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The Importance of Intranets for Organizations

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The Importance of Intranets for Organizations

From the smallest of businesses to the largest of corporations, intranets have become a critical part of doing business, whether it's related to customers, vendors, employees, stakeholders, or corporate governance. But, what is an intranet? An intranet is basically just like the internet except that it is limited to the internal parameters of an organization, behind a firewall on a local area network (LAN). Typically, the intranet is accessible by employees only with the exception of large corporations that employ supply change management policies and procedures. Even then access is limited. Of course, building an intranet is not free and there may be a few glitches along the way, but with proper planning and collaboration, it can amount to one of the most valuable tools available.

According to intranet blog author, Toby Ward, there are eight key business reasons for having an intranet (Ward, 2009). Ward's (2009) reasons include business processes, employee engagement, environment, data and application, collaboration, new ideas & improvements, change management, and knowledge management. Business mergers would also be a reason for the intranet.

Unless the business has only one employee, the intranet is an effective tool used to communicate business processes to employees. Thomas Roach writes about managing internal communications stating that "large companies find it increasingly difficult to exchange information (2007)." The intranet makes communications as well as other business functions much easier and more streamlined. Business processes may include human resources documents, employee communications, policies, procedures, documentation, or links to other vital services and information. All of the aforementioned processes can be included on the intranet, which every employee would have access to at any given point in time. In this case, the intranet would reduce unnecessary emails, phone calls, and paper usage because the information is provided in one place for all to access.

The next reason on Ward's (2009) list is employee engagement. An intranet provides a place for news to be shared, changes in employee procedures, and a platform for employees to share ideas and communications. A company may also include payroll information and relevant forms for employees. Many of the larger corporations use the intranet as an avenue for employees to complete their timesheet or make any other request relative to payroll. The intranet is extremely useful in this respect, but if employees do nothing more than post their timesheet, then it is not very effective. According to Darlene Fitcher, "buy-in and participation by senior management are critical success factors in widespread adoption of an intranet (Fitcher, 2006)." This statement is relative all aspects of the intranet, but it seems appropriate to mention here with regard to employee engagement. Employees are going to make sure they get their paycheck, but they need management encouragement to use the intranet to their advantage.

With regard to the environment, the Intranet benchmarking Forum (IBF) lists enabling staff to work remotely reducing the need for office space and travel, using web meetings to cut travel, and reduction of the need for print materials are just a few of the "ways organizations can build environmental processes (Ward, 2009). The IBF further reports that the need to work from home is on the rise, accelerated in part to environmental issues (Ward, 2009).

The next couple of reasons Ward (2009) talks about are data and application and collaboration. With regard to data and application, the intranet can point employees in the right direction by providing links to applications and data, as well as providing them with explanations of intended users and purpose of the applications. In this manner, employees are able to access what they need when they need it. Speaking of data and applications, collaboration is equally important in the success of the intranet. Imagine trying to coordinate changes and ideas within a development team. Things could get very mixed up with everyone trying to work on the same document and pass it along via email. The intranet allows for the storage of a document or other informational format, which could be accessed at the same time by all team members.

Therefore, only one document exists for the team to work with and update with current changes. New ideas and improvements may lead to change management and according to Ward (2009), both of these are supported by the intranet. It is on the intranet where employees can come together to discuss new ideas or make suggestions for improvements. Management teams may be tasked with using the intranet to discuss possible policy changes or define improvement methods. Once these discussions are complete, the solutions can then be passed to the business practice of change management. Most corporations have some method for announcing and implementing enterprise-wide changes and improvements. Developing a change management application on the intranet allows for full involvement and approval of senior management or stakeholders in the process of approving changes and improvement.

Finally, Ward (2009) talks about knowledge management. In recent years, corporations have become increasingly aware of the importance of retaining what is called tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the knowledge of experience and is difficult to convey verbally or by the written word. Most long-term employees possess some form of tacit knowledge, meaning their experiences over the years at the company contribute to their knowledge of how or why things are done a certain way. Attempts to retrieve and retain this information can be accomplished via the intranet. In addition to tacit knowledge, other intellectual assets such as white papers, research papers, project strategies, proposals, norms, values, need to be managed and secured. Again, the intranet is a viable asset management resource.

All of the business processes are integral to the success

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