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Intranets: The Pros and Cons
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By Judith Glaser

Intranets have great upside potential for small businesses. [See Intranets: Not Just Big Companies]. First, lets look at some of the many benefits of Intranets. An Intranet:

• Creates a safe environment for people to share information.

• Can be used it to share and think more strategically – to navigate through the
changes in the company, the industry and the world.

• Gives people opportunity to see developments on their own time.
• Is a way to keep up with decisions and initiatives that are critical to mutual success.

• Helps break down silo thinking.

• Enables people to feel listened to, and empowered.

• Makes issues more transparent.

• Encourages people start talking to each other outside of the Intranet. This is a way to forge new networks and relationships not visible before.

• Engages people to initiate projects where people share a common goal.

• Enables people to share valuable information that is critical to both the success of the company and also the success of key departments.

• Most importantly, aids in the building of informal communities – which is the life blood of any organization.

• Get whole organization involved in thinking more strategically.

• Is interactive and 24/7

• Makes issues transparent

• Let's people can collaborate on writing things instantaneously.

• Offers a space for collaborative tools for project management, file sharing, versioning of documents, and meeting management.

• Offers an opportunity for being creative – there are many uses and ways to leverage technologies available on the Internet.

Lets people get instant answer, feel empowered and listened to and provides them the opportunity to communicate with each other.

This can be complex, however. Here are some things to be mindful of:

• Always takes effort to put something on the web/Intranet therefore your organization may need someone who loves it and understands it to take responsibility.

• Some principles / some people empowered to censor: e.g. respect; idea sharing and get back an instant response to what makes it good or bad. Imagine a place where you can say what is really on your mind – where you can be you and be accepted as you are.

• Be careful. Without security and defined processes and policies it could be used in a risky manner.

• Take into account the time required for set up and training.

• When looking at starting an Intranet take the time to whiteboard what it is you are wanting it to do – technology can be built to do most things so it makes sense to have it built to service your organizations needs.

• As Intranets evolve, choose a tool/technology that offers a lot of flexibility. New Wave used SQL to underpin their Intranet.

• When to use the Intranet for conversation: as with all media, it is advisible to not rely on only one medium. For instance, in small teams it may be advisable to have a face to face conversation, just as often it is more advisable to pick up the phone or walk over to your colleague than sending them an email when you have a question that requires an urgent answer.

• You want to make sure it doesn’t open up another way for viruses to come into the company

• Sometimes real-time collaboration tools require another layer of infrastructure. For instance, while e-mail communication is now easily stored, instant communications are different: they are harder to manage and the risk of damage is more immediate

Judith Glaser is the President CEO of Benchmark Communications Inc.
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