What to decide before going in for an intranet


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A paper on the decisions that you need to make while planning to implement an intranet. There maybe more factors to bear in mind, however, this paper covers the most basic questions that you need to answer.

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What to decide before going in for an intranet

  1. 1. i-Vista Digital Solutions Pvt. Ltd.<br />Ground Floor, S.K. Vista,<br />#21, Rustambagh,<br />Behind Manipal hospital, Airport Road,<br />Bangalore - 560 017,<br />Phone: +91 80 4196 6600<br />Fax: +91 80 2520 5082<br />http://www.ivistasolutions.com/<br />Intranets – What, Why, Develop or Lease?<br />Y.S. Sridutt<br />Account Strategist<br />Contents<br /> TOC o " 1-3" h z u <br />What is an intranet? PAGEREF _Toc210448516 h 2<br />Why an intranet? PAGEREF _Toc210448517 h 3<br />Develop or Lease an intranet? PAGEREF _Toc210448518 h 3<br />Choosing a partner for your intranet PAGEREF _Toc210448519 h 4<br />What do you need to do for the intranet PAGEREF _Toc210448520 h 5<br />Implementation - requirements PAGEREF _Toc210448521 h 6<br />Summary PAGEREF _Toc210448522 h 6<br />What is an intranet?<br />The intranet is expressly used as a common platform for all employees. It provides access to company documents, policies, procedures, project details etc. Plainly put, an intranet is an internal website that only users who are logged into the company network can see.<br />Intranets are sometimes also hosted publicly using secure protocols so that employees who would be unable to access company resources, like those who are at different locations or at client offices, can log into the intranet.<br />Intranets vary very much. They can range from a single page on which a company can put notices to complicated sites which have their own rules built in for the day to day activities of employees like time tracking for projects, personal financial information related to salaries, details of investments, knowledge repositories for projects, training modules, etc.<br />Examples of the most commonly transitioned procedures and functions by different departments are - <br />HR – since HR is the group that maintains engagement throughout the course of an employee’s life in the organization an Intranet becomes an essential strategic tool for this group. Some of the commonly used tools by HR are Contact Directories, Leave Applications, Surveys, Organization charts, Ongoing Training Modules, Guidebooks/Handbooks/Manuals etc. <br />Sales – Sales as a function and a process requires access to quite a few documents and should also be able to interact with the organization in a centralized way even when not in the office locations. Also, as one of the responsibilities of sales is to be able to provide an estimate of the sales for the month or quarter, and to provide reports on targets and achievement statuses, the intranet becomes an essential tool for Sales. The existence of a well designed module can provide a snapshot of sales till date, which is available continuously and helps in financial planning. Some of the commonly used features of the intranet by Sales are Centralized Sales Dashboards, Demo’s, Contact directories, Forecasts, Pricing structures, Researches, Business Intelligence reports etc.<br />Finance – As a function, Finance has to maintain a trail of requests and authorizations for each function they perform in order to be accountable. An intranet is an essential and strategic application for them to ensure all practices are rigorously followed. Some of the commonly used tools by Finance are Capital acquisition form, Expense report, Budgets, Financial Reports, and Payroll etc. <br />A well designed intranet is actually normal human interactions like reporting, requesting leave, salary advance, taxation advice, delegating and carrying out tasks, reporting etc. which has been converted into a computer based format. This allows an employee to have the freedom and convenience of not being face to face with other people in the organization, thereby increasing productivity by allowing him to carry out these interactions from his location.<br />Why an intranet?<br />An intranet is essentially a communication platform. It allows people to use their time efficiently. As an example, if an employee needs help on a specific problem, and another employee who encountered it has put up his solution on the intranet, the first employee can refer to the same, and solve his problem instead of checking around for various solutions saving valuable time.<br />The intranet helps in bringing data and experience together which every employee can then leverage to attain the common goal. A well designed intranet allows every employee the chance to use the entire company’s experience in order to do his work.<br />As an example to illustrate the point, a major issue that companies have is tribal knowledge. Tribal knowledge is unwritten pieces of knowledge or information that is needed for consistent performance.<br />Usually possessors of this form of knowledge are very reluctant, or may not even realize the knowledge they have. However if they can be encouraged to share it, the improvements can be tremendous in terms of efficiency. This information can then be shared on the intranet.<br />The intranet, being a strategic tool, allows each employee to contribute to the growth of the organization in the best possible manner by providing them a common platform for sharing and communicating.<br />Develop or Lease an intranet?<br />Intranets can be either designed in house, or can be rented/leased from other providers. The following set of questions help in making a decision as to whether one should create an intranet in-house, or whether it would be better to lease one and start a partnership with the person one has leased it from<br />Do you actually need an intranet?<br />Do you have resources that are trained in the skills required to create an intranet?<br />Are your resources trained and experienced in building systems for human interaction, and not as a series of rules and formalities which a user would find very hard to understand unless training is provided? <br />Have they any exposure or any understanding as to how a user actually uses a system? <br />Do they understand how a user interprets the process that is used to complete a task?<br />Can they design the intranet to be intuitive so that minimal time is spent on orienting users? <br />Can they design the system to increase operational efficiency?<br />Do they have the capability to design the navigation in a manner to reduce the amount of time taken to complete a job without overwhelming a user?<br />Can they design the intranet based on human experiences and not as a series of functions?