Like for many things today, you have a lot of choices when it comes to choosing an intranet software that suits your needs. But how to find the best intranet software?

I have already covered the benefits of using an intranet.

Today, I will give you an overview of the different possibilities when it comes to picking an intranet solution.

This means that we will not only cover the different providers, but we will also cover the different types of intranet and extranet.  

Without further ado, let’s get into the core of the matter.

What Are Intranet And Extranet?

An intranet is a private space meant at improving the collaboration within your company.

It usually features a chat system, a knowledge base, a blog section, an employee portal, and some more advanced HR features.

An intranet plays different roles and faces different challenges depending on the size of the company, the type of company and the culture.

To make things simpler, we then split out the intranet into different categories based on their goals and missions.

Intranets become more and more important as companies become more connected and become more remote-friendly.

State of Remote Work by Buffer
State of Remote Work by Buffer

As mentioned by Buffer in the State of Remote Work, there is an upward trend when it comes to letting employees work remotely.

This means that employees need to find new and innovative ways to build employee advocacy and involve them at every stage of the company.

This is where the social intranet software comes in.

What Is a Social Intranet Software?

As simple as it sounds, a social intranet improves the social engagement among the organization.

Think of it as a social network inside the application. It motivates employees to be more productive.

A social intranet is simply an internal-facing web application where employees can easily contribute knowledge and communicate with each other to make work more efficient and effective.

One of the most important features of such intranet is the chatting system. We want employees to help each other.

But more than that, we want them to get to know each other.

Some companies even go as far as organizing virtual meetups every week, month or so.

In order to properly understand the whys of such social intranet, let’s go back to the basics of what does “social” mean.

The terms social refers to the interactions between humans. Social networking is the act of actually building relationships.

We have come a long way since the beginning of social networking. It all started with people networking at the coffee machine. Then, the early days of social media software, and now more advanced social intranet software.

Engaging employees and nudging them to do more than “working” for the company has positives results on the turnover.

But it also springs up the reputation of the company and the attractiveness of the company.

Which is what amount for such intranet:

  • Engagement, connection, and interactions: all employees get to know each other and talk with each other
  • Ownership and authorship: everyone can and is urged to participate in the conversation and contribute in its own way

All of that helps the employees build relationships.

Workplace by Facebook is a great example.

Workplace By Facebook Intranet Software Example

More advanced social intranet software will also include gamification features in order to further empower employees and push them to engage.

It could be the likes of giving points for the number of contributions or challenging employees based on their activity. Axero is a great example.

GamiPress is also a great open-source solution.

What Is an Employee Intranet Portal?

We have seen that social intranets are focused on building relationships among your employees and push them to engage. They make intranet and collaboration more fun.

On the other hand, employee intranets are more standard forms of intranets.

They mainly focus on providing HR functionalities, such as leave requests, expenses accounts, etc.

According to a study by Prescient Digital, while 80% of organizations have had intranets for a while, they were not used at their full potential. Most employees visit their intranet only about once a month and 75 percent use them solely for HR purposes.

The culprit?

The lack of social interaction and the poor User Experience.

Communication and networking must be made easy.

Which is why your intranet should have features from both world.

All-in-all, your intranet should strip out all the useless features and focus on what’s important for your company.

Intranet Features

Some useful intranet features include:

  • Social media features such as comment, like, Q&A, FAQ, tag
  • Content sharing (video, images, resources) and knowledge base
  • Powerful search engine
  • Content collaboration, transparency, and history of collaboration
  • Role management, as well as access management

Do you need more employee engagement? Are your leave requests managed effectively?

Add them to the list of features.

Eventually, focus on this north star: making your employees’ lives easier and better together.

What Is an Extranet?

An extranet is similar but focused on making the communication with the outside smoother. It could range from the communication with the clients to partners and other stakeholders.

We have the covered the basics of intranet portals.

But how do go about booting up your intranet? What is the best way to get it up and running?

Although some companies using an intranet still rely on a custom on-premise intranet, most companies are turning to the cloud today.   

I’ll walk you through the different cloud-based intranet solutions.

Different Cloud-Based Intranet Solutions

A study was conducted by Prescient Digital a few years ago about the different solutions used by companies to power their intranet.

