Everything You Need to Know About a CMS Intranet

Starting in the early 1990s, groups and organizations all around the world have used Intranet systems to help simplify and improve on the management collaboration and productivity of their employees. In fact, the world ‘Intranet’ means the use of an internet system restricted to a group of authorized individuals and users within an organization.

As Intranet systems have been improved and evolved, so too has their usability, functionality and potential applications. The Internet may have created virtually unlimited opportunities for communication, yet Intranets have helped to create some of the most extraordinarily powerful types of organizational communication available by taking advantage of their incredible flexibility when it comes to content and use.

Content Management Systems have also been around since the early 1990s, helping organizations manage information stored in a database. Today, most CMS' are web based and provide a great deal of flexibility for users and developers. Many of the most popular websites in the world are built using a CMS, including a large percentage that use open source tools such as Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal.

Combing the power and flexibility of a CMS to manage an Intranet makes sense for many organizations. However, a CMS Intranet isn’t always the preferred solution.

Is a CMS Intranet Right for You?

Here are eight crucial reasons for you to consider using a CMS before your organization creates or modifies its own Intranet.

  • Quickly and easily develop and edit portals for a range of different members including employees, customers and other users
  • Allow different users’ pages to be personalized and localized based on location
  • Integrate the system with third-party tools and systems such as CRM
  • Create central information stores to help improve knowledge sharing and decrease email communication
  • Integrate powerful search and navigation tools to increase accessibility to information
  • Use a system audit trail to improve security and control systems
  • Allow for the development of a social hub to connect with employees through company news, blogs, events calendar, videos and newsletters
  • Make sure that content can be delivered on mobile devices through mobile friendly portals and content driven apps

Why the CMS Intranet Became a Reality

The main advantage of using an Intranet within an organization is the ability to distribute information at an increased pace and without the excess costs. Early Intranets did this by relying on a group to act as content creators, while another – much larger - group would act as consumers. However, without the creators creating new material, the consumers would have nothing to consume.

To make everything work, a CMS can be used to better manage the core abilities of an Intranet in an incredibly cost efficient and time-saving way. The increase in collaboration provided by the CMS means the previous creator/consumer models could now be replaced with a system where all members would be able to participate and contribute to the Intranet’s content. By doing this, Intranets are now able to largely circumvent the possibility of communication blockages.

This movement has also started to include information from social media and messaging tools and services, as well as developments in crowdsourcing and other application and software developments in the realm of online media. Information can now be stored in huge quantities and contributed to by everyone. However, although these tools are great for use in conjunction with the internet, things can be a little different when they are repurposed for Intranet systems.

To begin with, limitations regarding access controls and authentication have to be considered. Some collaborative tools provide strong content management, but they suffer when it comes to collaboration features; and others might be strong when it comes to collaboration features, but they suffer when it comes to content management.

What is an Intranet?

In its simplest form, an Intranet is an internal website for people in a company to help productivity. Intranets are not any more complicated than this, and this definition will help most people to understand what one is.

In·ter·net & in·tra·net: Web between & web within

However, the actual root of the word comes from several different places, and to see this, you need to cut the word up into manageable chunks. You might immediately notice that big difference; “Inter” and “Intra”. “Inter” equals between, “Intra” equals within.

So you can see, the names tend to equate to the idea that the internet works “between” different places, groups and networks, while an Intranet only works within one. To put it even more simply, an Intranet is an internet that only people in one organization can access.

How an Intranet Can Be Used

The best description of how Intranets can be used probably comes from one of the world’s foremost experts in the field, James Robertson, where he lists the five main purposes of an Intranet system.

Intranet Five Purposes

  • Content (updates)
  • Communication (news)
  • Activity (financial)
  • Collaboration (projects)
  • Culture (activities and clubs)

This has actually increased since 2007, when only three were listed: Content, Communication and Activity. As Intranets have evolved, so too have their capabilities, with a general movement from static websites to collaborative spaces becoming the norm. Moreover, as company cultures have begun to become more important, Intranets have evolved, finding themselves being used to facilitate their development.

