Intranets. What’s the Bottom Line? So, what’s an Intranet?
Organizational Intelligence. An Intranet is an internal information system based on Internet technology, web services, TCP/IP and HTTP communication protocols, and HTML publishing.
Huh? The Intranet is a technology that permits your organization to define itself as a whole entity, a group, a family, where everyone knows their roles, and everyone is working on the improvement and health of the organization.
How do they do this — by identifying and communicating missions, goals, processes, relationships, interactions, infrastructure, projects, schedules, budgets and culture on-line, in a single interface everyone uses and can add value back to.
In a word, an Intranet represents your organization’s “intelligence”. The purpose of this intelligence is to organize each individual’s desktop with minimal cost, time and effort to be more productive, more cost efficient, more timely, and more competitive.
Leveraging Intelligence. Intranets are not about putting technology and software together.
That’s the easy part. In fact, you’ve probably got all the components in your organization already.
Review Chapter 2 for what is an Intranet made of. Effectively building an Intranet is similar to building individual intelligence.
It requires learning, applying the learning to practical decision making, acting on the intelligence with solid, clear tasks and responsibilities, modifying the learning for improved performance in the future, and making sure all of this is communicated all of the time to everyone. This book is about using the Intranet to leverage your organization’s intelligence.
Single Point of Contact. The Intranet is the WAN/LAN, client/server, PC, UNIX, Apple computer stuff that you’ve been using all along in your organization to do your work, improve efficiency, and communicate with others.
The problem, of course, is that the machines, software, and communication systems have been proprietary.
You couldn’t have internal communication of all data and information without a team of programmers and new software for every new cut on the information.
With an Intranet, you have access to all the information, applications, data, knowledge, processes, etc. available in the same window, or the same browser.
No more conversion to different formats, waiting for programmers to code all the “new systems” together, or teams of consultants to sift through your processes.
No more missed opportunities, giving up and not doing business with someone, because their technology was different.
Instead, an Intranet connects people together, with Internet technology, using web servers, web browsers, and your data warehouses in a single view that everyone can easily learn while still using their
Organizational Focus. The Intranet is your opportunity to define your organization and display it for everyone to see.
If everyone knows what the company stands for, what the company’s strategic vision is, what the guiding company principles are, who the clients and partners are, then they can focus more clearly on what their own contributions are to the organization.
A clear, single web page representing the values of the company is tantamount to success.
Every organization can constantly refer to the central messages and develop their own supporting sites accordingly.
Use the Web as an information, communications, and project-management tool across the organization.
What The Intranet Is Not
Not the Internet. An Intranet does not have to be connected to the Internet.
However, moving mail and other information across the Internet to clients and partners is highly desirable, so an Internet connection is nice, but not necessary. Intranets use Internet and Web technology concepts.
But, your information is securely managed inside your organization. Security issues are still important, however, as you can suffer from internal security leaks.
What makes the Intranet so different is the infrastructure. That means, what are your policies for using the technology? How do you set up the Intranet for your department, who puts out the content?
What is the approval process for getting content out there? Who maintains the content? Are there libraries of graphics, logos, approved text, and other navigation and design features for each page.
The Interent is more of a marketing and customer support entity. The Intranet is your internal communications mechanism.
Not the LAN/WAN. Although using the same connections, your LAN/WAN networks, depend upon the applications from your vendor, HPtm, IBMtm, Suntm, Appletm, Novelltm, Banyan Vinestm, etc.
These hardware vendors and networking companies provided excellent solutions for your information needs, but their technology and solutions are separate from your Intranet set up.
With an Intranet model of computing, you may not even need to relay on these softwares.
You may have needed their operating systems, their drivers, their applications, and their programmers. But that’s where your ‘interconnectivity’ problems reside. Intranet technology sets you free!
Not an E-Mail program. The Intranet is not just a mail program. In, fact it goes way beyond e-mail.
A corporate web delivers reliable, feature-rich applications that share five core, standards-based services — directory, e-mail, file, print, and network management.
Not Just Hardware and Software (servers and browsers). The Intranet is not difficult to set up. The connection is the same in every operating system.
The Servers are nothing more than computers. The software is nothing more than a universal graphical user
Although Netscape, Microsoft Internet Explorer and other browsers exist, they all have the same basic functionality.
They show web pages, web forms and web applications. The Intranet uses these technologies to connect human information processing with human performance.
Not Groupware. Groupware products offer many functions that operate well together. Groupware is not fully interoperable.
It requires specific hardware, operating system, and network configuration. It is expensive and not always easy to scale up.
Until recently, groupware was not compatible with other network systems, including the Intranet.
It still tends to be locked into its own application. Groupware is vulnerable to changes in the marketplace, and is ultimately proprietary.
