The Great Intranet Vs. Extranet Debate: Your Burning Questions Answeredon 15 October 2018
You’ve heard talk about intranets and extranets throughout your career, but you’ve never really gotten a definitive definition or what makes them different. We’re here to clear things up for you.
To note, while they are very similar words, intranet and extranet each have their distinct uses. Which one is best suited for your needs? (Tweet this!)
Below we explore an intranet and extranet in a business context to help you choose, including their similarities, differences, benefits, and examples.
What is the difference between intranet and extranet?
An intranet is a tightly contained, private network accessible only by employees of an organisation for communication and information sharing. Connection to the external internet is limited and safeguarded with firewalls.
An extranet is a controlled, private network that uses the internet for secure collaboration and information sharing between the company’s team members, but also with the company’s customers, suppliers, partners, and other third parties.
Intranets and extranets share the purpose of connecting people together, but they differ in the types of people they connect. Whereas an intranet is solely for internal parties, an extranet also includes external parties.
Inherently, opening the digital door to people outside the organisation means additional security measures are needed. Controlled access is one such requirement for any extranet solution. External collaborators should only be able to see what’s absolutely necessary to work with internal staff and other third parties. And on the technical side, additional and more secure firewalls are needed to protect the digital environment.
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Intranet In Business: Examples & Benefits
Benefits of an intranet include:
- Communication within the organisation improves. Emails and distribution lists are too limited. An intranet acts as a central hub for communication among the entire workforce in real time.
- Information is easier to distribute and access. Instead of storing different versions of files locally and passing them back and forth through email, intranets’ document libraries can ensure everyone has access to the latest versions of files.
- Organisational silos break down. Departments or functional areas tend to stick with their own members. Intranets encourage more cross-functional collaboration.
Consider these examples of intranets in practice.
Onboarding A New Employee
Most new hires spend their first day job shadowing a more senior coworker, sitting through an HR presentation, or sitting at a cubicle filling out stacks of new-hire paperwork. Then they trudge through a sizeable training manual.
With an intranet, these elements would likely still be in play, but they’d be less of a burden on coworkers—and trees. For example, you may set up a workspace on the intranet solely dedicated to getting new employees up to speed. They could log into this workspace and be welcomed with a video from the CEO, followed by another video about the company and anticipated day-to-day work activities.
New-hire documents could be presented digitally, enabling employees to review, sign, and submit paperwork into HR’s workflow. Training could be a series of videos and supporting documents and even include a short test at the end. At any time in this onboarding workflow, new employees could reach out via the intranet’s chat to coworkers or a designated contact person with questions.
Getting Workforce Feedback
Collecting and reviewing the opinions of even a handful of people can often be aggravating. Getting a show of hands or asking people to email you is manually intensive, not to mention you might miss a person’s response.
An intranet with polling features provides a quick and efficient way of gathering feedback about organisational changes, product development, new policies, and all kinds of situations where you need employee feedback.
An intranet provides numerous opportunities for knowledge sharing, such as real-time chats or video conferences; and the sharing of documents such as sales collateral, proposals, competitor analyses, internal blog posts, and customer success stories.
For example, someone in sales may be looking for help closing a deal with a new client. A past proposal or internal blog post from another salesperson could hold a key insight for winning over that type of client. The same scenario could be played out across functional areas, such as with marketing or customer service.
Extranet In Business: Examples & Benefits
Benefits of an extranet include:
- Collaboration with external parties is simpler. Instead of being constrained to emails, file-sharing services, and other disconnected solutions, an extranet brings together staff, clients, and partners in a centralised place.
- All involved parties stay in the know. With project management features, extranets help staff and third parties stay connected. This is especially important for ongoing partnerships or large projects where disconnects can lead to schedule delays, misunderstandings, and mistakes.
- You retain control over the collaboration environment. With controlled access and technical safeguards like firewalls, an extranet enables a secure working environment for everyone. It also ensures each user has access only to areas that pertain to them.
Consider these examples of extranets in practice.
Collaborating On A Tender/Bid
Tendering for business contracts, especially large ones, sometimes involves partnering or collaborating with third parties. For example, there may be a specific capability or experience the buyer is looking for that your organisation doesn’t have. To satisfy the requirement and be considered as a supplier, you may need to partner with another business that specialises in that capability.
However, a lot goes into the tender process. It can be exhaustive, requiring significant resources, additional documentation, and quick turnaround times. Hence the necessity for a solution like an extranet to keep your team and your supplier partner connected throughout the tender. This will maximise your chance at winning the business.
Supporting New Business
On the other side of the win is supporting the new business you’ve taken on. In this instance, it means bringing clients into your extranet solution to keep them up to date on project status, schedule, and the like. The extranet’s project management features will come in handy here.
Communicating with both your supplier partner and clients in the same space keeps everyone connected, ensuring project details don’t slip through the cracks. It also fosters a good working relationship. Alternatively, with controlled access, you could set up a workspace for your staff and client and a different workspace for your staff and supplier partner.
Still not sure whether to choose intranet or extranet? With Glasscubes, you can have both!
Glasscubes combines both intranet and extranet capabilities in a single platform. Traditional intranet and extranet solutions are cumbersome, underutilised, and require lots of IT setup and maintenance. Glasscubes is user friendly, highly intuitive, and requires no training or IT involvement. Plus, you have control over access—simply assign users to the workspaces you deem appropriate.
Check out the screenshot below for an example of an intranet welcome screen. You could of course customise your organisation’s version to display your specific content in your desired layout.
So get the comprehensive SaaS solution that fully enables collaboration across intranet and extranet—from file sharing to communication and more. Start your free trial today.
Posted by Brandon Hastings
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