Your new intranet: 4 things to consider before you decide to build or buy
Congratulations! After months of discussion, you have an agreement from the board that your company needs an intranet. No doubt you have a list of functional requirements it should be able to perform. You know that an intranet will be a reasonable investment so you want to make sure you get as much as possible for your money and resources.
The question you now face is should you build or buy, but how do you decide?
There are upsides to building an intranet in-house. The main one is you’ll be able to get exactly what you want. You have complete control over what you build, can configure it to meet your needs exactly and better still, you can ensure it fully integrates with all your other systems.
Sounds great, huh? Where can I sign up, I hear you cry!
But slow down for a moment. There are a lot of ifs and buts with DIY intranet building so buying an intranet might be a better solution.
Here are the top 4 things you should consider before making your decision.
1. Time, money and resources
The biggest issue with full control is that it comes with a very high price tag mostly in terms of time and resources. Building an intranet platform is not going to happen overnight and you need to consider what you are trying to achieve and the resources you have available. Do you even have someone in your business who is up to the job and does that person have the time to devote themselves full-time to your intranet for the duration of the project and beyond? Are they aware of the challenges of a long project and milestones such as the construction of an intranet proof of concept, for example?
Chances are no, therefore you’ll need to either recruit someone with the right skills or someone to replace the day to day tasks of the person you already have. So don’t forget to factor that additional cost into the project along with a project manager to keep control to ensure your intranet project doesn’t last years instead of months!
You need to consider the total cost of ownership not just for the initial build and launch but also for the lifetime of your intranet.
Buying an intranet system like Interact means that all the hard work of creating the platform, designing the interface and testing and tweaking is done for you. All you have to do is choose applications, build structure, populate content, brand it and launch it. The time from install to launch, particularly with a cloud based intranet, can be as little as a few weeks depending on how much content there is to populate and the resource available to do this.
As a side note buying a cloud based intranet gives you lots of benefits that you don’t get from on-premise including being able to easily scale as your business grows, and getting regular software updates as and when they happen – Interact cloud customers benefit from 12 automatic updates per year.
Cost wise, there may be a larger initial outlay but the majority of the time cost of ownership for buying is markedly cheaper than building.
2. Putting all your eggs in one basket
If you build your intranet, you are heavily reliant on your IT team as a whole and particularly on the one (or few) who have the appropriate skills to maintain it.
Should that person(s) leave the business, they will take their skills and more importantly tacit knowledge about the inner workings of your system with them. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, makes the manager of a bespoke intranet wake up in a cold sweat more than the nightmare of losing their best developer.
There is a no reliance on in-house skills and minimal involvement from your IT team (you will need them for server configuration set up and active directory initially but then very sparingly). Interact Intranet software is so easy to use, absolutely anyone can upload document pages with minimal training. No-one needs to know how to code and information can quickly and easily uploaded and flow freely without change control.
This means you can build a wide intranet team from non-technical, non-comms people and keep headcount costs to a minimum which is a god-send for most internal communications teams who are traditionally under-resourced and funded.
3. The ‘beauty and the beast’ effect
Obviously all developers are awesome people developing all the cool stuff us ordinary simpletons want to tinker with every day. However, it’s fair to say they’re very technically minded and are often function over form every time. They don’t necessarily have the end-user in mind in terms of a simple and intuitive interface.
What IT consider a fantastically functional intranet can make your non-technical staff want to cry. I’m not necessarily talking about it being pretty; I’m talking about making it easy for non-techy people to use and navigate. Never underestimate the importance of using your intranet being a pleasurable, non-frustrating experience for your staff wherever they are on whatever device they choose to use!
You will either need to do extensive user-testing and re-development or perhaps bring in the expertise of a User Experience Designer to assist your technical developer.
At Interact we recognise the need for function and form and we understand the ever-changing dymanics of the workplace environment. That’s why our intranet not only looks good and is easy to use but it is also readily available on any device without the loss of functionality.
Our experts have years of experience in creating intranets. They know what works and what doesn’t and can provide you with guidance to help you create a functional and beautiful site that meets your users’ needs.
4. Maintenance and development
As intranet experts, something we experience frequently is the view that an intranet project is finished the day it is launched. In reality, it is (or should be) just the beginning. Do you have the money to continue to maintain and develop your intranet forever?
A common scenario that we often come across is that no-one except the IT team or developer has the skills to perform basic tasks like upload a new or updated document because the intranet has been designed in a way that requires at the very least a working knowledge of HTML or way more complex and specialist coding skills. How many people outside of your IT (or web development) team have that as a basic skill?
If non-techy people can’t manage and maintain their own documents, your intranet can very quickly become a content graveyard which will have a negative effect on user engagement.
Along with all this you need to consider whether IT will list the intranet as a priority and make sure it can scale with the business requirements and utilise the latest technologies and trends, if not you will be looking for a new solution sooner than you think.
At Interact, your yearly license and support costs include development of three major software updates and any number of minor updates and fixes. We continually develop our product to keep up with changes in technology and intranet desires as well as listening to our customers’ suggestions on our community site.
The only maintenance you have to do is manage your content. Interact’s suite of analytics help you see when documents are due to expire and automatic alerts prompt authors to revisit their content and renew it. If you train the right people and govern your intranet well, ongoing content management is not a time consuming or difficult task.