Choosing An Intranet CMS For Your Company

Information runs today’s modern economy. Businesses rely on huge amounts of information to conduct business, increase sales, target advertising campaigns, and analyze buying trends. Fortunately with the onset of technological innovation, this information can be maintained digitally because if one of today’s Fortune 500 companies had to keep its information in printed form it would take several multistoried buildings to store it.

Most of today’s successful companies have both external and internal presences on the internet and these require huge quantities of regularly updated information. A web content management system is a good way for companies to management these quantities of information. These content management systems have programs and equipment that help manage all this information.

CMS intranet systems use electronic systems to organize data so that it can be retrieved, searched, updated, and shared throughout an organization. Using database technology, CMS employs sophisticated search technology to help retrieve filed information quickly and efficiently. The CMS must employ a high level of document interoperability. All documents including spreadsheets, databases, wordpressing files, .PDF files, and all other types of files must all be cross-referenced and categorized, so that when any search is conducted all information that is relevant becomes available.

Additionally, intranet CMS interoperability also provides multiple organizations and many government agencies the ability to share information when necessary even when using different systems.

Intranet CMS can truly improve information sharing and because of this companies should set policies in place to ensure controls are established to secure the company’s information. Procedures should be established naming intranet CMS account administrators and account authorization access procedures. A secure facility should be established and the administrator should determine who should have be able to gain access to which content and how. Access rights to documents should be set down to the individual user level.

Other aspects of a good content management system include the ability to capture and store large volumes of documents, the ability to create a workflow that demonstrates how one documents links to another, and the ability to reuse documents and reassemble them into new documents.

Many content management systems contain collaborative features allowing multiple workers who are located in separate places to work on the same document or to collaborate in creating or editing documents and managing changing or revisions. A CMS collaborative feature will allow all changes and edits to a document from a team to be synchronized and then distributed to all team members for review.

When a company is considering purchasing a content management system, here are some things to consider:

• Do some research. To find a quality content management system, do some research. Talk with other companies who already use content management systems and get their opinions. Talk with the administrators of these systems and get their recommendations. Try and use a CMS before making a decision and certainly before purchasing a system.

• How easily accessible is the information stored in the content management system. The CMS should store and display the information in such a way that everyone can see it and understand it and it can be easily and quickly retrieved. This must be true for everyone in the organization, even if they are not technically handy.

Many organizations allow their IT departments to choose their content management systems without input from the users and the CMS ends up being too high-tech and too complicated for their employees and customers to use.

• There are content management systems which are so big information can actually get lost in the system. Companies should purchase a CMS that is sized to handle their information needs so that the information is managed, but doesn’t get lost.

Designing a perfect intranet for your company, the type of content management system you use is the single most important factor you will need to consider. The content management system is the set of technologies which will facilitate the management, processing, and collecting of digital information across a variety of mediums.

A quality CMS will allow your company to collect all relevant information from multiple sources, share it among your employees no matter where they are located anywhere in the world, organize this information, store it, present it to your customers, and even allow your customers to access it for their benefit and use.

The type of content management system a company uses can make or break a company so this is not a purchase decision to make lightly. Some companies take months of research, testing, and analysis before making a final decision on which content management system to purchase. The best content management system for your company is the one that meets your company’s needs, not necessarily the most expensive or the largest or the one with the fanciest features.

One thing to remember is that normal people will be using this content management system. True, they will probably have some basic computer knowledge, but they most likely will not be super technical and will not have the time to learn a very complicated new system. Your employees and customers will be much more comfortable will a content management system that is easy to understand and to operate. A good question to ask yourself is, “Could my Mother or My Grandmother operate this system?” Your Mom is probably a typical business computer type user capable of doing spreadsheets, email and word processing. If you can explain the content management system to your Mom, then you can probably teach it to your employees and your customers without too much trouble.

It would also be good for your new content management system to have a WYSIWYG editor because this just makes life easier for everyone. Most of your employees and your customers will not know HTML and really are not going to want to learn. A WYSIWYG editor is very easy to learn and is pretty intuitive for even the most non-technical user.

