Why Dropbox and OneDrive aren’t enough – you need an intranet

Home workers need guidance as much as tools - that what an intranet delivers
Wedge Black

It's normal now for companies to have employees working from many locations. Home, the office, a local café, or another country. The question is - how best to keep everyone working together.

Businesses have experimented with tools such as Dropbox and OneDrive as easy solutions for tasks like file hosting, document collaboration, and sharing, adding to the host of other day-to-day applications for email, chat, analytics, data management and more.

While Dropbox and similar cloud-based services seem easy to deploy, managing how people across your organisation use them is a challenge. Individuals will do what they think is best, risking duplicating documents, or sharing commercially sensitive information outside of the organisation. When attempting to govern multiple tools and services, such headaches can be reduced by relying on a purpose-built intranet.

What is an intranet?

An intranet can be as simple as an internal website, a secure employee-only site – holding policy and procedure documents, providing ‘how to’ pages, your ‘people directory’, and also news for employees. A more mature intranet may enable online collaboration across shared documents, and be the portal to all the approved digital tools, perhaps with integration to the HR and finance systems.

For an established or growing company, publishing news and explanations about procedural changes, company strategy, and contract wins is vital to support company culture and connect staff working at home, and across different office locations. Such internal communications might be led by the HR department, the leadership team, or a dedicated comms team.

The issues of cobbling together individual solutions

Dropbox and OneDrive might easily meet individuals’ file storage needs, but they don’t offer a cohesive collaboration or access experience for everyone across the organisation.

In the absence of a centralised intranet platform, tasks carried out on each individual digital tool will often be done differently from application to application as well as from person to person, creating a confusing disorganisation for colleagues.

In ClearBox Consulting’s recent free industry report, ‘Digital Workplace Integrations’ and ‘Microsoft 365 Integration’ were two of the categories evaluated for intranet systems to assist businesses in finding the right intranet system for their needs.

The importance of knowledge management

Large customer service departments, like manufacturing departments, often have dedicated knowledge management systems to highlight procedural changes and help employees get things right, first time. But the rest of the workforce lacks such well-governed systems. When an employee needs help with a contract or the expense system, they have to rely on a few PDFs from 2009 or ring a help desk. The intranet can be the complete guide to work!

By publishing and maintaining ‘how to’ pages, the intranet can become the trusted source of help, which reduces confusion, the expense and wasted time of calling for help, and decreases the costs associated with mistakes and inefficacies. This isn’t about some deep, dark document control system, it’s about creating pages on the intranet that are readily findable via the built-in search engine.

People expect search engines to bring them answers, not documents. An intranet with well-planned content pages is the best way to provide guidance, process information, and ‘how to’ help to staff perform well.

Going further than chat and messaging

Chat or messaging is becoming employees’ preferred communication method within the organisation. Email is more for external matters with clients and customers. Over the last couple of years, Microsoft Teams has provided real-time connections for people working from home, allowing teams and departments to collaborate on documents and via video. Similarly, some organisations plumped for Slack for messaging and Zoom for video, considering them cheaper solutions.

So if we’re all so well connected already, why do businesses need an intranet?

While messaging is great for actual teams, it’s not effective for org-wide communications. HR messages get lost in the noise and all the daily notifications. Worse, it’s very hard to find messages from last week – or even yesterday – across all the channels.

Intranets provide a solid space for important updates, news, and views from the management team, HR, and project managers. Home page news stories are easy to find, and easy to share – so you can bring news articles and ‘how to’ pages into Slack or Microsoft Teams for your teammates. It’s also not too hard to put your entire intranet inside Microsoft Teams if people appreciate having one place to work from.

If your organisation already relies on Office 365 you can hand-build a simple intranet using SharePoint. If that sounds onerous, you can purchase a more fully-featured intranet system that employees will generally find easier to use than SharePoint. There are dozens on the market and the ClearBox industry report will walk you through the capabilities you likely need and want, and the options that suit your budget.

Deploying an intranet can take several weeks, from planning to launch, but organisations need a central space if they’re to standardise ways of working and develop employee engagement and company culture – all of which are crucial to help businesses thrive.

Written by
Wedge Black
Written by
June 6, 2022