Intranets can be invaluable communication tools for computer-based workgroups in small businesses and larger ones alike. If they are not planned properly, however, an intranet network won't reach its potential. Consider starting small to produce an intranet with relatively few features at first, then grow it later based on feedback and experience. And watch your budget: many Intranet projects have strict financial constraints.
Follow these simple steps to build a new intranet:
- Define key features the Intranet needs to support. Consider features such as email, conferencing, bulletin boards, electronic documents, news feeds, and knowledge bases.
- Decide whether the Intranet will be hosted internally or externally. If hosting externally, choose an outsourcing vendor.
- Prepare a system design. The system design will specify needed hardware and software components (even outsourced solutions require methods of access). Hire a consultant for this if necessary.
- Evaluate vendor products and make the necessary build-or-buy decisions.
- Acquire computers for the workgroup. These can be desktop, server, notebook, and handheld computers as appropriate to meet the needs of the intranet community.
- Develop, integrate, and test the system. Intranets can benefit from usability testing and small, controlled "pilot" deployments for new features.
- Create an acceptable use policy for the intranet. Clearly define the appropriate use models of the network and the consequences of inappropriate use.
- Install and configure software as needed across the intranet. Security access (including rights to publish content) are typically controlled by network usernames and passwords.
- Roll out the intranet to the workgroup. Train workgroup staff in how to use the available features and how to follow the acceptable use policy. Besides training, actively promote and encourage the organization to adopt the intranet as part of its work environment.
- Continuously monitor usage of the intranet and look for potential enhancements. Expect the intranet to require maintenance effort and to gradually evolve and grow over time.