The system should load pages quickly without dragging. There is nothing as frustrating as having to wait and wait while a content management system churns and churns to load a document. Processing time is very important and that is why it is recommended that you test any content management system you are contemplating purchasing to see if it will meet your requirements.

Using an intranet CMS to manage and facilitate your company’s document management and processing is a good idea, especially if your information processing is of large quantity. Just ensure that your CMS is adequate to meet your needs, but not so large your information gets lost within the system.

Making Effective Use Of Intranet Software

Intranet is a term used to describe a private computing network that designed to only serve the needs of a given organization. The main difference that it has with the more commonly used term internet is that it represents a closed network of computers that is closed to unauthorized users. It was mainly developed at first to be used by educational organizations but soon gained major traction with private organizations as well.

It is not to be confused with extranet which are networks that provide a more open access to customers and interested third parties. For that reason, many intranet networks are protected by serious encryptions as well as firewalls that enable them to really restrict the number and origin of the people who have access to their network.

But it doesn’t just represent a company’s website either. Instead, it is a technological infrastructure that enables the company to process, share and organize all the information that said company needs. The main purpose of an intranet network is to reduce the cost of operation as well as the time and effort required to accomplish the necessary tasks within the company.

Obviously, operating such a network requires a very efficient and highly personalized piece of software to best suit the company’s needs. These software programs are designed to provide the necessary tools to the company employees to facilitate various processes such as sales, customer relationships, productivity and management.

They can also be used for effectively sharing information between the different parts of the organization. If many employees need to share information on a regular basis because they are working on a project together, a private forum or discussion board might be integrated into the system.

Another thing that can be done with intranet software is to track and measure the activity of all parties who use the intranet network. That way, organisations are able to track user activity and how the information is getting shared so that they are able to optimize the different systems they have in place and get a better return on their investment. This is ultimately great for organisations that are continuously striving to improve their efficiency and improve their service.

In most cases, the intranet software will only be accessible to people within the organisation. However, with the proper software options, certain parts of the intranet can be ultimately opened up to customers (or the general public) who have a need to track or better understand what they are getting out of their relationship with the organisation in question.

Many large organisations actually have their own team that builds and manages their intranet software. That way, they have a tighter control on just what is happening in terms of the way their employees share information and get their work done as well as in how their customers are being served. Most of the time this task falls onto the communications department (or the equivalent).

There are many benefits that can come from using a powerful and effective intranet software solution. These can range from better control of employee activity all the way to improving relationships with customers.

One of the main attractions in the eyes of the company who uses it is obviously the ability to improve the productivity of their workforce. By providing tools and applications that enable them to attribute tasks more easily and more quickly, they can make better use of everybody’s time. Also, it enables the employees to access the information they need to get their job done faster. This is reflected by not only the improved access to the information in question but also by the better organization and structure of that information.

Improved communication between all parties is also a very attractive benefit of a good intranet software solution. This obviously allows everybody who is working on a given project to be up to date on the most current information and strategies established by the upper management.

This is also great for companies that require communication between multiple locations. Some larger organizations actually own several buildings (sometimes with different purposes entirely) that are sometimes in entirely different countries. Effective information exchange between multiple locations becomes an absolute must.

Such an intranet software will mainly use email or direct chat to exchange information between parties. This cuts down on the usage of the more traditional telephone which ends up saving massive amounts of money for the company. This is especially true for organisations that have locations in different cities, states or countries because it eliminates the cost of long distance phone calls.

Of course, most of these intranet infrastructures are entirely customized to the company in question because not two companies have precisely the same needs. In turn, this really helps them better serve the end customer more quickly and effectively. This is fantastic for companies who rely a lot on repeat sales from a more static base of customers because it allows them to tailor their service much more closely to their needs.

Also, whenever there is a change in company policy, in the laws that govern the way the company operates or just a change to optimize the productivity or return on investment of the company, these changes can be propagated very quickly across all the locations. All the employees and parties affected by such changes can be kept up to date and implement the changes as fast as possible. This is especially important for when changes are made to comply with newly implement laws in different countries of operation.

