What is a Company Intranet?

Intranet predates modern collaboration tools. Born in the '90s, intranets were the original digital spaces for organizations, designed as private networks for communication and information sharing.

The internet is a vast, public square, open to all. In contrast, an intranet is your company's private digital compound, a secure space where information and resources are kept. Initially, intranets might have resembled cluttered websites, filled with company-related information.

However, they can do all kinds of things now - build culture, serve as a CMS, and get employees work done faster. Let's understand exactly what a company intranet is, how you already one, and if you need to invest in a dedicated company intranet platform or solution.

What is a Company Intranet?

A company intranet is a the go-to collaboration, informational digital space for all employees of a company. In most cases, it's the thing your employees open first everyday. Slack is your company intranet if all your work happens there. Whereas for bigger companies, it's usually MS Teams.

It's not just a central repository of knowledge, a communication channel, a search engine, and a culture-building powerhouse. For example, here's how a traditional company intranet looks:

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As you can see, there's a lot of things going on. It shows them latest company updates, something your manager would otherwise shout on the department floor to celebrate.

You can look for business resources and reports. You can look at the full company calendar and employee directory - and the time-off calendar - to see how your team's availability looks like. It started out as a landing page companies would have as a default when you'd open a new tab.

With decades of demonstrated value to millions of employees worldwide, there came more investment to build better company intranets.

Modern intranets are not a site but a software. They're fast, intuitive to use, piece software that plug in a lot of collaboration features. They don't just give announcements, but go a step beyond by adding features like powerful editing so you can write detailed, dynamic project docs while working with your team. But here's the kicker:

You already have a company intranet

Chances are, you already have a basic intranet woven into your workflow, even if it's a patchwork of Slack, Google Drive, email, or Microsoft tools. Your company intranet exists already.

The question is, how efficient is it?

Do your employees have the ease of having a go-to place for all things related to work and updates - remotely? It's the digital substitute for building employee engagement and giving an unrestricted access to information they might need on an everyday basis.

When companies start out with a few employees, they don't need intranets since everyone's working synchronously. When companies grow, they onboard on-ground employees, frontline workers, and hundreds of employees across departments and hierarchies.

The rapid growth leads to rise of context an employee needs, and a new company intranet helps with exactly that.

So the question isn't what a company intranet is, but what's your current company intranet? Do people have one place to go for everything or do they jump between 10 tools?

And it's an important question to answer too. Highly inefficient knowledge infrastructures cause mis-alignment and a lot of wasted time for companies. An average knowledge worker, according to McKinsey, spend 1/5th of the workweek simply searching for information they need for role-specific tasks.

Sadly, they spend another whopping 30% of their time answering emails - a lot of which are about asking for information, or sending it.

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How is Intranet different from the Internet or Extranets?

The internet is for everyone to access. An intranet is your company's own private network, only for employees – think of it as your company's digital office building.

Extranets are a middle ground, where you can give access to trusted partners or customers – like inviting them into specific meeting rooms.

And of course, a traditional corporate intranet, as a busy company website homepage – lots of information crammed into one place, trying to cover everything at once, much like a cluttered lobby with brochures and bulletin boards.

The key difference between an intranet, extranet, and internet

Key components of a Company Intranet

Company intranets can have dozens of components and use cases. But these are the 4 minimum components that build up your intranet:

A Company Intranet's key components

Here are some other things that can be in a company intranet:

  • Updated communications and news, like an internal micro blog.
  • Quicklinks to most-used resources/handbooks
  • Training areas
  • List and shortcuts to everyday tools
  • Project management features. Multiple companies prefer task embedding and project management updates/comments to be a key feature for their company intranets.
  • A social-media-like feature, but for knowledge sharing among employees. Think of it like a random teammate starting a team-wide discussion virtually wherever everyone pitches in.

Ishaan Gupta
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Ishaan Gupta is a writer at Slite. He doom scrolls for research and geeks out on all things creativity. Send him nice Substack articles to be on his good side.

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