<br />Can you spare them to create the intranet or is it more important for them to be available for client projects?<br />Can you hire a resource to completely dedicate his time to increase the efficiency of the intranet?<br />Can you ensure a person from management can drive it and be responsible for it?<br />Do you employees have multiple profiles to handle? Do they have responsibilities other than the intranet alone? Can you ensure that they will be driving the intranet in a user centric manner?<br />If your answer to most of the questions above is no, or if you can not allocate enough time and resources internally, then it is better to lease an intranet and let your partner drive the project.<br />Choosing a partner for your intranet<br />If you need to choose a partner to create your intranet, the following are the things you need to bear in mind<br />Experience – Your partner needs to have varied and diverse experience in order to be able to recommend procedures that work best. This means he should have the necessary exposure to the procedures followed by companies in various industries.<br />Commitment – Your partner should be willing to work along with you and not just deploy the intranet. For any problem, multiple solutions exist however not all may be feasible. Your partner should be willing to understand problems and devise solutions that he can implement on the intranet without compromising on functionality and efficiency while providing a quick response.<br />Capability – Your partner should have a team capable of solving issues in terms of technologies and protocols.<br />Understanding – Your partner should have the capability to understand the users who will use the system, how they carry out their job functions, and how an intranet can be designed to facilitate their jobs and to increase their efficiency.<br />Ability to scale, and stability – Your partner should be able to work alongside you as your organization grows. If your company is on a growth phase, and depends heavily on coordination, your partner should be able to last as long as you. While choosing a partner do bear in mind that he should be able to take market fluctuations and survive in the market.<br />If your partner has these qualities then you have made a good choice.<br />What you need to do for the intranet<br />Once you have chosen a partner, you will need to work along with him in order to create your intranet. In order to make both your lives easier, you should sort out the following beforehand<br />Establish the objective for the intranet. Is it to increase operational efficiency? Is it for knowledge sharing? Is it for internal communications? Once the list is created, grade them in terms of importance and keep this list in mind while discussing the same with your partner.<br />Most companies have protocols like leave related information and information pertaining to employee records like date of joining or date of birth or the address on records etc. can be changed only by the HR department. Payroll information will be published only by the finance users. Does your organization have any such protocols? If you have, then list them down, and if not, create them. This will save a lot of time once you begin development. <br />Which content pertaining to employee records can be published? What information regarding projects will be available publicly and which will have restricted access? Who will have access to what information? For example, only members of a project will be able to see reports pertaining to the projects, but anyone can join for a discussion on the project related discussion forum. <br />Will content be reviewed by department heads for quality of information? If not, who will be responsible for the content – your partner or your employee who will drive the intranet?<br />Will each department responsible for putting up content be creating it or will your partner be creating the content after interacting with each department? Who will be responsible for the information produced? The departmental head or the delegate from the department who will be liaising with your partner for providing information?<br />Do you have any branding guidelines for the company? Are these to be followed for the intranet? Is there any specific layout to be followed?<br />Who will take ownership of applications and content from your organization? There has to be one person on behalf of your organization who will need to manage the intranet internally – this person will be responsible for the information provided to your partner.<br />Do you aim to use multimedia on the intranet? If so, what will it be? Flash based or will you use some other technology?<br />What will be the frequency for backing up the intranet? Will the changes be carried out on a staging server, and be approved internally after which they will be put up or do the changes need to be made live?<br />How will you measure intranet success? By the number of users? Or will each section have its own measure of effectiveness? What are the metrics for measuring the success and increase in efficiency and productivity? Will you measure each function separately or the overall performance only? If each module is to be measured separately, bear in mind the objective list created. How does this module fit in? How will it be measured?<br />Establish fonts to be used, how links will appear, etc.<br />Create Privacy policies regarding information available on the intranet and their usage, and any applicable legality. Are there any sections with sensitive information? You may need to check internally to see if a non-disclosure statement has to be displayed explicitly in this section.<br />Once you have decide on these details, it is very important to sit with your partner and find out what information he would need, and what formats he would need it in. Once this is done, you are ready to start development. Issues and clarifications will definitely come up as development begins, however ironing out these details in the initial stages will definitely speed up development.<br />Implementation - requirements<br />Once the intranet has been developed, you need to implement it. In order to do this, you need to find out from your partner what your partner requires. The common requirements are<br />Servers – Production and staging<br />Software licenses<br />FTP and Login access (Staging and Production Server, or staging only etc.)<br />Workstations - if any are required by your partner when his team comes to your location<br />A better method is to check what your partner would require from you and to provide the same to him.<br />Summary<br />In Summation, the image in the next page details a few of the things you need to have clearly defined in order to create a fully functional intranet. Do bear in mind that this is to be combined with information that your partner will require. <br />