What Is An Intranet?

An intranet is like a company’s own internal internet—essentially a private website, hosted in the cloud, on-premises or on external hosting facilities. A company intranet is a closed business network that connects all employees with one location to find all information, people and tools. 

Intranets use TCP/IP, HTTP and other internet protocols, and in many ways they function just like sites on the public internet. 

The difference is that intranets are used for internal information such as company news, onboarding documents and HR policies, which can be accessed by employees in one secure location. Your intranet safeguards the privacy and security of the content and information shared on it. Therefore, it’s not possible to access your intranet from outside your business network. 

Your intranet offers an excellent platform for engagement and collaboration within a company. It also provides a location to store and access useful information, all in one place.

A Brief History Of Intranets

The earliest intranets date back to the internet boom in the 1990s. Companies realized that they could use the same technologies employed by the then-new World Wide Web to improve information access inside corporate walls.

At a time when organizations still relied on paper documents and filing cabinets – or at best, difficult-to-use electronic file systems – intranets offered a radically simplified alternative: a central site where employees could find and share essential information with point-and-click ease. Use of intranets expanded from the ’90s into the early 2000s. The technology advanced somewhat as well. For example, some intranets added limited transactional functions – enabling employees to file IT help desk tickets or fill out HR forms.

But aside from these minor enhancements, traditional intranets failed to keep pace with the massive changes sweeping the digital world. As developments like Web 2.0, the mobile revolution and the explosion of easy-to-use consumer apps transformed life and work in the 21st century, most company intranets seemed stuck in a bygone era. Their look and feel was antiquated. They were difficult to build, maintain and update. Most still functioned primarily as static content sites: warehouses for official docs and corporate communications, but not centers of cultural engagement, human connection and productive activity. As a result, the typical corporate intranet is increasingly neglected and outdated – a dusty repository that employees largely ignore.

Intranet

The Next Leap: The Interactive Intranet

Traditional intranets and ESNs are just a part of an increasingly complicated enterprise technology landscape that employees have to navigate to get work done. There are dozens of tools and systems, each supporting a particular slice of functionality. Think of the many apps used for various kinds of content management, document creation, file sharing, communication and messaging, etc. All of these may come into play in the course of a single project. As the number of tools grows, so does the effort needed to keep track of the pieces and connect the dots – to the point where the hours spent on housekeeping may exceed the time doing actual work.

The Rise of Enterprise Social Networks

As traditional intranets failed to deliver the dynamic communication and collaboration capabilities that companies needed, new tools emerged to fill the gap.

One of the most prominent was the enterprise social network (ESN), which enabled employees to connect and communicate inside companies in much the same way they used social networks to connect with friends outside of work.

Advocates of enterprise social networking hoped the new software would break down silos and enable faster collaboration, but the results have been disappointing.Conventional ESNs typically function as “virtual water coolers”: places for casual conversation, but not for productive activity. As critics have pointed out, they’re better for talking about work than actually doing it.

After early enthusiasm propelled by “freemium” enterprise social network products like Yammer, ESN usage plateaued and then fell off. Overwhelmed by noisy chatter, many companies simply abandoned their ESNs, while others have relegated them to non-essential status, used mostly for social connection, not business-critical functions.

The solution to this problem isn’t yet another limited-purpose app.

What’s needed is a system that consolidates essential communication, collaboration and content functions in one easy-to-use, all-purpose environment. That’s the rationale behind a new breed of intranet, known as the “interactive intranet.” An interactive intranet brings together the best capabilities of traditional intranets, enterprise social networks and a slew of other communication and collaboration tools to create a single, powerful engine for end-to-end work.

An interactive intranet powers company communications, collaboration within and across teams, employee onboarding, networking and knowledge sharing, enterprise search, content collaboration and more – all under one roof. It’s fully accessible via browsers and mobile devices, so employees can access it anywhere. It can even integrate with external enterprise systems, pulling content and communications out of siloed apps and into a common collaborative environment. In short, an interactive intranet is a hub for learning, engagement and productivity: the heart of the digital workplace.

Key Features of an Interactive Intranet

An effective enterprise collaboration platform can have a dramatic impact on company productivity, employee engagement and agility. But finding an ideal solution in an increasingly diverse and sometimes confusing marketplace isn’t always easy. Fortunately, Forrester Research is here to help.

How Do Interactive Intranets Impact the Bottom Line?

An interactive intranet can deliver substantial gains in many key business metrics. On average, companies with Jive Interactive Intranets have experienced:

  • 15% jumps in productivity
  • 2-4% revenue increases
  • 61% improvements in employee connectivity
  • 30% reductions in onboarding time
  • 24% lower turnover
  • 34% less time searching for experts and knowledge
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