Common Perceptions about Intranets


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I spent last week on a business trip to several European countries meeting partners, customers and the press, all of which gave me an extremely valuable feedback from the market. It even made me think that in some cases, vendors of intranet solutions are a long way away from real life.

The most important finding I made was that there is no such thing as intranet solutions market in Europe. When people hear the word intranet, they normally think of some expensive, customized, difficult-to-maintain system affordable only by large enterprises. They can hardly imagine that an intranet can be out-of-the-box, require a minimum assistance, and cost less than 3,000 Euro. And in no way it can meet the basic requirements of small and medium-sized businesses.

It may sound weird, but Ive found that selling intranets to SMBs should in no way be based on actually selling an intranet solution. Such companies are pretty much scared by the marketing activity coming from Big Boys like IBM, SAP and Oracle. They dont understand those messages and automatically associate everything coming from these sources as yes, expensive, customized and difficult to maintain.

Another antagonist in this story is Microsoft SharePoint, as the company did quite a bit to promote this product as a more affordable and user-friendly solution applicable for smaller organizations. However, the result is the same. The market is full of stories about failed SharePoint implementations that totally contradict the blooming picture that comes to mind when reading the numerous success stories. I readily confirm that there are successful implementations, but they are not very common in the SMB sector. You can read more about the bad turn Microsoft does to the intranet market in my recent blog post SharePoint Holds Back the Intranet Market Development for SMBs.

Intranet is basically a nuisance for SMBs that are looking for cost-effective collaboration and communication solution containing ready-made tools that can self-prove their value in real-life tasks. Ive found that it is much easier to tell prospects about the nature of the intranet product by starting with common tasks it addresses.

Here are a couple of examples that really work.

Even a small organization with up to 50 people may experience certain difficulties delivering corporate values, news and announcements to the personnel. Employees may find it difficult to get to know new colleagues or track recent appointments. At the same time, these new employees lack a well-established process of orientation in their new environment. This is where an intranet comes in with rich employee profiles, a directory of official documents, news feeds and much more.

Not satisfied with accumulating knowledge in data silos like network storages, local drives and e-mail boxes? Its really disturbing to know that if you fire a person, the knowledge accumulated on his or her computer is likely to leave the company, too. Data dispersion and legacy communication channels also restrict project and task management, limiting business transparency and performance monitoring. Again, an intranet solution comes to the rescue with internal and external workgroups containing dedicated and searchable file storages, discussion boards, reports and tasks.

Synchronizing people and departments is another task that brings certain benefits to an organization. However, it requires an Exchange server (or whatever third-party software) for centralized management of calendars. An intranet solution contains private and public calendars, an absence chart, scheduling resolution, task notifications, meeting room reservation and much more, all without need of maintaining a software zoo for each business task.

SMBs are in need of very clear messages about the product functionality. They can easily get turned off by pompous descriptions that in many cases contradict their expectations and reflects the reality with certain (*) references and limitations.

Tell them your intranet solution can automate workflow with a business process modeler. That they can simplify internal communications with an integrated instant messenger and video conferencing; work efficiently with partners and freelancers in extranet workgroups Anything that addresses SMBs common needs. And please refrain from foggy promises to increase business performance, consolidation of a collaborative environment or to improve business decision making. And in no way jungle acronyms like ECM or WCM if you dont want your sales guys to be asked out.

There is a very important question left.

Yes, intranet inherits certain perceptions. Shall we rename Bitrix Intranet Portal then?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Denis Zenkin
Denis Zenkin has 15+ years' experience in high-tech marketing. He currently leads global marketing at Bitrix, Inc. – a multi-national developer of Enterprise 2. and website management solutions with a special focus on SMB. Denis is a frequent speaker at industry-specific events covering social-enabled intranet technologies, and regularly publishes articles on E2. adoption practices.


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