An Extranet provides the ability to perform business processes, communicate securely and create a more seamless relationship with a defined group of people. Think of an Extranet like a secure website. In most cases, people external to your organization will browse to a URL and log into the Extranet using credentials you provide.
Extranet’s vary in their form and function, and depend largely on what the organization wants to achieve with an external group of users. Extranet’s in their most basic form allow a controlled group of users to log in and download a set of documents and complete forms, whereas an advanced Extranet may allow users to complete tasks via a workflow process, chat with people inside the organization in real-time, and pay fees using a credit card.
Following are five reasons why developing an Extranet for your organization makes business sense.
1. Community Building
As organizations look for ways to secure their existing business relationships for the long term, and increase their services or product offerings to their customers in the short term, a powerful function of the Extranet is to develop a community of users around your brand. When external partners, suppliers and customers log into your Extranet, they are interacting with an extension of your brand. It will perhaps be the most valuable touch point you have with these audiences because they are logging into your Extranet with a business goal in mind. Building a community around your organization enables you to deliver targeted and personalized communication, supporting one to one relationships. You can communicate directly with a single user, or push content to everyone who has access to the Extranet.
2. Distributed Workflows
A core value proposition for an Extranet is to automate processes with external users. Instead of individually emailing or calling business partners, suppliers and customers to discuss the status of a particular transaction, the Extranet provides the opportunity to create workflows with all Extranet users and then manage and monitor their progress. This approach enables the distribution of work effort and provides transparency to your Extranet users concerning the status of a process that involve them. Equally an Extranet is where you can ask these same users to start a process with you. For example, enabling end users to complete registration forms to become a new supplier, request an order, or commence a new employee on boarding process, etc. As these processes are completed, they remain in the Extranet for both the user and the organization to access from one secure location.
Extranet’s vary in their form and function, and depend largely on what the organization wants to achieve with an external group of users.
3. Reduce the cost of third party management
Managing the customer relationship is a large investment for any organization. Ensuring the service or product you’re delivering goes smoothly, and that customer expectations are met requires a skilled team to design, plan and deliver usually within a fixed budget. Extranet’s provide a platform for all parties to access a single view of all communications relating to a process, who’s responsible, and what has been achieved to date. Providing the ability for all parties to discuss and share their progress and problems enables the project as a whole to be shared and understood by all participants. Extranet’s reduce the business pain of relying on email and phone calls to coordinate and plan deliverables with multiple parties and ensuring there is clear communication for all.
4. Discrete Transactions
Perhaps one of the more powerful opportunities an Extranet provides is to incorporate tailored business processes for your end users. While the general user experience for everyone accessing your Extranet is largely the same, the nature of how content and data is presented can be discrete. This provides opportunities to conduct business transactions that are tailored for the end user, ultimately creating tighter relationships with external partners, suppliers and customers.
A recurring theme within the first four reasons for developing an Extranet is the opportunity for collaboration. While extranets enable you to present content and data in ways that are unique to your organization, the opportunity to collaborate with external users on your product or service delivery provides a higher level of confidence for everyone involved. Providing the opportunity to discuss and comment on documentation, participate in group chats, and see how data points are changing over time all provide a powerful and successful working experience for all involved.