Intranet software has come a long way over the last twenty years. Current products, such as Intranet Connections, provide users with a wide variety of functionality including everything from a centralized document repository to custom forms to social networking tools. Today, intranets tie together different parts of a business and provide an avenue for employees to communicate and share information quickly and efficiently. Early intranets weren’t quite so well integrated into the businesses that were using them, but their introduction was intended to solve many of the same problems they are used to solve today.
The Oxford online dictionary defines an intranet as “a local or restricted communications network, especially a private network created using World Wide Web software”. The idea behind an intranet is to provide companies with a platform for sharing information between employees. Traditionally, this was done manually through the exchange of physical documents, phone conversations, and via face-to-face meetings. As companies adopted computer networks, the sharing of information was taken digital and employees could use email and shared folders to accomplish the same tasks much more efficiently. Eventually, the adoption of the World Wide Web enabled many companies to host web pages internally and this allowed information to be distributed much more quickly and easily than ever before.
The first intranet software solutions were simply static websites that allowed employees to access information in a central location, using nothing more than a web browser. In 1996, Frontier Technologies introduced a product called “Intranet Genie” which was a bundle of applications that supported document sharing, employee discussions, electronic messaging and a variety of related tools designed to facilitate communication. Since the introduction of the Intranet Genie product, over the last seventeen years, a variety of intranet software products have come to the market with the goal of providing similar services to businesses. At some point during this time, the term “intranet” became synonymous for content served via a web server and consumed via a browser, rather than for a suite of applications and services such as what was provided by the Intranet Genie product.
The Intranet Genie was very different from the intranet products of today, in fact it wasn’t even a web site, but rather a client server application that consisted of both server software as well as a collection of software components installed on each client computer. These client applications allowed users to share documents, participate in online discussions, and to exchange secure email. The popularity of the world wide web spurred a major change in how intranet software was used by companies. Intranet software products evolved to operate as web portals, which greatly simplified their installation and management, since the only client software required was a common web browser. In 1999 Intranet Connections, one of the first web based intranet software products to come to market, was born. The evolution from client-server to web based solution reduced the cost of both development and implementation of intranet products and would spur their future success in the marketplace.
Sometime around 2005, the term web 2.0 was popularized by Tim O’Reilly in reference to a new type of website that was much more interactive. Although the term was more of a buzz word than anything else, it did symbolize a marked change from websites that were primarily designed around the retrieval of information to websites that allowed the user to create, store and retrieve content all in one place.
Intranets soon followed suit with functionality that would allow individual users to build web pages and to create customized forms. The resulting intranet products allowed companies, departments and individual users to add content specific to their needs. Intranet Connections includes key web 2.0 style features such as its workflow driven Form Builder application, which allows users to create dynamic forms, tests and surveys, as well as the ability to create custom web sites and web pages on the fly that position it as an industry leader in this area.
The most recent evolution involves the integration of social features into intranet products. The success and popularity of social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin have ushered in a new era of Internet Software usage which allows users to communicate a wide variety of information both quickly and easily. In response to the popularity of social networking, intranet products have evolved to include social networking features that allow for simple communication between the employees within a business. Intranet Connections includes many social networking features such as wall posts, the ability for employees to follow one another and instant chat functionality. These social features provide a gateway to the future of intranet products by allowing users to interact with them in the same way they are used to doing so with personal social networks outside of work.
Over the past two decades, intranet products have come a long way. From client-server platforms consisting of multiple heavyweight applications, to fully interactive lightweight web portals built around customizability and social features. Modern intranet products, such as Intranet Connections, have evolved into platforms that are beneficial to businesses in a variety of ways. They assist employees in working more effectively by allowing them to easily share and communicate information with one another in a simple and intuitive manner. They ensure time is not wasted searching for important information and that complex business processes and workflow are captured in ways that ensure they are always followed correctly. Corporate culture is also easily promoted through the ability to theme the intranet in alignment with the company’s brand and image, and core values can be prominently displayed so as to ensure every employee is intimately familiar with them. In 2013, intranet software has evolved to the point where it can provide a benefit to any business in any industry.