Sam Lipscombe 10 April 2016 11 min read

How to Select Intranet Software That is Right For Your Business

how to select intranet software

Intranet software has grown up. Modern intranets are the hub of a business, helping facilitate communication between teams as well as giving staff the tools to be more productive. With different options available, I’m going to walk you through how you can select the right tool for the job. If you are looking to deliver an intranet for your organisation download our free intranet business case, it will help you answer some crucial questions and give you a template to present to senior management. 

The intranet marketplace 

Broadly speaking there are three different options of intranet software available to you (well actually there is a fourth, to build your own from scratch, but for anyone other than a small organisation this is rarely chosen these days). 

These are: 

  1. Boxed intranet products 
  2. Intranet toolkits (think Microsoft SharePoint) 
  3. Hybrid solutions. 

Boxed intranet products deliver a defined set of intranet functionality to help you get up and running quickly. They are often easy to use and don’t require much technical involvement. The drawback here is that they are often not that flexible and don’t move with the needs of your business. New functionality is dictated by the intranet software provider and branding / layout may need to conform to the options of the intranet product. 

Intranet toolkits are at the other extreme. They provide the building blocks to deliver a fantastic intranet and can be developed in almost any direction your business chooses to go. Unfortunately they often take a long, long time to achieve even just the basic capabilities of their boxed cousins.  

Hybrid intranet software, like we provide here at SORCE sit in the middle of these two extremes. They deliver the flexibility of a toolkit as well as the easy to use (and readymade) intranet applications that gets you up and running quickly. 

I mentioned a forth option, to build your own, which I wanted to quickly cover. Unless your business is huge and you have the technical resources this probably won’t be an option for you. The cost of developing an intranet from scratch is likely to be prohibitive (especially if you consider ongoing support) compared to what you can get out of the box. 

Now that we’ve seen what’s available I’m going to help you decide what’s right for you.  

How big is your intranet project? 

Hybrid intranet solutions are ideal for organisations looking to make some improvements quickly and have the ability for the intranet to adapt to future requirements. They can scale and are available in the cloud as well as on premise in some quite complex hosting environments. For long term value you may want to first consider looking at hybrid intranet products. 

For companies with a large budget or those that have access to a large technical team an intranet toolkit may be the solution to consider first. You should really spend a good amount of time defining your requirements first (ideally conducting stakeholder interviews and requirements gathering exercises) as this will pay dividends later. Be prepared for this to take time and effort getting something that is right for you. 

For those with a smaller budget (under £10,000) a boxed product may be your best choice. You’ll get the basics fast which may solve some of your most pressing communication challenges. If your requirements get complex or are likely to change, this may not be your best route. 

Discovering your requirements 

Most people have a clear idea what an intranet needs to deliver and are likely to use this to select the intranet software that closely fits these objectives. Unless you are upgrading an existing intranet you may find that you begin to discover the biggest intranet requirements only after it is being used. The feedback you get from staff will help you use your intranet to streamline business processes and make life easier for them. 

Keep this in mind when selecting intranet software, your requirements may need to adapt as your intranet matures. 

Have you got a budget? 

Discuss your objectives with intranet software vendors. With this information they can give you an idea of how much it will cost to implement their intranet software in your business. Boxed products tend to be the cheapest, intranet toolkits the most expensive, hybrid solutions usually cost a little more than boxed products but nowhere near as intranet toolkits. 

Just a word on cost. After more than a decade working with intranets believe me when I say there is no such thing as free intranet software. There are some great free intranet solutions but the cost is hidden in the implementation. For simple requirements these can be useful to get yourself going but try and do anything similar to the intranet functionality you get from paid solutions and you either run into expensive licence costs or a hefty development bill (or both). 

What resources are available to you? 

If you have a big development team sitting around twiddling their thumbs then the (intranet) world is your oyster. Most intranet toolkit projects tend to be led by IT and require significant time investment by them to make changes and for ongoing maintenance. If you don’t have much IT resources or they want to take a back seat once the project has been delivered then you are best considering either hybrid intranet software or even something out of the box. Whatever route you choose the best intranets are usually ones that distribute management control out to the business to get others involved in moving the intranet forward. 

These are a few considerations that you want to bear in mind when choosing an intranet software for your organisation. To show the impact an intranet will have to your organisation download our intranet business case guide. It will give you insights that you may want to bear in mind alongside choosing an intranet supplier when you are presenting back to your business. Do let me know your experiences of selecting an intranet supplier by commenting on the post below.