Intranets can be thought of as a private Internet running within the digital confines of an organization. A secure and massive repository of dynamic information pertaining to the organization and various work tools accessible only by those working within it.
Intranets have been the around for just over two decades, and over time have proved to be a prime example of how an organization can leverage Information Technology to boost productivity, reduce costs & effort, and push profits.
If you aren’t already familiar with the numerous benefits of digitally connecting your workplace, here are a few to get you started.
- Intranets are a great tool to exert a sense of control on your business. All of the information that you may need: corporate documents, product details, sale and marketing data, web forms, employee details and ever web-to-database links can be uploaded and housed securely within, to be made available to select or all individuals employed by the organization.
- Managing employee records is a whole lot easier when you have a intranet infrastructure in place. All of their details like personal specifics to titles, duties, departments, email addresses, and even photographs can be stored online in an organized and searchable fashion.
- Most of the intranets also included digital work spaces or sites for projects and teams, and prove to be an extremely potent tool for employee communication. It can easily facilitate content sharing and also allow users to collaborate on projects and other documents.
- Add to that an internal news feed, training programs, social media, discussion forums and instant messaging and well.. you have a virtual office at your disposal.
What It Costs ?
All said and done, how big a hole will setting up a full fledged intranet burn in a corporate’s pocket?
A lot would depend upon the size of your organization and the scale of the implementation, but the figure could easily go north of 40,000 USD for a mid sized company.
And mind you, this isn’t a one time investment but rather a recurring cost, as most credible intranet software vendors you find would charge you per user per month. Add to that the cost of setting up the software infrastructure and hosting it on the cloud should your employees be separated geographically and it’s a sizeable hole.
But what if I were to tell you that it’s possible to set up the very same Intranet at a fraction of 40,000 USD. Again, a lot of variables come into play while calculating this cost, but yes, it’s a fraction nevertheless.
As is clear, setting up an Intranet is all about documentation, internal communications, collaborations and sometimes corporate training. It’s about creating and managing data in a secure manner within a digital ecosystem. Which is exactly Content Management Systems are all about.
WordPress, being the most popular CMS in the world, is an exemplary platform to set up your intranet at minimal costs involved. With the right extensions and addons, it can give full fledged intranet systems a run for their money. Most of those systems, like I mentioned earlier, will charge you on a per user and per month basis.
With WordPress, all you need to do is set up WordPress, find a proper hosting (for extranets), pick an appropriate theme and extensions and you’re all set. Apart from maybe maintenance, there are no additional costs involved whatsoever.
An additional advantage would be the level of flexibility that you can achieve in terms of features and functionalities. With over 20,000 plugins and an equally vast number of themes to choose from, your intranet can theoretically be completely customized to suit any and every business need.
But zeroing in on the exact matches from within thousands of such themes and plugins is an uphill battle. Let’s take a look at the essentials that you’d need to get started with a stable, feature rich intranet for your organization.
The Right Theme
When it comes to WordPress and it’s beautiful, functional themes, there are probably 10 different themes that are right for a particular use-case. Restricting our search to themes that make for an excellent choice to build your intranet around, here are a few names that should definitely interest you:
Woffice is a gorgeous, multi purpose theme that adapts especially well to Intranets. It takes its cue from Material design, that lends a premium and a rich feel to it’s UX. It’s secure, feature-rich and has tons of free extensions that make it a prime candidate for WordPress intranet themse on this list.
Alliance focuses more on functionality when it’s about setting up an intranet that focuses on communications. It comes preloaded with BuddyPress, a social network plugin that we talk about later in this articles. Also supports file sharing, customized post types for corporate training and built in wiki that you can use as a repository of information for your company. You cannot go wrong with this one.
This community theme boasts of next level flexibility when it comes down to customizing your intranet. It features a live customizer that lets you preview any design changes that you make on the go. Other customization options, apart from a long list of compatible plugins, are customizable post meta, adding pricing tables and fine tuning the CSS of the theme.
#1 WordPress Multi User
WordPress MU isn’t really an addon or an extension, but feature that comes housed within WordPress and probably the most essential tool to successfully implement an intranet with WordPress. What WordPress MU does is let you have virtually unlimited installations of WordPress under just one install. Which is absolutely necessary if you’re looking to let your employees collaborate on content creation.
In terms of management, all of your multiple accounts can be managed by a single super-admin, while providing each groups and sub groups their own private space to work on.
#2 WP Members
Restricting access to people not within the organization is a defining feature of any intranet. WP Members is a membership plugin plugin which does exactly that. With this addon, you can add a login page on the front end of your website and only the members with appropriate credentials can log themselves in to view content on the intranet.
If you want to create varying levels of membership on your Intranet depending on role, department, management, it’s best done with WP Members
Alternatively, you could install WordPress on an internal server to restrict people from outside your corporate network to access content.
#3 WP Project Manager
WP Project Manager will let your employees collaborate on projects and seamlessly manage tasks. Features include creating and adding an unlimited number of projects and to-do lists, assigning and managing users for the same as well as invoicing for the more business oriented projects.
It also lets users communicate via messages and discuss projects and even attach rich media files. Additional features that you get with the premium version like front end project creation, time tracking and milestones make it for a perfect collaboration and content creation tool for business intranets.
Possibly the best plugin available on WordPress to set up a social network on your website, hands down. BuddyPress will let users set up member profiles and connect over activity feeds, just like on popular social networks like Facebook.
Live feeds, user groups, messaging and a variety of other social features make your users be a part of an online community that’s exclusive just to them.
Another way for intranet users to collaborate would be via forums and bulletins. bbPress is a great tool that does just that. Used by over 300,000 WordPress installations all over the internet, it lets users contribute to forums and discuss a wide variety of topics.
It’s extremely lightweight and simple to use, and integrates well with most other commonly used plugins on this list.
#6 Gravity Forms
Forms are undoubtedly one of the most widely used and essential features of business oriented intranets. Gravity Forms is an exceptionally well built form builder plugin, using which you can create high quality data forms in variety.
It’s fairly easy to use, and can be used to administer forms even by someone with negligible technical background. Entries made with Gravity Forms are searchable in nature, and the various fields and entry types can be customized as per the nature of the requirement.
While we’ve covered the absolute essentials that your WordPress intranet will need to have, the rest would be matter of individual requirements. You can always throw in a few more plugins, like:
- A Learning Management System for Corporate Training
- An integration with Skype to enable video conferencing between remote locations
- A plugin to add a company directory
- An Events Directory
- A searchable employee directory and so on, so forth.
What you would need to keep in mind is: the more extensions you add to your WordPress, the heavier and clunkier it becomes. Maintenance costs could potentially should, and worst case scenarios may lead to your website crashing out of existence.
But hey, same could be argued for any website that matters, it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic along with just the right amount of careful. All it would take for your intranet to have a long and successful run is the right judgement on your part, the right technology and of course, the right plugins.