It comes from one company, whose expertise lies in their own perception of software development and client needs.
Groupware typically is complex and costly to install, manage, and train users on. The Intranet is simple, and independent of any one development organization. You can make itwhat you want it to be.
Intranet As A Tool
Think of an Intranet is a high tech Swiss Army knife, providing you with a set of tools for almost every function within your organization.
Most organizations rely on information, knowledge, intelligence to create products, services, education and entertainment.
Information is power. In the past, it was always difficult to get a hold of. Either you couldn’t get reliable information, or you couldn’t get it on time.
This was either by intent or by cumbersome mainframe or networked systems. Now, information is managed directly at the desktop with no particular worry about platform or software compatability.
Each user purchases the tools they need to do the job they need to do. Some are still using mainframe connections, with client/server software solutions.
They still, however, cannot rely completely on the accuracy of the information, because the source may or may not have fed the information up to the server.
With an Intranet any user, at any level, can publish information. This makes information reliable because it comes from the source.
The individual can serve the information that can be read in any browser, and make itself linkable to any other server.
This linkage creates process flow within your organization. You can secure information and share information in the best way you see fit. With Intranets, everyone in the company can access information, knowledge and company intelligence and design it in any way that improves your business models.
Uses. Intranets can be used for so many different functions within your organization. Applications that you’ve been using for years are finding their way to the Intranet.
Every developer in 1996/97 is creating new Web applications, or retrofitting existing applications to run seamlessly in Intranet environment.
Uses include executive decision support systems, sales cycle automation tools, financial systems, online analytical processing (OLAP) applications, personal productivity applications, financial trading floor systems, procurement and business-to-business commerce applications, document management systems, and customer support and help desk applications. The list just goes on and on.
A Decision Making Tool. The Intranet links together all of the information in your organization. Either you can look at pre-determined information, or you can use interactive forms or report writers to prune and graft information to help you analyze market trends, or business behavior.
You can share results with colleagues, clients and partners, and modify your business decisions accordingly. Templates and common look and feel come included.
With sophisticated web searching tool, you needn’t sift through long pages of information to get what you want either. Just key in a few keywords and your information is served to you like a meal.
Learning Organization Tool. When information can be pulled instantly, decision makers are able to analyze business processes, business opportunities, and business goals much faster.
It follows that more employees can become decision makers. Projects are managed more efficiently. Communication is opened up to include anyone related to any part of a project.
Customer requirements are documented and adhered to. Development occurs in a shared electronic development space, rather than between meetings, telephone calls, and individual schedules.
The company that shares information, learns together, improves together, and creates a more intelligent organization.
A Complete Communication Tool. Imagine integrating all corporate communications, all departmental communications, all group communications, and all individual communications into a place that provides up-to-date, quality, instant information to anyone in the organization, whenever and wherever you wanted it.
Imagine a single place like a magazine cover that would easily allow everyone in the company to get any information from the Executives, Human Resources, Marketing, Sales, Training, Finance, Partners, Operations, Facilities.
Imagine all the hundreds of documents, presentations, notes, software, policies, training materials on line. Imagine these resources available to everyone 24 hours a day.
Imagine your company communicating with anyone who produces this information, improving on its presentation or content.
Imagine knowing where the information came from, when it was generated and how it relates to other information. The Intranet is this communication tool.
A Collaboration Tool. Think about what happens when an easy to use, easy to learn, powerful tool for collaborating, project managing, data collecting, managing knowledge and information, is handed to everyone in your networked organization.
Imagine a tool that empowers people to put their best foot forward, proudly displaying their quality products, sales tips, marketing messages, internal customer services, technical procedures, processes, departmental goals, frequently asked questions, shortcuts, tips, tricks and self-images in a place where anyone who subscribes can access them.
Imagine collaborating with each other without wading through e-mail, or playing telephone tag sessions, or missing your chance to input at a meeting.
And, think of forums where people with common interests meet and hash out issues, until the best possible solution is achieved. Then, add video conferencing, electronic white boards, single document sharing, and you’ve got a collaborative tool – the Intranet.
An Expert’s Tool. Who knows their job the best in any organization? The individual or group(s) performing the jobs. Imagine experts responsible for sharing their expertise, and responsible for communicating it to others so it can be understood.
And, imagine being linked to real-time on-line expert support by experts who add depth and breadth to
their site, while you incorporate their levels of expertise into your workflow.
Imagine chatting directly with the top, essential consultants and knowledge czars within your organization.
And capturing all that information in threaded databases, so anyone could look at it, at any time.
Imagine sharing tips, tricks, pitfalls, analysis, and bottom line information about any topic, and getting it from those who know best, and have spent innumerable hours researching, thinking, and putting ideas into action.
