Think for a moment of a manufacturer, let's pretend it is a bicycle manufacturer, but any manufacturer would do.
The sales department gets a request from a retailer for 12,000 bicycles. They post their sale and notify accounting, purchasing, and manufacturing departments. The accounting department views the sale and gives the go-ahead to the purchasing department to get the supplies. The purchasing department sends their receipts and delivery dates to the accounting department so they can keep track of the cost, while the manufacturing department can keep a schedule of when they can begin work.
When the raw materials arrive, the factory workers get started, remembering to clock in on a company computer so their hours can be automatically logged and sent to HR and Accounting. Joe, a foreman, gets a finger caught in a machine. It will heal up fine and wasn’t that serious (he was following proper protocol), but he still has to go to the ER and get it treated. He needs to know what is covered by his worker’s comp and how to submit a request. Luckily he can look up the Worker’s Compensation policy and procedure with ease.
HR already had the incident report by the time his request was sent to them, and because they were notified of the incident, they were ready to go with a temporary replacement while Joe is out, allowing the order to proceed on time. As work continues, the amount of supplies used is recorded and sent to accounting and purchasing. The client is also able to obtain reports on progress of the order right up to delivery.
Now here’s the kicker. None of these guys are in the same city.
Sales is based out of Chicago. Accounting is in Atlanta, Purchasing in San Francisco, Manufacturing in Detroit, HR in New York, the Client in London. Yet these people can operate more seamlessly than most companies where the departments are in the same city.
You see, each of these departments has a subsite on a company intranet. When certain files are posted to one site, workflows automatically copy them and send them to other department sites. When they are updated, they are updated on all sites. The incident report was filed almost immediately through the HR intranet portal.
The same portal is where Joe was able to check his worker’s comp policy - and where he checked to see the status of his request. That protocol that saved his hand - it’s also posted on the intranet for him to review. The company also conducts monthly 2 minute quizzes administered online to ensure that the work force stays up to date on policy and process. Finally, any files that the client might be interested in and allowed to see are posted on an extranet site just for them.
This was a bit of a dramatization, but this story demonstrates the usefulness of an intranet in business. If you take a look at all pieces where the company intranet was used, you might notice that it aided quite dramatically in one key area. That area is communication.
A good intranet fosters efficient communication.
Of course there is more to it than that, but if the only thing you take away from this post is that one point, then you might begin to understand why intranets have become so essential in modern business.
What is an Intranet?
An intranet is a private network that is only accessible to members of a particular organization. Essentially it’s a private website for you and your company. Think about all the things you can do or have done online. Document management, chat rooms, job applications, training programs, interactive videos; the list goes on and on. Now apply all of that to a private website that only you and your company (maybe even a few select clients) can access. Companies use their intranet portals for directories, sales, employee engagement, customer relations, collaboration, project management, et cetera. For example, my fictional bicycle company used it for document management, project management, employee engagement, client relations, and business processes. That doesn't even cover half of the ways an intranet can be used to improve efficiency of a company. Essentially, if you can think of a certain functionality that you would like on your SharePoint intranet, a SharePoint expert can develop it for you.
Great - But Why?
Effective communication is essential to a thriving business. I could write a whole other article about its necessity, but I'll save that for another time. Even if you choose to ignore all the possible creative functions of an intranet, the most basic functionality of document sharing is simply invaluable. Companies today simply have too much information to be able to store and distribute it effectively using traditional means. That's a scary thought when you think about how much of a company’s day-to-day operations are dependent upon being able to locate relevant information. An intranet, on the other hand, is specifically designed to be able to handle an organization's ever-increasing amount of content.
A well designed intranet is one of the most necessary tools in modern business, and it seems to become more and more necessary with every passing year. Want to learn more about how your company could benefit from a well-designed intranet? Request an IntranetPro demo or a consultation with one of our SharePoint experts today!