This is how to choose the right intranet software for your business

Man using a wall-mounted screen in a server room

By Sam Marshall, Microsoft Guest Author

Like many things in business, to choose the right intranet software you should start with the outcomes that are important and work backwards.

Even if it’s just a one-page plan, set out the business case for your intranet and how you want it to change how people work. Talking to stakeholders and your employees will give a sense of what’s most important. Intranet costs can vary from a few dollars per person to several hundred, so a rough sense of the benefits will help you fix a proportionate budget.

After this, your choice comes down to features, the vendor and your technical requirements.

Features

All intranet software will give you the ability to create pages and publish news. Nearly all have social features such as likes, comments and sharing. Make sure that everything works well on mobile devices too.

What tends to set intranet software apart is the ease of use. You can change the branding, but it’s much harder to change the interface. This is particularly important for those publishing information – if it’s not easy to make changes, then your intranet will go stale.

Some platforms are more flexible than others, so if you want to integrate with other systems or customise the functionality, look for this early on.

Vendors and Partners

If you’re new to intranets, having the right support can make more difference than the software. Some vendors also offer services. Bigger platforms such as SharePoint operate through a network of partners instead. Things to look for include:

  • Relationship potential. Are they local enough to visit easily? Have they worked with your industry and understand your business?
  • Services. Do they only offer technical help, or can they provide design, content and launch advice too?
  • Software track record. How often is the product updated? Is there an active user community?
  • Business track record. How well established are they? Can you talk to current customers? What are the support hours like?

Technical requirements

Your software choice may be constrained by IT factors, such as compatibility with other systems. Many companies like to standardise on a platform, such as Microsoft.

There are big advantages to using a cloud-based intranet because you don’t need to worry about servers, updates and capacity. However, security or regulatory restrictions may block this option.

Demo and selection

Once you have a candidate shortlist, schedule demos to get a feel for the products. Initially this may be a web-meeting, but later on, building a direct rapport with the vendor is valuable. Ask for your own demo space so you can try the product out directly.

When ready for a formal proposal, take time to explain the business outcomes you’re looking for. Share some scenarios of how you see your employees using the intranet. This gives the vendor more context than a list of features, and there may be ways of achieving the outcomes in another way that the vendor can suggest.

Final choice

Choosing intranet software that is easy to maintain and grow with is important. But don’t fixate on the features: long term intranet success is much more about the content, so pick a platform that frees you up to focus on this.

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Sam Marshall is the owner of ClearBox Consulting. He tweets at @sammarshall

About the author

Sam Marshall is the owner of ClearBox Consulting. His current activities focus on intranet strategy, the growth of the digital workplace, the business side of SharePoint, and the use of social media tools for collaboration and communication. Sam has over 15 years of intranet and digital workspace experience and has helped large companies across the UK develop their systems and people He tweets at @sammarshall

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