employees can communicate and share information, whether that’s through instant messaging, collaborative projects, or document sharing.
Reinforces Your Brand and Values
In order for employees to become part of your brand, they need to understand your brand values. Intranets are useful for constantly communicating what your brand stands for and your values so employees can align themselves with the brand.
Reduces Emails and Meetings
Employees will always feel left out of the loop without a centralized communication hub to speak with one another and share knowledge. It also increases the chance of miscommunication and the spread of misinformation.
Employees can avoid unnecessary emails and team meetings if they have better access to resources. An intranet is a great solution for employees to get the answers they need without taking extra time, which can lower productivity.
Brings Your Workplace Culture to Life
There’s nothing more important than creating a positive company culture, whether you’re part of a small or large team. An intranet can help your team gel and bring your workplace culture to life. This is even more important for teams located in different places.
Improves Employee Engagement
According to recent Gallup data, 74% of disengaged employees actively seek new employment. If your employees have a place to connect—as is the case with an intranet system— they’ll feel much more like they’re a part of a team. This means increased company retention, ultimately saving time and money on hiring and onboarding new employees.
The Disadvantages of Using an Intranet
The main disadvantage of using an intranet is that it varies widely from one product to the next. It could, in theory, do everything listed above in the advantages section. But the reality is that finding one that does it all is extremely difficult.
Here are a few disadvantages of using an intranet in your business.
The most important disadvantage to using an intranet is a potential security breach. When a company centralizes all of its data in one place, like an intranet, it puts the data at risk.
While intranet providers develop intranet solutions to be as secure as possible, they’re still vulnerable to security risks. A third party could still hack your organization’s private information unless your intranet includes gateways and firewalls.
Another disadvantage to intranets is related to their main strength. Intranets allow companies to access a ton of information in one place.
However, they’re often not extremely user-friendly. Their complexity makes them prone to information overload, especially if they don’t have a robust search engine that deep indexes all content and returns results based on relevancy.
Difficult Implementation and Adoption Process
If your organization’s intranet is difficult to navigate, your employees won’t want to use it. Even if your intranet is feature-rich and includes all of your company information, it must be easy for new employees to start using. Unfortunately, many intranet systems have complex adoption issues.
Costly and Time-Consuming
While businesses typically lean on an intranet system to establish a cohesive, communicative workforce, they can be costly and time-consuming to implement and maintain. As mentioned above, intranet adoption can be a major challenge for new employees, especially if the platform is difficult to add content to or navigate. The longer employees take to learn the system, the more companies will pay in labor.
Extensive Ongoing Management
While intranets can be extremely beneficial for companies to improve productivity, they require a lot of management.
A lot of intranets can be highly flexible in configuration. However, it still requires many IT resources for ongoing maintenance and configuration. It can be challenging to navigate and may even become outdated if your IT team doesn’t prioritize regularly scheduled maintenance.
Continual Updates and Software Issues
While intended to be easy to use, the catch-22 of intranets is that they often require continual updates to maintain user-friendliness.
Intranets are prone to software issues and regularly scheduled updates to ensure they’re running smoothly for your entire organization.
Rather than depending on an intranet that requires continual updates, what if you could capture knowledge in a flexible, intuitive platform?
Bloomfire’s knowledge management platform has everything you want from an intranet without the costly and time-consuming upkeep. The all-in-one platform centralizes your collective information, improves team communication, and provides searchable content that’s easy to use.