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Vendor Profile: Interact Intranet

The Intranetizen team are often asked advice about intranet vendors that supply software and hardware solutions to run your intranet. Whilst we have 35 years of blue-chip intranet experience between us, in common with many intranet practitioners, we have relatively limited experience of the 200+ software systems that companies use.

To help you, to help us and to help the vendors themselves, we’re running a series of posts of over this coming week showcasing 5 intranet companies. We’ve supplied them with the same standard set of questions and will publish their answers in their own words to ensure equity! All the images have been supplied by the company themselves and are reproduced with permission.

Today, we showcase Interact Intranet.

In a brief paragraph, who are you?

Interact history

Interact’s key milestones – click to enlarge

Interact is a global supplier of intelligent social intranet software. We connect content, processes and people t

hrough one platform to deliver essential intranets to medium and large enterprises.

We are passionate about creating intelligent and easy to use intranet tools for people to work more productively.

Briefly describe your product’s history? Why did you start it, where does it come from?

Interact Intranet was first launched in 2003 as a tool for Pfizer to improve communication and business processes. We soon realised that an intranet was a perfect platform for providing 2-way communication and collaboration to help get tasks done in the workplace. The success of Interact Intranet software has led to it now being used by over 500,000 users in over 20 different countries.

Describe your typical customer – what kind of company, what size, what are the kinds of problems they need to solve

Interact Intranet is used in companies across the world, in various industries from charities like March of Dimes and Age UK through to large private sector companies like Superdrug, Tyco and G4S. Customers range from medium to large enterprises.

The majority of our customers come to us because their existing intranet has failed them; their current solution is time intensive, ineffective and has low adoption rates. With these previous products they typically experience:

  • Poor or no search facility, making it impossible for employees to find the right information
  • Only IT staff are able to update the intranet due to the skills needed to develop a page, which puts excessive pressure on IT resource and leads to low adoption from employees
  • A lack of version control – out of date or duplicate documents, making the intranet untrusted
  • No social tools to aid collaboration and communication
  • No process management tools to improve business efficiency
  • Lack of support from the vendor to develop a successful intranet with a lack of on-going upgrades reflecting web 2.0 trends.
  • A reliance on paper or email based forms with the various business issues that stem from these methods.
  • IT have bought a solution based on brand rather than its capabilities or ease of use, leaving users and departments constrained by a lack of flexibility.

We have found that what all our customers want is for their intranet to become an essential part of their organisation. This means they want an intranet that makes business processes robust and effective, social tools which engage all levels of their business without a need for any technical knowledge and make it simple to create engaging communications.

We make this easy with Interact Intranet offering:

  • Intelligent tools that push the right content to individual users, learning through the way they use their intranet.
  • Collaborative technology allowing an organisation to introduce ‘social business’ tools individually to solve business challenges rather than having to adopt an all or nothing approach.
  • Easy to use technology – you don’t have to be in IT to update the intranet; crucial for good adoption throughout an organisation.

What do you see as your product and company’s USP?

Interact Intranet is intelligent. We focus on solving the problems that large organisations have with vast amounts of information. Interact Intranet learns as people use it, adapts and connects relevant content to people.

The Essential Intranet Blend: An essential intranet has the correct blend of communication, collaboration and business processes, says Interact Intranet.

As we are a social intranet provider, content authors are distributed throughout the organisation. This content isn’t just news and policies but ideas, blogs, questions and expertise. As the amount of content grows it is critical that the most relevant content is pushed to the most relevant people. We have a phrase at Interact – “We help content find people”. Often some of the most useful ideas, facts, improvements in the way you work etc are found by accident. We want to change this and make sure you are pushed content that can improve the way you work by reducing duplication of effort and promoting best practice.

We have created an intentional blend of easy to use intranet technologies that mix social and traditional tools. Business process, collaboration and communication tools can be blended together by non-technical intranet managers behind the firewall or in the cloud to create an essential intranet.s content isn’t just news and policies but ideas, blogs, questions and expertise. As the amount of content grows it is critical that the most relevant content is pushed to the most relevant people. We have a phrase at Interact – “We help content find people”. Often some of the most useful ideas, facts, improvements in the way you work etc are found by accident. We want to change this and make sure you are pushed content that can improve the way you work by reducing duplication of effort and promoting best practice.

Which feature(s) of your product do your customers rave about most?

All of them!! There are some that keep coming up though.

Workflow and Forms – People need a reason to come to an intranet and everyone in every company fills in a form for one reason or another. Whether it be ordering a new iPhone or completing expenses. The success of Workflow and Forms has been based on its simplicity though. 90% of our intranets are purchased and implemented by non- technical people in Mar-Comms and HR. We realised very early on that all our tools had to be easy to use and not require any IT involvement if we were to create essential intranets.

