Could an intranet make us more efficient?

We’re a marketing company that has expanded from 30 to 70 staff via acquisition and currently operate from two sites. Could an intranet make us more efficient, and what are the costs involved?

A. John Coulthard of Microsoft writes:

In a large, geographically spread company effective control and delegation of information can play a significant role in keeping the business running smoothly. Using an intranet to hold and share information across the two offices could prove a useful tool to support integration and establish more effective ways of working.

An intranet is a flexible tool that can provide the means for administering any number of business processes, such as storing and reviewing company policies, or providing the virtual work space for collaboration.

However, before beginning the development of an intranet, a business should have in mind the goals it is meant to achieve. There are a number of questions that should be asked. Is the information held to be organisationallybased, client-based or project-based? Is the intranet to be a passive system aimed at feeding useful information to employees or is it to be an active system with all employees playing their part?

Failure to address these questions at an early stage can result in a chaotic, disorganised information system that is of little use to anyone. You should also remember that employees may need access not just in the office, but while at client sites or when working from home.

Intranet functionality is a standard feature of modern business servers and it may well be that no additional investment is needed, but simply the deployment of this particular capability. Check with your local IT supplier.

If you do need to invest in technology suited to the task take a look at the intranet tools on the market, such as Microsoft SharePoint Services, available as a free download for anyone with Windows Server 2003 and included in Windows SBS 2003. A ballpark figure for a project including implementation, training and security would be £10,000.


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