All in all an good and efficient intranet software solution is absolutely imperative for any company who is looking to optimize their processes as well as make better use of their employees and resources. What’s best is that these solutions can be fully customized to the company who is going to be using the software. That means that they can ultimately communicate better within the company as well as with any customers and also between different branches and locations that the company might have. This ends up saving time and money on all fronts.

Creating a Better Workplace through Effective Activity Streams for Intranet Software

One of the most promising new trends for workplace collaboration is the adoption and eventual maturity of activity streams. At a basic level we can think of activity streams as the differentiators that turned Facebook and Twitter into two of the most widely used online services in the world. However, in the context of business intranet software activity streams have the potential to be much more than social news feeds transposed to the workplace.

Consultant Bertrand Duperrin laments that 2013 will likely not see enough integration of effective activity streams into digital intranets. Duperrin considers activity streams to have tremendous future value in workplace systems as they centralize information access and create greater potential to improve situational awareness. However, activity streams as they are currently implemented tend to be coupled too tightly with social networks and draw too much from email, which is already a primary alert.

Similarly, CMS Wire has observed that traditional workplace structure is breaking down: the distribution and proliferation of projects are not as well defined by process or by business awareness as they once were. Unless there is an accompanying shift in intranet system technology, this situation will contribute to increased chaos and inefficiency in enterprise.

Many social software vendors integrate personal newsfeed-inspired features into their products. This step is part of the necessary phase of acclimating employees with the new tools, though it is certainly not the only step needed. The continued evolution of the activity stream in the social intranet environment must see innovations such as “APIs allowing any system to publish activities into the activity stream,” going as far as integrateing mobile sensors and enterprise social graphs in order to allow employees to make sense of the emergent patterns that appear in the chaotic digital workplace.

Is Social Intranet Software the Future of Workplace Communication?

Given the recent rise of online social media, it was only a matter of time before the “social” paradigm would start to influence enterprise intranet software. Many organizations have already worked features such as personal profiles and content sharing into their corporate communications. While it is possible to see this as a gimmick or a blatant attempt to capitalize on a market trend, social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn have large user bases for important, valid reasons; the ability to collaborate in highly personalized and emergent ways has value in the business world just as it does to private social media users.

The intersection of portals (the gateways of traditional intranets), team sites, and social sites is where the ideal benefits of social intranet are to be found. If execut ed correctly social intranet facilitates freedom, collaboration, discoverability, clear business context, and integration with company processes.

However, it is probably best to think of social intranet not so much as a replacement for the conventional approach but rather part of a gradual evolution. The reality of the business world’s adoption of social software is that it has augmented the capabilities of traditional solutions rather than making them obsolete entirely; legacy portals and content systems have adapted to integrate the new social features.

Indeed, a recent study from NetStrategyJMC has identified that there are five hurdles that social intranet must overcome in order to realize its potential:

  1. Lack of a sense of urgency for the transition.
  2. Lack of buy-in from senior management.
  3. Social solutions are not currently empowering employees enough.
  4. Digital environments are being fragmented rather than consolidated.
  5. Businesses are still concerned with management along organizational groups rather than operational groups.

Best Practices for Implementing an Enterprise Social Intranet

Social Intranet Defined

A social intranet is defined as a network that utilizes social software to share an organization’s information with its members. Generally, this means that the social intranet is a place where employees can go to get things done within their own company.

Main Functions and Features

  • Integration
    The ability to integrate with current tools or the ability to add new tools to the program. An example would be the ability to add MS Outlook and email to integrate with the intranet.
  • Customization
    This is software that is flexible enough to be used by the organization to create custom modules. This can make interaction easier within the site. It allows for the customization of tools and resources that are used most often.
  • Collaboration
    This is an intranet feature that allows people to collaborate their work. An example would be a group of people working on one document.
  • Communication Channels
    This is a feature that allows corporations to promote a corporate culture in an interactive way.
  • Automation
    These are workflows and templates that can automate document creation. Alerts can be created to assist in learning about changes and new additions within an intranet.
  • Applications
    These are links to specific applications for associates to perform their duties.
  • Remote Access
    Users of the intranet are able to access content when they are away from the office.
  • Document Repository
    This allows users of an intranet to store and retrieve documents. It enables users to maintain and back up their data to prevent the loss of important documents.
  • Blog
    An intranet blog is used to provide timely information to employees, customers and business partners.
  • People Search
    This feature allows members of the intranet the ability to find employee contact information, specialty areas, personal interests and group memberships.
  • Enterprise Search
    This feature allows members of the enterprise intranet to search content.
  • Security
    Users and groups are able to share and send documents securely when utilizing an intranet.