Mandatory Read – This is such a simple feature but one that has a massive amount of power (if used sensibly!). The success of this feature also inspired us to develop the recently released Activity Management Module…

Activity Management – This is a big talking point with our customers at the moment, especially those in the retail sector who now have an effective way to roll out promotional campaigns across all of their stores and easily track the progress of activity completion.

We are expecting Activity Management to bring huge benefits to our customer’s intranets for a number of reasons:

1. If employees have to complete activities using their intranet then this offers a great pull on a daily basis and helps integrate essential business processes.

2. People collaborate on activities all the time and doing it through the intranet gives full transparency and allows people to share their knowledge of how to complete it effectively – perfect for a social intranet.

3. An intranet knows the company structure so it is the obvious choice for distributing activities out to relevant people, groups or locations.

Interact Recommends / Interact Suggests – Both these tools are incredibly popular with our customers because it uses Interact Intranets Intelligence Store to cleverly push relevant content to the user.

Interact Answers – This is also part of the Intelligence Store and not only connects questions to relevant content to find the answer but if it doesn’t find a suitable solution then it can recommend experts within the organisation and notify them for their advice.

@tagging documents – Our customers find this tool offers a very easy way for non-technical users to link to documents, which helps with social content connection on their intranet.

Intranet Search Analytics – May not sound interesting but it is something our customers definitely rave about. In particular the ‘Top Searches’ to see what users are most interested in and ‘Failure to Find’, which helps to identify those elusive ‘black holes’ of information.

Which feature(s) of your product do you feel are most under-used?

We work hard with our customers to make sure they fully utilise the features of Interact Intranet, however a couple of features we find that are used less are:

The API – We have built a comprehensive API and development platform for Interact Intranet but generally we find it isn’t a key requirement for our customers for two reasons:-

  1. Our product is used primarily by Intranet Managers and Mar-comms / HR, therefore they don’t have the knowledge, time or requirements for this feature.
  2. The majority of tools and features they require already exist within the product.

Mobile Intranet – Launched 3 years ago, we have an uptake amongst our customers of approximately 25%, which isn’t as high as we would have expected considering how essential mobile phones are to a mobile workforce. However, we believe this will rapidly increase as we start to focus on mobile apps that are for specific features, enabling people to quickly access data or collaborate / share ideas. This is something that will be in future Interact Intranet releases.

How much customisation does your product typically need / how much to you recommend your cust omers make?

Interact Intranet is an off-the-shelf intranet product. This doesn’t mean though that all our intranets are the same – far from it. As well as following our intranet success methodology (a methodology that delivers essential intranets) with our intranet

Interact - who are we

Overview of Interact – click to enlarge

strategists our customers tailor their intranets through a variety of different tools such as the Homepage Manager.

You can see some examples of Interact Intranet designs here.

What’s your cost model? Free; one-off; per seat per month charging; something else?

Interact offers two pricing models based on per-seat users depending on the requirements of our customers.

The most common option is the per-seat perpetual license model. This is a one-off fee with no expiry date. This model is typically used by our customers that prefer to host their intranet on premise, or with another 3rd party hosting provider.

We also offer a re-occurring per-seat license model hosted in the cloud with our partner Rackspace. This model is increasing in popularity and allows our customers to securily host their intranet in our managed cloud environment.

What advice would you give a company planning to invest in a new intranet platform? / what are the three most important factors to consider?

A very tricky question as it depends on the specific organisation, what they have now, what business problems they’re trying to solve, the size of the organisation, the culture type, budget and the technology.

Three most important factors:

  1. Determine business requirements: Absolutely essential in the beginning for both short and long term. Get it right and then, assuming the technology can support these, the project will have a much greater chance of success.
  2. Analyse the technology and how vendor will use it to solve business problems: Ensure the technology can support the current business requirements and expand to meet future requirements as much as possible. Also ensure the vendor understands business problems and how to solve them using their software. Make sure the software will scale with the amount of content that is added to the intranet and that content gets pushed intelligently. In our experience, most failed intranets that we replaced have spiraled out of control and become a graveyard for intranet content. Remember that the users of the intranet aren’t just digesting content on a social intranet but interacting with that content. Ensure that the tools are simple to use and can be set-up by non-technical users.
  3. Investment cost and justification: Ensure the proposed cost from the vendor for the project (software and professional services) is right for your organisation. Can you measure the ROI? Can the vendor help you justify the cost and put together a business case? What are the vendor’s credentials of working with similar organisations and what did they achieve? Will other customers back this up? When you have launched your intranet ensure you have tools that help you continue to justify the continued investment in the intranet. For any software to be successful it has to become essential in improving efficiency, reducing costs and adding to the bottom line.

Who are your main competitors?

In the UK there aren’t any major intranet vendors in the same enterprise social intranet space. Our main competitors come from further afield.

