Digital Workplace Insights

Enterprise Social Network or Intranet?

As most organizations are forced to do more with less and compete on the basis of how innovative they are within their respective industries, then making a decision on which digital workplace platform to implement can either improve or impede the speed at which teams can communicate and collaborate with each other. 

In general, most organizations have implemented some form of Intranet. More recently, with consumer driven social media concepts making their way into the enterprise, and with the mainstream adoption of cloud based solutions, the alternative to the traditional Intranet is the Enterprise Social Network (ESN). So what’s the difference between an Intranet and an Enterprise Social Network?

Comparison

Intranets are designed to manage operational and transactional content that enables an organization to run. They are secure, regimented environments which are usually implemented and managed by IT. They have been carefully planned and deployed using stringent management methodologies placed around how content and documents are published, who has access to them and what sections of the Intranet can be freely browsed or require a set of pre-defined privileges to access. Intranets are typically large, complex software applications that require a team of experts and months (sometimes years) to go from project commencement to go-live. They can have high implementation and maintenance costs, depending on a variety of attributes, and are usually owned and managed by a select few.

Enterprise Social Networks are open platforms that democratize the way information is published and shared across the enterprise. They are focused on fostering conversations between staff and encourage the ability to share content for the purpose of discoverability. ESN’s leverage the network effects that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have made popular, and have integrated native apps that enable staff to access the platform no matter what device they are using at work. The concept of ESN’s is that the collective experience of everyone within the organization is more valuable than the content prepared and published by a select few.

Making a decision on which digital workplace platform to implement can either improve or impede the speed at which teams can communicate and collaborate with each other.

Technology

Intranets are usually on-premise monsters demanding multiple servers to separate database, application and content. They are deployed, configured, controlled and managed solely by a select few within IT, and they burden business users with complex permissions resulting in complicated authoring processes that are far from being user friendly.

Enterprise Social Networks largely exist in the cloud, removing the need for organizations to invest in the time and effort to plan, procure and prepare infrastructure to operate them. The flexibility of deployment models allows organizations to experiment with how functionality and services can be delivered to different users within the organization.

Price

Nearly all Intranet and Enterprise Social Network platforms follow the general licensing model of a ‘per seat’ license, meaning each person in the organization who will access the software from their ‘seat’ will need to pay.

Historically the common garden variety Intranet can range from a few thousand dollars, through to enterprise Intranet platforms costing several million dollars depending on the number of user seats required. Some Intranet software platforms can also attract pricing dimensions relating to the number of CPU’s the server has and whether the users are accessing the software using different devices.

Enterprise Social Networks have adopted a more liberal approach to licensing. Most support simplified pricing models based on the number of seats required, and provide flexibility in purchasing the solution; pay month by month, or pay upfront for a year.

As organizations compete for talent in order to build the innovative workplaces of tomorrow, the collaboration software at the heart of the organization needs to be as every bit innovative as the vision the organization has to compete and win. As such, it’s not uncommon for a traditional Intranet and an Enterprise Social Network to exist side by side as they both provide legitimate use cases where the combination can deliver enormous value for staff.

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