The results are very interesting and suggest that there is no rule-of-thumb when it comes to setting up an intranet.  

What Types of Technology Powers Your Intranet
What Types of Technology Powers Your Intranet

Which makes my study even more interesting.

SaaS Intranets

To start off, let’s talk about the Software as a Service (SaaS) intranet. The SaaS market is rapidly growing and expanding into all types of verticals.

“The global SaaS market has been predicted to expand at a CAGR of 19.9% between 2015 and 2022 and is forecasted to reach $71.2 billion in 2018 – a 21.5% increase from 2017.”

Crozdesk

The intranet is one vertical.

SaaS Intranet Upsides

Cost and ease-of-use

The main benefits of using SaaS rely on the cost and ease of use. You usually don’t need any technical skill to get the intranet up-and-running, which makes the barrier to entry very low.

Performances

They are also hosted by the provider, which means that you don’t have to worry about performances and down-times (provided you choose a good solution ?).

Setting up an on-premise intranet used to take between 6 to 9 months. Your intranet can be ready in 30 minutes using a SaaS software.

No engagement

Finally, the engagement is another aspect. How long will you use this for? You don’t know.

Most SaaS providers offer monthly and yearly plans, which means that you can back out at any time if you decide to change.

SaaS Intranet Downsides

Although you don’t need to worry about performances and hosting, it also comes with its own set of downsides. First, if there is a bump in the usage of the software, you’re likely to feel the pinch and get lower performances.

Then, there is also the lack of flexibility. SaaS providers offer you a ready-made software, more or less customisable.

Which means that if you have very specific requirements or edge-cases, you will either have to splash out, or find a very flexible solution.

The latter is usually less user-friendly and harder to get started with.

SaaS Intranet Providers

I’m now going to cover the best intranet SaaS according to reviews on the Web and usage.

The first one on the list is Workplace By Facebook. It is rated 3.9/5 on G2Crowd with ~800 reviews.

Workplace by Facebook 
Workplace by Facebook 

The second one on our list is Jostle. It is rated 4.3 on G2Crowd with 50 reviews.

Jostle intranet

The last one on my list is Unily. It is an Enterprise solution with lot of flexibility and features.

Unily Intranet

You can find more on Capterra listing page.

Content Management System (CMS) And WordPress Intranets

As mentioned earlier, setting up your own intranet used to be very costly, long and difficult.

But the Content Management Systems and WordPress came into play.

And they make things easier.

The principle behind that is fairly simple. WordPress provides a framework for you to get started with, as well as some templates.

You can then customize them and tailor them to your needs.

WordPress Intranet Upsides

First of all, WordPress intranets are usually way cheaper than SaaS providers. All you need is a server to run WordPress and host your intranet software.

Besides this, you can find a lot of great boilerplates and WordPress Intranet themes to get started with. So you will only need to install and customize!

WordPress codebase will also be in your hand, and so does the WordPress theme files, which means that you can fully customize and extend the scope of your intranet.

WordPress’s directory of 50K+ plugins will also help for extending the scope of your intranet.

WordPress Intranet Upsides
WordPress Intranet Upsides

WordPress Intranet Downsides

It also comes with its set of inconvenient or barriers to entry. The first one being the fact that you will need technical skills in order to get it up and running.

Note that you can easily find WordPress developers for a reasonable cost.

Then, you also need to take care of the maintenance and security of your application, although this is usually taken care of by the community.

There are Open-Source And Free Intranet Softwares. The easier way to bootstrap an intranet for free is to use BuddyPress and build your own layer on top of it.

But there are also premium WordPress solutions that comes with better design and advanced features.

The main WordPress intranet solutions include:

Finally, on our plate are the free and open-source intranet solutions.

They are not that many solutions available out-there.

Wrap Up

Intranet software are the go-to when it comes to increasing team collaboration and team productivity. There are other collaboration tools you can look at, don’t get me wrong, but intranet is this all-in-one solution you can easily start with.

Want to get your intranet up-and-ready in 15 minutes? Check out Woffice, the go-to WordPress solution.

Not sure where to start? Talk to our team.

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Written by

Baptiste Debever

Head of Growth and Co-Founder @Alkalab

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