A Single Invention Tool. Imagine employees finding information when they needed it, and available to cut and paste it into their presentations, sales pitches, marketing messages, or training modules.
Think of the time people save not reinventing the wheel. Instead of company information stored in filing cabinets, desks, garbage cans, huge piles on desks, information is on-line in your Intranet available for re-use by anyone working on similar topics.
Consider common look and feel, and common goals and messages repeating across the organization. Imagine everyone in the organization telling customers the same story!
A 21st Century Telephone. The Intranet is a tool that has already become a utility in many companies, much like the telephone.
Use it, and you are empowered to accelerate production cycles, to focus on expert information, to customize products and services for customers, to educate yourself immediately, to get a hold of anyone in the
Allow individuals to create their own sites, groups sites, departmental sites, and you empire a knowledge environment in which individuals within the organization know who they are talking to, what they represent, and how they fit into the organization.
The level of interaction becomes more intelligent and more streamlined to business goals, and corporate missions.
A Process Identification and Process Improvement Tool. Ever wondered how your sales cycle really worked?
Or have you ever dreamed of a system that would show you where any transaction was within a sales cycle, so you could make the most appropriate move?
Because an Intranet produces a visual representation of the work flow within the organization, everyone in the organization can examine the elements of the process that it is representing.
You see the way cross functional teams integrate their needs, products and services. You develop awareness of how your way of doing business makes your internal client’s job easier.
Does it include the necessary pieces of your overall organization, department or group?
Is your group giving others what they need? Where are they getting their information, and do “you” have anything to make their job easier?
Or vice versa. Can you clearly see your own inputs, what process activities you’re responsible for, and what
your outputs are?
Can you observe the work flow among your team members, identify the process and provide ways to improve it continuously? Companies with established, integrated Intranets have only one word, “YES”.
A Partnering Tool. It seems every company in the world has created at least one page on the Internet. Surely many haven’t yet, but are planning on it.
You’ll find Internet statistics at IDC , Dataquest a Gartner group company (also -dataquest.com), The Burton Group , Zona Research , and Forrester Research Group , if you want a real taste of what millions of people are doing on the outside Internet.
With all this information explosion, the idea is to obviously hook up with your partners as well, if they’re going on-line.
Doing so provides accurate, precise, up-to-date information on products and services, competitive advantages, current trends, late breaking news, partnerships, technologies, and on and on.
What a wealth of information that can feed your Intranet. Incorporate their site into your website for a more robust internal Intranet.
Track projects, manage vendors, manage requirements, link to one another’s excellence and processes.
A Customer Tool. As well as partners, your customers have gone on-line as well, describing their processes, their services, their products, and often their competition.
Linking into these sites provides you a much quicker reference point for getting to know what your customer is thinking.
Evenmoreso, you can connect to your customer’s clients, and analyze solutions or opportunities from a different vantage point.
This connection is an Internet tool, meaning it is on the outside of your company’s security firewalls.
But, having the information about your customer at your fingertips can decidedly impact how you deliver to them, so keeping that Intranet/Internet awareness is very important.
An ISO Tool. The Intranet can satisfy a lot of your ISO 9000 requirements. First of all you can provide all information on-line in a single location.
Secondly, you can identify processes, metrics, and project contacts on-line. Since everyone can access the Intranet, it becomes a solid singular source or repositiory which enables many of the ISO requirements.
A Target Marketing Tool. Steve Finnegan, President, The Huntington Group, Inc.says ‘The elements of a traditional business-to-business marketing and sales programs can be integrated within the Web environment in order to create target marketing, which attracts highly qualified customer/client prospects and engages them in an ongoing product/service sales dialogue.
The end result can be more profitable, long-term customer/client relationships. (just4u.com or
[email protected]). . . .
These issues include a shift in emphasis from sales transactions to the lifetime value of business relationships, from one-way information flow to two-way dialogue and collaboration, and from mass markets to market segments, each demanding more customization and faster response times.” Again, more value of an Intranet.
A Human Resource Tool. It takes a systematic rethinking about the nature of employee-to-corporation and employee-to-employee relationships now that every employee has the ability to instantly communicate work, thoughts, gripes, experiences, and solutions to every other employee.
The power of the employee also creates a set of responsibilities for all members of the corporate community.
You’re going to have to start thinking about infrastructure, policies, procedures, roles and responsibilities, templates, legal issues.
The Intranet may cause your company to reevaluate itself entirely. But haven’t we been told that for the past five years – Reengineer Your Coporation, RightSize it, turn it into a Learning Organization, focus on Principle
Centered Leadership so your employees can build quality products, services, education and entertainment? YES.