intranet planning considerations

what is an intranet?

is an informal term coined to describe a collection of networked information services intended for an internal audience, e.g. the staff of a company or the members of a virtual work team. Intranet services are typically accessed through a web server that authenticates users before presenting them with internal information (which may be web--based or rely on any other subsystem).
refers to the networked information services that a company makes available to its outside business contacts. Extranet users often include an organization's contractors, suppliers, vendors, distributors, agents, and other parties that benefit from access to limited views of an organization's information systems--placing wholesale product orders, monitoring shipment or production status, etc. An extranet often saves money for the host company and saves time for the extranet users.
related terms
An internet is a technical term to describe a network of networks, and The Internet describes the worldwide network of networks linked together by TCP/IP protocols.

what should we offer in our intranet?

What do companies and organizations link together to create an intranet? Whatever they want.
Imagination, employee access to networked computers, and budget are common limitations that keep intranet design within the bounds of inexpensive technology. While the ``killer application'' that makes an intranet worth logging onto every day is often unique and custom-created for your business, there are common elements that appear in many intranets due to to universal need or to the ease and relatively low cost required to make certain types of information available at all times via the intranet.

common intranet services

Here is a sampling of typical intranet applications, which may or may not be desired by your intranet users:

  1. collections of web links
  2. company news and department newsletters
  3. organization charts
  4. manuals, documentation, policies
  5. basic collaboration tools (groupware)
  6. directory services (gateway to phone and other staff contact info)
  7. human resources information
  8. threaded discussions on current company topics/issues
  9. web--based email access (similar to Hotmail)
  10. web--based discussion list management and participation
  11. access to company databases -- sales, inventory, pricing
  12. calendaring (company--wide events calendar)
  13. scheduling (meetings, personal scheduling)
  14. document management
  15. search engine of company documents
  16. employee time logging
  17. employee expense reporting
  18. forms to help automate other business processes - work orders, job descriptions, mileage, maintenance requests, etc.

special intranet/extranet applications

So what about the intranet killer app?
Your company may have a situation just begging to be solved by an intranet application. Having one or more unique intranet applications that appeal to users will make it easier to promote a new intranet within your organization, and may lead to faster return on investment. Large organizations (along with intranet product vendors) are often delighted to brag about their successful intranet projects.

Interactivate can share certain details of intranet applications we have devised or developed with clients in several industries, including:

digital image repository
cvsweb and pts
project tracking and version control
dynamic charting
dynamic plotting of market conditions

we want an intranet - what next?

Although Interactivate can provide assistance with intranet implementation and management for your organization, our core business is more in-tune with the strategic planning, design, and selected application development that may be involved in conceiving and hatching an intranet.

process overview

you are probably reading this document during a strategic planning session for your intranet :-) A well-conceived intranet follows some basic steps that are probably familiar from other large projects you have undertaken:

  1. define the audience of your intranet, its purpose, and the scope of intranet services
    why an intranet? who will use it? what do they get out of it?
  2. determine needs and potential applications
    what exactly will we be doing with our intranet?
  3. review existing systems
    do we already offer this via any other service? can existing services be linked into an intranet?
  4. evaluate possible solutions and applications
    in-house? outsource? off the shelf?
  5. iterative design and development
  6. implementation
    don't forget training, documentation, conversion!
  7. maintain, manage, monitor, refine
    best kept under internal control of an IS department or dedicated intranet `webmaster' who is intimate with your industry, organization, and people

selected sources - additional information

Since an intranet is a term of convenience to describe existing technologies, published intranet articles often fall into three discussions that may not benefit someone planning an intranet. Beware of: advertorial articles that do little more than hawk some product in an intranet setting, nuts and bolts pieces that re-purpose basic web development instruction under the guise of creating an intranet, and business process pieces written at such a high level they are detached from any practical application. Here are several sources of additional information on intranets:

Intranet Design Magazine
a subsite of which features articles that have an intranet angle, including case studies
The Intranet Journal
is a well--organized site from Datamation with a special area devoted to intranet planning
Home for Intranet Planners
Collection of online resources for planning intranets, once hosted by Interactivate.
Version Control within a Collaborative Extranet
a full-length excerpt from Deborah Bayles' book Extranets: Building the Business to Business Web with specific guidelines for managing the extranet life cycle.

Last modified: Fri Mar 19 22:04:13 PST 1999
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