Best Practices for Enabling a Mobile Optimized Intranet

If you’re running the IT department for a business, one thing’s for sure: your intranet has to be foolproof, goofproof and lightning fast. After all, your intranet is the way you connect employees to resources, and resources to business divisions and business visions to departments, and departments back to employees. But the most important part of making your Intranet truly useful to all of the people it needs to service is that is works where they do.

If you haven’t already started expanding into the world of mobile intranets, there’s probably a good reason for that. And it isn’t because you don’t want to or don’t have the time. It’s because you’re not sure that your company is ready for it or that this new way of connecting your employees to work on the go is going to work, for security reasons and for usability reasons. One thing’s for certain. You’ve got to make a decision. And soon. Or you’ll be left behind by all of your competitors. If you’re considering travelling down the path of complete mobility for your employees and resources here are some tips on implementing the best practices for enabling a mobile optimized Intranet without sacrificing your user interface, your sanity or your security.

  • Make sure you are focused on and employing standards compliant interfaces like HTML 5. If you just made a face, then you probably already implement these device agnostic services but if you try to implement a mobile optimized Intranet without deploying services that will work anywhere, any time and on any device, you’ll find that you wasted loads of time and money for only some of your personnel to have complete and accurate access to your Intranet.
  • Make sure your mobile options are operable on the devices you’ve issued to your staff and other personnel. If all of your personnel are utilizing Blackberry devices then you might be able to skip over the switch to HTML5, but you certainly won’t be able to gloss over the fact that your mobile solution must work on all Blackberry devices. Of course, it may be simpler to replace a few old, worn out Blackberrys than to create a system that works for even the oldest models.
  • Decide whether you are aiming for an apps based environment or a web based module and stick to your guns. There’s been a lot of debate about whether mobile intranets in businesses should be app based or web based. While it’s up to you, you should consider that your main goal and purpose in this project is to offer mobility to all of the employees in your company. And if your company has thousands of employees an app based mobility option that only works on iPhone or that works with Droid but only on some Droid devices, may not be up to snuff when it comes to best practices. After all, the best practice possible in this situation is to make the mobility option as accessible as possible to everyone who works for the company.
  • Take your level of security into consideration. And don’t forget to consider your ability to manage the security functions. The problem with security on mobile Intranets is that even if you implement RIM or similar authorization and secure services into your mobile Intranet you can’t control who sees the information once it’s accessible via phone. If an employee loses their cell phone or other wireless device, which is 75 percent more likely to occur than the loss of a laptop computer, then you may have a major security breach on your hands. Additionally, you need to consider the strength of the security options available for this type of technology in the here and now. While RIM secure access is top of line for some email based mobility projects, an entire Intranet of personal, private and proprietary data is another story entirely. You should never implement any mobility measures into your Intranet until you are certain that the technology is tested and proven, even if that means waiting an additional week, or month, or 6 months to launch mobility for the business you support. The lag behind the competition will be worth the wait to ensure that your company’s information is safe.
  • Have a security plan and an emergency plan. You know how to handle the situation if your Intranet is breached now. But do you know how you would handle a breach if it came through a mobile source? The answer is that you probably don’t realize that the protocol will be different and the amount of time you have to respond to the problem will also be different.

If you’re considering adding mobility to your Intranet it’s important to remember that security and usability should always be at the top of your list when it comes to best practices!

 

The Rise of Intranet Usage in the Enterprise

The bottom line for enterprises is that an intranet can add value to their business. They are exclusive cyber zones where employees and other stakeholders can fully interact and get good business done. Intranets have developed into all singing, all dancing, easy to use software platforms and successful businesses are those that integrate their intranet fully into their daily business. Unsuccessful businesses are those who still think their intranet is just an interesting add-on.

Three important factors have given rise to this intranet phenomenon. Firstly the latest versions of browsers and the underpinning technology has developed at incredible speed and in response to the needs of enterprise. Secondly the trend towards ‘cloud’ computing rather than isolated, underutilized personal computing has bred a culture of web based users at the middle levels of enterprises. Last but not least is the trend for users to be in contact with home base while on the move and to have content that is essential to their work at their fingertips 24-7.

Unfortunately for them, but some companies are less intranet focused than many. The slow uptake is explained by all the usual organization suspects; not enough people in key positions with an understanding of the power of the Web, general intellectual inertia within work groups with a ‘wait and see’ approach to the rapid pace of change and many are guilty of digging in their heels when committed to investment in local ‘bubble’ software, training and support infrastructure.

The rise and rise of intranets and ‘extranets’ bring huge competitive advantage to the companies that embrace them. They first and foremost engage various groups within a business with useful and interesting interfaces, vital information that is valid and timely and functionality appropriate to the level of user know how. Intranets also allow the correct level of interaction with suppliers, customers and other business partners. Importantly, an intranet is a two-way communication device and not simply a vehicle for top down decrees. In commercial terms modern intranet software, at its best leverages the intelligence within an enterprise and at the lowest level gives an up to date review of the latest data.

‘Cloud’ computing is the best name and description for the intranet boom, because intranets nowadays are so widespread in scope that they are impossible to pin down. Nearly all software now bought by companies is web based. With the exception of vertical business software for banks etc, intranet software is causing the demise of last generation local file creating software such as ‘MS Office’ or Excel. Web based software is generally licensed and permission based and thus by definition is an intra/extranet application. The things that this software now does were previously the exclusive domain of expert software solution companies.

Businesses that take advantage of modern intranet technology will set themselves free from geographical boundaries. They will not only be able to manage their web content and company documents but also share with authorized parties, information such as project based processes, supply and logistics data, sales revenue and potential leads. In fact all five business functions can be integrated and improved continuously and more quickly than ever before.