Traditionally in the UK we would compete with local intranet vendors but have seen the landscape shift over the last couple of years as our customer user base has increased significantly and the need for social aspects within intranets has increased.

It is now more likely that we would compete with companies including IBM Connections, Jive, and of course SharePoint.

Obviously SharePoint tends to be the default intranet for many organisations. Over the last few years we have had a great deal of success with both replacing SharePoint in organisations and being chosen above SharePoint for new installs. This is mainly due to the shift in intranet ownership from IT to mar-comms. Non-technical users want to be able to concentrate on the functionality and business benefits a social intranet can bring and not worry about the technology.

We are also finding a similar shift now from Interact intranets hosted behind the firewall to in the cloud. Interact was the chosen solution for companies such as British Computer Society, Yodel, G4S, Age UK and many others instead of SharePoint.

To a lesser extent we come across:

  • Yammer (apparently moving to a 4 year product cycle – tongue in cheek!)
  • Confluence from Altassian
  • Other off-the-shelf intranet platforms such as Thought Farmer (love the leaves and tractors!), Intranet Dashboard and Intranet Connections
  • Other CMS products both open-source and others such as Telligent, Drupal, and even word-press.

What do you need from *your* customers to deliver intranet success?

We define intranet success as creating an intranet that is essential in an organisation. An essential intranet is an intranet that has demonstrable business improvements such as increased efficiency of getting work done, better employee moral and better company profits.

Enthusiasm and a huge desire to significantly improve the way their organisation communicates and collaborates to create an essential intranet are key.

We developed our ‘intranet success methodology’ many years ago and have been refining it ever since. This goes a long way to helping produce a successful essential intranet but it is critical that any organisation has a clear understanding of what the intranet will achieve for them and how the intranet objectives are aligned to their business objectives.

This means that the intranet must have a sponsor and stakeholder buy-in. Part of our success methodology works on helping to cement this buy-in.

What does the future have in store for your product?

Clever things!

We continue to work on creating innovative intelligent tools that connect content to people and questions to experts like Interact Answers and Interact Suggests.

We produce 3 releases per year (unlike some of the big boys who like to do 1 release every three years). This is critical in such a fast moving technology as social business. As people get more to grips with the idea of using status updates, #tags, likes, it becomes easier to embed these into everyday working.

The next release will see the evolution of how people measure the success of their intranet. As budgets tighten it is becoming more and more important to demonstrate the positive impact software can have on an organisation. We have some very innovative technology being developed around intranet metrics and ensuring an essential intranet is produced.

What does intranet 2015 look like?

The social intranet is developing at a rapid pace and nobody knows for sure how that will evolve.

A 2015 intranet will be much more than just a classic intranet and really try to connect a workforce and promote open and transparent communications.

A lot has been spoken about the demise of the word ‘intranet’. We believe that intranets will still be around and going strong. An intranet will still be a portal for people to get work done. It will still be a place to complete expenses, find a policy and discuss ideas.

However, the rise of the social intranet will result in bloated intranets with a massive amount of content through decentralisation. Tools like Interact Suggests will need to be further refined to ensure the correct people connect to the relevant content.

Mobile and remote use of intranets will become more widespread so home access will be critical. Connecting knowledge workers wherever they’re based using a combination of technologies (mobile, tablet, web). The cloud is going to form a huge part of this and the 2015 intranet will move more and more to the cloud from behind the firewall.

Who should Intranetizen readers speak with to find out more about your product?

One of our experienced intranet strategists, consultants and even our dedicated evangelists are always happy to talk intranets and offer assistance to customers.

We would also suggest attending industry events or logging into online forums and asking questions. Interact are the largest provider of Intranets in the UK and expanding rapidly worldwide so your likely to bump into some of our customers. You could start with Interaction in October which is the largest Intranet conference in the UK (www.intranetconference.com).

We are always happy to put people in touch with our customers which gives them the opportunity to get all gossip straight from the horse’s mouth. There isn’t a better endorsement than that!

Interacts Leadership Team: www.interact-intranet.com/about-us/leadership-team

Interacts Customers: http://www.interact-intranet.com/customers

Attend one of our webinars or events: http://www.interact-intranet.com/events

What question should we have asked? And if we had, what would the answer have been?

What is it like working at Interact?

Exciting, rewarding, challenging, fast-paced are the first words that spring to mind.

We all work hard but also try to not take ourselves too seriously. You can often find us playing pool or the Xbox, getting competitive in team quizzes, enjoying our free fruit and Friday lunches or coming up with new and exciting ideas in one of our many innovation areas – with crazy chairs and colourful carpets!

We are always expanding our team for anyone who is interested in working with us.

We are very grateful for the time taken by Interact Intranet to respond to our questions and hope you find their answers informative. The full set of reviews can be found here. We intend to run this series again in 2013 – get in touch with us if you’d like to participate.




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