The internet has also evolved and morphed into something entirely dissimilar from what came before, but it is still used to connect different people and groups all around the world through a collective system. Similarly, Intranets are still websites for people in one company to help productivity.

The Key Benefits of an Intranet

When organizations choose to go with using an Intranet, they tend to look for certain features and benefits regarding content and collaboration. Here are some of the top features and benefits Intranets can provide.

Increase Productivity

Intranets need to be designed to help users locate correct information with ease and speed, from any location by using rich search tools and advanced content and document management systems. Making sure that content management systems manage documents and allow searching for them is essential.

However, it is important to consider identification of users and access controls; especially if an organization makes use of a hierarchal restriction system. This means that document management systems need to be capable of restricting access to individuals based on credentials and access level. This can mean not only denying access to the actual documents, but also hiding them from search results as well.

Timely Content and Communication

Time is a valuable commodity in many organizations and Intranets are a way of making sure that information can be published in accordance with a certain schedule. This helps organizations to develop information in accordance with users’ needs and availabilities.

Content can be created and scheduled for release. Publish dates can be set and document management systems will ensure that content is published on time. The timeliness of content creation and consumption also necessitates the importance of system that allows for accessibility on a range of different devices, including desktop, tablet and phone.

Specific Functions for Certain Organizations

Intranets aren’t just about press releases or quarterly updates, they can also include key aspects and functionality related to a specific organization. This can include being integrated with third-party systems such as CRM software (Customer Resource Management) or advanced reporting programs.

Simple and expansive customizability of Intranet systems for organizational needs is integral when it comes to using them to their full capacity and value. Interaction between all systems can then aid in productivity and time saving.

Again, identity and authentication become key to ensuring a stable and secure system. Ensuring that only the right users have access to certain functions will lead to a more user-friendly and organized Intranet.

Fostering collaboration and teamwork

The incorporation of collaboration tools is an important part of Intranet systems. The forming of ideas in either a competitive or non-competitive way and wiki publishing are just a few of these. Intranets are a great way of providing an informal setting for employees to discuss and evolve ideas.

However, while a Wiki might foster some of the best ideas, it is important to ensure that it is managed in a way so as to reduce clutter and repetition. The freedom afforded by a wiki can backfire when it is not kept under control. Remember, it is still important for users to be able to search and locate content quickly and effectively.

Beginning the process of ideation by offering simple ideas can be a great way of getting discussions going, while gamification (or turning things into a game) can help to have employees compete for the best idea.  

What is a Content Management System?

You might have heard of a content management system (CMS) before. If not, a CMS is a piece of software designed to help create and manage digital media content. You will find that they are commonly used when it comes to web content management (WCM) and enterprise content management (ECM). WCM systems are designed to help collaboration on web projects. ECM systems, on the other hand, help to build a collaborative work environment where digital media, documents and assets can be managed and recorded. ECM systems usually incorporate a WCM system to allow for publishing, and help to manage the allocation of end users to specific roles and access levels.

These two systems both consist of two major mechanisms: a CMA and a CDA. CMAs (content management applications) are designed to provide a graphical user interface (GUI) for users who do not have an advanced knowledge of HTML and want to control and adjust the creation, adjustment and deletion of online web content. A CDA (content delivery application) on the other hand acts as a back-end service, to help manage created content and move it from the creator to the web.

The Key Benefits of a CMS

CMS’s come in many different shapes and sizes and their advantages and features are not always the same. However, this being said, central functions will usually remain the same and tend to include search and recovery tools, indexing services, management of different formats and control over publishing and revision. 

