Must-Have Features For Your Intranet

Your intranet can be anything that you want it to be. It can merely contain a list of company polices and a picture of the employee of the month. Or it can be an all-inclusive, high-tech wonder that transforms an otherwise overwhelmed organization into a well-oiled machine. Consider including the intranet features listed here in your organization's intranet.
By Erica Baca

Your intranet can be anything that you want it to be. It can merely contain a list of company polices and a picture of the employee-of-the-month. Or it can be an all-inclusive, high-tech wonder that transforms an otherwise overwhelmed organization into a well-oiled machine. Ready to embrace efficiency? Carefully consider including the following intranet features into your organization's intranet:

1- Shared access to documents -- This one is really a no-brainer. If an intranet doesn't do this, it's really not an intranet. In fact, this is the only universal function among leading corporate intranet software. Documents should be saved in a standard file format so that all employees can open files without having compatibility issues.

Many intranets allow links to outside Web sites. The Web contains a plethora of useful business tools and it makes sense to make them as readily accessible as possible. Employees are sure to save time when resources such as phone directories, travel reservation sites and shipping vendors are only a click away.

2- Controlled access - Intranets should be password protected. Human resource records, corporate communications and other proprietary information should be carefully guarded from intruders. Strict security policies should be set bearing in mind that former or current employees are potential trespassers.

A sophisticated intranet will also allow for different levels of access. Top-level executives might have exclusive access while most other employees will he excluded from viewing confidential accounting and HR information. However, mid-level managers may need access to department level accounting and HR records.

Controlled access also makes an intranet more flexible and greatly widens the range of uses. For example, the interface can be customized to a user and other components can contain individualized information.

3- Flexible organization - Do you store the toner with the janitorial supplies? Of course not, no one would ever be able to it. Likewise, your intranet should be organized in a logical and precise manner. To do this effectively you will need to be able to control how the content in your intranet is classified.

Look for an intranet that allows you to create and name an unlimited number of departments. The ability to add sub-departments will give you the option to organize content in an easily searchable hierarchical fashion. This type of organization will allow you to accurately establish security parameters.

4- Events Calendar, Scheduler - A centralized scheduling system ensures that everyone stays on the same page. It allows meetings and events to be scheduled from a company, department and team level. When such meetings are posted all affected personal will be notified. Additionally, if the intranet is set up with appropriate controlled access, it's possible to give individuals the flexibility to schedule their own meetings and tasks.

5- Message boards -- Message boards allow employees to express frustrations and workout solutions. This unique forum promotes the sharing of ideas that may not occur in face-to-face discussions. It also fosters communications between departments and peer groups that might not otherwise communicate. Having these discussions on the intranet, rather than on outside service, keeps discussions focused and positive.

6- Address Book - A comprehensive list of client, vendor and employee contact information makes a great addition to a company intranet. Not only is it easier to search through than its paper counterpart, it's also faster and less expensive to update.

With the right technology, an address book can become an important communication tool. Batch email functionality can be implemented so that mass emails can be sent based on search criteria. Furthermore, messages could be sent to wireless devices, such as PDAs or cell phones.

7- Intranet Search Engine - No matter how well things are organized, sometimes a key word search is the fastest way to find something. An Intranet Search Engine is a text field where you type in a key work and click "search." The intranet will be scanned and a list of matching results will appear within a couple of seconds.

The search function should be easily accessible, ideally available from every page on the intranet. A search field and button take up less space than a pinky finger on the screen. So, non-obtrusive yet convenient placement is a cinch.

8- Task Management - Think of this as an interactive "To Do" list. Managers can add tasks for their direct reports to complete. Employees can check for new tasks and prioritization by checking their list on the intranet each day. Tasks can easily be reassigned or reprioritized by the manager by simply changing the employee or the date associated with the task.

9- Customizable Interface -- Another common feature of many intranet systems is that the interface is customizable. This often means that colors can be modified, a logo can be uploaded and the company name can be displayed. It may seem like a minor feature, but it's actually an important branding tool. It's the difference between handing out plain white T-shirts to employees and handing out t-shirts emblazoned with a bright company logo.

10- Individualization - Intranets should ideally conform to the individual user. The idea is that intranets should be comfortable and convenient for a variety of employees with a varying range of responsibilities. Our company intranet includes a couple of slick features that achieve this end.

One of my favorite features is the Smart Menu, a list of the 20 most commonly used intranet features. From the moment an account is created the intranet learns which features a user accesses the most. These features are included in a drop-down list that is conveniently positioned at the top of the intranet for convenient access.

Another way to make intranet custom to the individuals is a Quick View function. Users can select a few intranet components that always appear on the front page of the intranet. An employee in the accounting department may choose to display a list of past due accounts or unbilled hours. A team manager may choose to include a list of scheduled time off.

The above features will prove to be extremely useful. However, your intranet should also be able to accommodate functionality specific to your business. Remember, intranets that allow for add-ons and customization tend to be wise investments. Change is inevitable and being prepared is all part of being a well-oiled machine.

This article was first published on Intranet Journal, an internet.com site.






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