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IT Strategy: Tapping the business value of the Intranet

by Deidre Dawson

Intranets have come a long way since the early 1990s. Originally the preserve of the IT department, and used as a loosely controlled domain for technology wizards, an effective Intranet today is an integral part of an organisation’s internal communication and workflow processes.

Historically driven by the IT department, the Intranet used to be a fairly informal arrangement with which the technology buffs would tinker. From this perspective, it’s hardly surprising that when organisations started taking an interest in the Intranet as a business tool, it was a dismal failure. But the Intranet hasn’t been left to languish in the Book of Failed Projects.

Subsequent developments, and a better understanding of which business department should own the Intranet, has resulted in the technology’s potential being harnessed to play a vital role within organisations.
Subsequent developments, and a better understanding of which business department should own the Intranet, has resulted in the technology’s potential being harnessed to play a vital role within organisations.An Intranet should be pivotal in intra-company communications, and as such, it should be controlled and regulated by those responsible for the flow of information through a company – the marketing and communications department. The costs associated with establishing an effective Intranet have also come down dramatically – any project should be tackled in incremental steps, which makes it more affordable as well as demonstrating value at each step.

Larger companies that have dispersed operations can benefit significantly from an Intranet controlled by the marketing and communications department. Consistent company documents can be accessed and created, allowing more employees to engage in the critical process of content creation and submission.
Larger companies that have dispersed operations can benefit significantly from an Intranet controlled by the marketing and communications department. Consistent company documents can be accessed and created, allowing more employees to engage in the critical process of content creation and submission.The human resources department of any company can reap great benefits from an effective Intranet solution. Managing large numbers of employees is a challenging task. As a largely forms-driven activity, the Intranet provides a document repository for procedures and associated forms, and allows for the implementation of work flows to expedite the process of HR management.

Through the Intranet, managers can see who is scheduled for leave during any given time, empowering them to make more informed decisions and better manage their departments through improved visibility. Payslips can be pulled from the payroll system by each employee, providing comprehensive yet confidential access to their critical information, while employees can maintain their own personal details through the Intranet, reducing the hassle factor for HR.

Although available in the HR systems, the information is not accessible to everyone in the organisation. The intranet becomes the window to certain HR information. The Intranet brings intelligence to the HR process – managers can drill down into each employee’s leave status to assess abuse, or trends, while each employee can view their own leave status and schedules, helping them keep track of what they have and what they’ve used up to date.

The Intranet should empower knowledge experts, rather than IT professionals, to manage and publish content, dramatically improving the process and providing a single easy-to-access repository. The Intranet can also be used as a Web meeting centre, providing a forum for employees to interact and even conduct internal discussions and meetings.
The Intranet should empower knowledge experts, rather than IT professionals, to manage and publish content, dramatically improving the process and providing a single easy-to-access repository. The Intranet can also be used as a Web meeting centre, providing a forum for employees to interact and even conduct internal discussions and meetings. Other functionality can include collaboration to bring together company employees and connect them to business partners, suppliers and customers, to streamline efficiencies and workflow automation as well as.

With the acceptance of email as a preferred communication mechanism, the need for accurate and consistent information throughout the enterprise has increased greatly. Companies need to impart sensitive information in a controlled manner – the Intranet is an ideal platform to enable this.
With the acceptance of email as a preferred communication mechanism, the need for accurate and consistent information throughout the enterprise has increased greatly. Companies need to impart sensitive information in a controlled manner – the Intranet is an ideal platform to enable this.

However, an Intranet must attract users in order to be successful. If employees don’t use the facility, it will be a failure, no matter how much functionality and business value it may add on paper. Therefore, to ensure success, the creation of an Intranet has to be an inclusive process, providing employees with the tools, documents and information they need to do their jobs better. With this approach, an Intranet can deliver significant improvements in business processes and employee productivity.

Deidre Dawson is a director of Technology Concepts, a provider of practical and cost-effective business solutions. She can be contacted on (011) 803 2169.

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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