The Best Intranet Technology

by Toby Ward - What works well in one organization, may be a disaster in another. IBM’s intranet is spectacular, but it would fail in many companies.
Different cultures, different people, different industries, and perhaps most importantly, different processes and levels of user capabilities are all factors in determining the ideal solution to power an intranet.

There are many thousands of solutions to choose from when considering an intranet technology platform, spanning several major categories:

  • Content management systems (e.g. Open)
  • Portals (e.g. Liferay)
  • Web development platforms (e.g. SharePoint)
  • Customer relationship management platforms (e.g. Salesforce)
  • Social media platforms (e.g. SocialText)

Of course there are other options, including custom built CMSs, databases, and just plain old HTML. Additionally, each category has sub-categories and runs the gamut in pricing: from free open source, to millions of dollars for big name commercial products.

It is very dangerous to assume that since you use Outlook and MS-Office that SharePoint is the best product to power your intranet. If you’re a .NET organization, then it might make sense, depending on what you need to do; perhaps you cannot afford it and could likely fulfil 90% of your organization’s needs with a mid-tier web content management system (WCMS) from EpiServer or Sitecore, or an enterprise content management solution from Open Text or Autonomy.  

If you are not a .NET shop, then perhaps a Java-based product from IBM or Oracle might make sense. But what about open source? What about using or a hosted social media solution from IGLOO, Intranet Connections, or PBWorks?

The answer to these questions lie in the detailed organization, administrator and end-user requirements for your intranet. When Prescient Digital Media selects a solution on behalf of a client, we weight and score more than 500 intranet requirements criteria (sometimes up to 700 requirements criteria) for each vendor solution, and we may examine and score more than one dozen solutions, including portals and social media platforms, ECM and WCM solutions. After all of the evaluation and scoring, even then, the choice may not be obvious.

Among the major criteria categories that must be evaluated and scored when considering a new intranet technology platform:

  • Cost (including licensing, maintenance, support, training, etc.)
  • Implementation / development / customization costs
  • Site administration
  • User administration
  • Security (authentication / authorization)
  • Search (indexing, retrieval, etc.)
  • Bundled applications (e.g. social media)
  • Managing content (user Interface, taxonomy, etc.)
  • Template creation and management
  • Intranet deployment
  • Custom application development
  • Hardware/software (required servers, databases, etc.)
  • Training
  • Implementation process (documented processes, timelines, etc.)
  • Service and support (troubleshooting, upgrades, etc.)
  • Vendor viability (financial viability)
  • Vendor experience (specific team members and skillsets)

The last five categories are often overlooked, or undervalued. It’s important to note that if you decide to go with SharePoint, or WebSphere, or Kentico, or whatever, the solution is very rarely if ever implemented by the company that created the solution (namely the software). Each solution has implementation partners or integrators (in the case of Microsoft, IBM or Oracle, there are many thousands of partners). The solution vendor does not do the development, customization and implementation of your new intranet, the partner or integrator builds your new intranet.

Integrators are not created equal. Some spectacular platforms such as SharePoint, WebSphere or WebCenter may in fact be implemented by fabulously underwhelming integrators. In fact, if your new intranet or website has a problem, or there were problems during the implementation, the problem is almost always the partner / integrator, not usually the creator.

Caveat emptor: don’t merely evaluate the solution itself; evaluate the partner or intranet integrator (particularly their experience, financial viability, specific team members and skillsets).

Evaluating and selecting an intranet technology platform is not easy, nor should it be easy. A very expensive and complex solution requires a very complex and detailed evaluation process that should, if not undertaken successfully before, require the assistance of an outside intranet consultant who understands the marketplace and the pros and cons of the intranet vendor landscape.

View the video to the January 11th webinar video Choosing an Intranet Technology Platform.

Download the free whitepaper, Choosing an Intranet Technology Platform (37 pages).

View the slides on SlideShare.

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Choosing an Intranet Technology Platform Whitepaper