  • HTML and PDF documents can be produced from legacy electronic formats and scanned documents through format management features
  • Edits and updates can be applied to content after publication through revision tools
  • Changes to content can also be tracked through revision tools
  • Templates and Wizards are usually included as part of publishing tools in order to speed up creation time or encourage uniformity

Not only can CMS’s help in these ways, they can also be used to expand the possibilities of , where web content can be tailored to the specific interests and characteristics of single users. If a user had previously made an online search for televisions, the search engine would be able to see this and provide advertising banners which focus on televisions rather than something the user is not interested in.

CMS’s also include these popular features:

  • SEO-friendly URLs
  • Discussion boards for online help and instruction
  • Restriction systems for groups
  • Templates and wizards for content creation
  • Admin control for different languages
  • Content system based on a hierarchy
  • Small server needs
  • File management systems
  • Audit and edit logging

CMS Software Vendors

CMS Logos

CMS software can be found in both subscription-type and free services or both individual and commercial uses. Below are some of those available:

  • Sitefinity - Combines a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editing environment with an easily managed workflow process and includes an open, modular architecture that provides a fully exposed set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
  • SharePoint – Uses web and cloud based technology for easily managed, stored and shared digital content
  • WordPress – Primarily known for its blogging capabilities. A free (open-source) WCMS which utilizes PHP and MySQL. WordPress.com can function as a web server, or you can use your own computer to host files (WordPress.org)
  • Joomla – Primarily for RSS feeds and blogging, Joomla is free and offers advanced search features, caching and language options. Uses PHP
  • Drupal – Built on the concept of “modularity”, which offers a versatile, flexibility platform that includes thousands of pre-built add-ons
  • OpenText Content Suite – An integrated, enterprise-wide information grid that transforms Personal Productivity, Process Productivity, and Control
  • Oracle WebCenter – A variety of services for ensuring user engagement and central management. Includes three primary aspects: Oracle WebCenter Content, Oracle WebCenter Sites and Oracle WebCenter Portal. It is based on a per-CPU licensing fee
  • DNN (formerly DotNetNuke) – A content management tool for measuring effectiveness and easily accessing digital asserts regardless of location, and personalizing and publishing them through any available online channel
  • Pulse CMS -- Intended for minor websites to allow web creators to manage, enhance and add content on an existing site without a database. Utilizes Apache with PHP 5
  • EPiServer – Offers a suite of products for content management, e-commerce and content retrieval, with its flagship product EPiServer CMS.Merged with Ektron in January 2015.
  • Sitecore - A web content management (WCM) and customer experience management system built on Microsoft ASP.NET
  • Adobe Experience Manager - Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), previously known as Adobe CQ is well regarded in the industry as a leading commercial WCM platform
  • Kentico - A content management system (CMS) for building web sites, on-line stores, intranets and Web 2.0 community sites. Utilizes ASP.NET and Microsoft SQL Server
  • Hybris - An SAP company delivering enterprise software and on-demand solutions for omni-channel commerce (B2B, B2C, mobile), master data management (PIM) and order management

Maximizing The Use of Your CMS Intranet

Combining the power of a robust CMS within an Intranet can be an incredibly effective internal tool that enhances communication, improves organization and access to information, and drives productivity. However, employees may not be aware of all the personal benefits they can gain from its use. Below are eleven such benefits that can maximize employees’ use of your Intranet system and help ensure adoption.

1) Calendars

Calendars help to keep employees aware of what is happening. Helping to inform them when certain deadlines or events are occurring will help encourage them and keep them on deadline. These calendars can also be used by employees to organize their own personal and professional lives and help them to stay on track.

2) Information regarding benefits

Employee benefits help the employee feel valued and needed. By publishing a comprehensive list of these benefits on your Intranet, you make them readily available without having to go through Human Resources or other manual channels. This can include insurance plans, retirement information and leave details.

3) A Directory

Large companies will usually make use of directories or some organization system to ensure that each member of the company can be contacted. Intranets can act as a depository for all this information and will allow others to find and access it with ease. Instead of having dedicated staff for this, employees can find the information themselves.