Growth of Social Enterprise Intranets

Recent studies show that enterprise social networks are rising in popularity. They are becoming the main body of information repositories and communication hubs within enterprises. They are beginning to replace corporate intranets as the most comprehensive and reliable places to locate information.

According to a study published by APCO Worldwide and Gagen MacDonald, corporations using internal social tools experience higher levels of social engagement at work. These organizations have also reported the following information:

  • Sixty one percent of employees said social media tools make it easier to collaborate with their colleagues across vast distances.
  • Fifty eight percent of employees would rather work at a company that utilizes internal social tools.

The Benefits of Social Enterprise Intranets

There are many benefits to enterprise social intranets.

  • Workforce Productivity
    They help users to view and locate information quickly. This allows the ease of use for workforce applications that are relative to their roles and responsibilities in the workplace.
  • Time
    They allow many organizations to distribute information as needed. Employees can link to the information when they find it convenient. This is a lot less distracting than electronic mail.
  • Communication
    Enterprise social intranets are powerful tools for communication. They are used to communicate strategies that can have a global reach throughout the organization.
  • Web Publishing
    Enterprise social intranets allow corporate knowledge to be maintained and easily accessed. This is usually done through hypermedia and Web technologies.
  • Business Operations and Management
    They are being used as platforms for developing and deploying applications that support business operations and decisions throughout enterprises.
  • Cost Effectiveness
    Users are allowed to view data and information through web browsers instead of maintaining physical documents. This can save businesses money on printing and duplicating documents.
  • Enhances Collaboration
    Information is easily accessed by all authorized members. This enables teamwork.
  • Promotes A Common Corporate Culture
    Every member can view the same information throughout the enterprise intranet. This helps to promote a common culture throughout the company.
  • Immediate Updates
    Intranets make it possible to provide audiences with live changes so that they are kept current with corporate issues.
  • Supports a Distributed Computing Architecture
    An intranet can be linked to a management information system. An example would be a corporate time keeping system.

Common Issues Encountered When Implementing an Enterprise Social Intranet

Usually, poor planning is the most common problem when implementing a social intranet. Too many organizations rely on free, open source solutions. These organizations give little thought to the needs and requirements of their users. Poor planning causes the user problems when trying to find information.

To overcome these issues, companies should list their needs in an enterprise social intranet before designing their systems.

Main Processes to Cover When Planning an Enterprise Social Intranet

Overall, a successful enterprise social intranet encapsulates corporate flair and spirit. The use of innovative and fun features should be implemented to achieve the goal of having a good enterprise social intranet.

Additionally, support and accessibility are important features to think about during the planning phase. If properly planned, an enterprise social intranet will add value to a company. Listed below are additional characteristics that will help to create a successful enterprise social intranet.

Navigation

  • The main navigation should appear consistently on each page.
  • Navigation should be intuitive and easy.

Design

  • Companies should have clean, engaging home page designs. Additionally, all home page designs should be aesthetically attractive to its users.
  • A combination of good and effective graphics should be part of the design plan.
  • Well-written text, a suitable text volume and links should be present on each page of the design.
  • There should be a good contrast between the text and the background of the design.
  • Wherever appropriate, add audio and video to the design.

Promotion

Finally, it’s important to promote the use of an enterprise social intranet. Once everyone knows how to operate it, employees will use the system to expedite your business effectively.
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References:
http://www.gagenmacdonald.com/downloads/3rd-Annual-Employee-Engagement-Research-Study.pdf
http://socialenterprisetoday.com/blog/posts/social-intranets-are-on-the-rise/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/fredcavazza/2011/11/30/from-social-intranets-to-collaboration-ecosystems/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intranet_portal#Main_features
http://socialmediatoday.com/prescient/441295/are-social-intranets-more-lovable
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