4) Advanced Search

If you want to include a range of different features and capabilities with your Intranet, you need to make sure that an intuitive search system is in place. This means being able to isolate content related to the company directory, calendar dates, idea forums and more. This will ensure an overall more effective and precise Intranet.

5) Opportunities to work together

Meeting notes and team communication can be organized into one place, as opposed to individuals doing so separately. This means that incredible amounts of time can be saved. Ideas and feedback can be shared between all team members, which provides more brain power to make sure that concepts are delivered in the best way possible.

6) Insights into Decision Making

Successful employees tend to be more interested in where their company is headed and what goals they want to reach. This is not a surprise really, as knowing the direction of their company means they can work towards those goals as well.

An Intranet system allows for employees to gain insight to this direction and understand why it is happening. Their own role (as an individual or team) in that direction can be highlighted, providing them with more drive to move forward productively.

Internal news blogs and updates can help to keep employees in the loop with new developments and choices, and are a great way to encourage interaction.

7) Feedback

Just as above, employees don’t just want to know what is happening, they also want to be able to provide their own opinions and ideas. Intranets allow for a system to be set up in which this is possible. Again, this can be done on internal news blogs, or through employee forums. Allowing for feedback has shown time and time again to advance job fulfilment and decrease staff turnover.

8) Universal Access

Employees might have to travel for work purposes, or set-up in remote locations. Limiting Intranet access to just company workstations can severely impede these employees’ productivity. Making sure that your Intranet is accessible from off-site locations and through a range of different devices is integral to ensuring its efficiency.

9) Employee Acknowledgement

Acknowledging employees is known to have an incredibly positive effect on their work ethic and morale. Companies have shown that simple activities and concepts such as employee of the month programs have seen productivity increase exponentially.

Intranet systems mean that this information can be taken and distributed to even more employees in the company, which in turn will make the praise even more meaningful. Dedicated pages and blogs for employees’ rewards and recognitions can provide employees with a real sense of purpose in their work.

10) Tools to Advance

Employees want to advance in a company. Staying in one position just isn’t an option for most, and they will likely be in a constant search for ways to advance and move forward in their careers.

Intranets can be used to aid employees in this search. Job opportunities can be advertised internally and tips and guides can be distributed to provide information for how to ensure future success. For larger companies, online webinar events  is a great way to provide tutorials on continuous education programs.

11) Focused Activities

Unfortunately, no matter how much employers may want it, no employee is capable of being able to work to 100% efficiency. There are a range of reasons for this, with some studies finding that the average employee is distracted every three minutes. Social media might be one of the causes for this, but what are some of the solutions?

One definite step in reducing these distractions is the use of CMS Intranet. For example, if social media is such a concern, you can create an internal social network for employees in the company to exchange thoughts and ideas. Implementing such a tool turns a distraction into a productivity boost. Moreover, an internal social network will help to improve the company culture, morale and employee friendship and make the employee feel more involved and included in the workplace. 

To be sure, employees and managers are not always looking for the same benefits from an Intranet system. However, in order for Intranet systems to succeed, they need employees, at every level, to adopt them. By making sure that your Intranet suits the needs of your employees, and helps to benefit them personally, you will ensure that it will become a communication tool they utilize on a regular and consistent basis  which ultimately will lead to higher productivity.

Conclusion

Leveraging the power of today’s highly flexible content management systems to power a corporate intranet can provide an invaluable tool for the management and growth of any organization. As with any intranet, understanding the needs of each specific stakeholder and group within the company will always be imperative to successfully building a resource that employees and management will accept and utilize.

Enhanced technology and resources will only take a CMS Intranet so far. Which is why each organization needs to  identify their needs before identifying the CMS Intranet platform they’ll be working with.

The resources to create a highly effective and robust CMS Intranet have never been more accessible for organizations of all sizes. It’s time to find what works best for you and take the first step to building the Intranet that will facilitate growth and communication for your team.