Vendor Profile: Intranet Connections
The Intranetizen team are often asked for 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 Intranet Connections.
In a brief paragraph, who are you?
Intranet Connections combines social and business tools for small to medium size organizations who are looking for an out-of-the-box and turnkey intranet. We place an emphasis on providing value through business workflow and automation as well as supporting company culture through social community.
Briefly describe your product’s history? Why did you start it, where does it come from?
I (Carolyn Douglas) used to be the Intranet Manager for the District of North Vancouver, and I had built their intranet site with a very simple CMS. It was an open site, where all employees were welcome to contribute and publish content. This was in 1996 when intranets were in their infancy and web sites were mostly static HTML. We had a lot of interest from other government agencies on what we were doing.
I eventually left the District to build Intranet Connections with the intent of selling it to other municipal government. When we launched the software online with a credit card / payment gateway, the first company to purchase was from the Netherlands. After our first year we had close to 100 companies on board. We have grown organically from there.
Describe your typical customer – what kind of company, what size, what are the kinds of problems they need to solve?
Today, our typical customer does not yet have an intranet or they have gone down the road of another solution and have become frustrated with the difficulty level, cost and external resources needed to launch the intranet.
Our customers are diverse in industry with a strong vertical in healthcare, financial, associations and government. We have customers all over the world, however most are in North America. Our smallest customer has 25 employees, the largest is over 5000. Our sweet spot is organizations between 50-500 employees. Our customers are loyal, committed, energetic, engaged and many have been on the software for 10+ years. We are very proud of that.
While social networking and communities are gaining interest with our customers, most use the intranet to resolve key business workflow bottlenecks. We promote a strong focus on providing tools to streamline business processes.
We also believe in the human element and we have a nice balance between business workflow and the social tools to leverage a people-centric intranet for showcasing employees, success stories, knowledge sharing, kudos and connecting people.
What do you see as your product and company’s USP?
It may sound cliché but simplicity and ease of use. In every aspect of our business we try to think like the customer. Most intranet solutions look a lot alike. The features are similar if not the same. It’s hard to gain a competitive edge. For us we look to our imprint as the unique selling proposition. By that I mean it is hard to duplicate your own unique quality. Our company values and personality is threaded into our intranet software, our IC team, how we connect with customers, and our culture.
Which feature(s) of your product do your customers rave about most?
From an administrative prospective, our intranet admins love the Application Builder. It allows them to build exactly the type of apps they need to address their needs. Plus it provides ultimate customization where they control fields, functionality and layout. Our Form Builder tool is used extensively for workflow.
Employees love the social widgets, in particular birthdays, anniversaries, featured employees.
The Social Employee Directory is very popular, where you can find peers based on skill-sets and tags. Our Social Directory is also where employees can connect and share through social networking: message walls, following colleagues, status updates, sharing content and private workspaces.
Our Training Calendar is also very popular especially with Government and Healthcare. It includes powerful automation and streamlines employee learning management.
Which feature(s) of your product do you feel are most under-used?
Job Postings and Discussion Board. Most customers tend to use Blogs with commenting or the social wall for conversations. The threaded Discussion Board is a bit redundant with current social tools taking its place.
How much customisation does your product typically need / how much to you recommend your customers make?
Intranet Connections is out-of-the-box, 100%. All of our customers, including NASA, Mayo, and our larger hospitals all use the software out-of-the-box. We have stuck to this model over the years, because we believe that code-level customizations come at a high cost to the customer – not just in the initial work required, but in upgrades. It essentially creates a custom intranet that needs dedicated developer resources to maintain.
Instead we have built extensive customization options into the product interface. For intranet design, you can start simple or go advanced and have granular control. All of the options are through the UI with drag/drop or point-and-click ease. We never force you into coding CSS, XML, or HTML.
Our simple theme builder is intelligent in that it will take the colors of your logo and present them to you as a suggested color palette. We then cascade your color choice throughout the site. You can then tweak away if need be through our theme builder.
We also have other built-in widgets that allow you to bring in external data onto the intranet. We have a lot of customers who create custom dashboards that pull information onto the intranet from other enterprise systems.
What advice would you give a company planning to invest in a new intranet platform? / what are the most important factors to consider?
Investment for an intranet is long-term. You have to look at your total cost in. Not just in licensing costs but in man-power. Implementing an intranet, designing the site, planning your information architecture, publishing content, creating team sites, governance … it all takes time and careful consideration. You become invested.
Most vendors are in a SaaS model so look at your overall costs in a 3-5 year time frame although realistically you will probably end up on that platform for 7-10 years. Intranet customers (for a vendor) have a long lifecycle because it is not easy to move platforms and content. Ensure you like the company and the level of service. It really does become a relationship between company and customer.
What’s your cost model? Free; one-off; per seat per month charging; something else?
One of our core values is simplicity, so the pricing and license model follows that principle. We have one cost, for any company, any size. This is unique in today’s market but I would stress caution in jumping too quickly based on price. There has to be a good fit.
Who are your main competitors?
ThoughtFarmer is from Vancouver, as are we, and we both market our solution as Social Intranet Software. The market has a number of other competitors that we also hear about from evaluators: Igloo, Intranet Dashboard, Interact.
SharePoint is always a variable but usually if a company is looking at us they have already ruled out SP as too much work and cost.
What do you need from *your* customers to deliver intranet success?
Intranet Connections is fairly intuitive and easy to use, so we don’t need a technical resource for intranet success. What we do need is an engaged one.
Our most successful intranets have administrators or content managers that champion the site. They pay attention to what the organization needs and where there are frustrations and bottlenecks. They look for opportunities to move paper-heavy processes onto the intranet. They choose (and tweak) the built-in tools to resolve their business pains and increase employee engagement.
Our successful intranets add tremendous value based on what employees need, and what saves them time and frustration. This drives people to the intranet, more so than pure social networking initiatives.
What does the future have in store for your product?
The reality is that we are in a commodity market. Harnessing HTML5 and jQuery make it very easy to copy feature sets. We survey our customer base and our intranet champions and we ask them, what do you need? What would rock your world? They tell us and that is what we build.
What does intranet 2015 look like?
Wow good question. There are incredibly smart intranet thought-leaders challenging us in how we perceive intranets. I believe in the digital workplace and that mobile will be a major force moving forward.
We are moving into a world that blurs the lines of 9-5. It’s not so much the hours you spend at a desk, but being productive and bringing results based on a time schedule that works for you. I suspect intranet 2015 looks like something that comes out of your pocket and rides with you on the bus, and in your morning coffee lineup at Starbucks, and at your kid’s soccer game on Saturday.
Who should intranetizen readers get in touch with for more information?
You can visit www.intranetconnections.com to learn more about us. I am on Twitter and LinkedIn, and would love to connect, any time! You can also contact our terrific Client Services team who can answer any questions you may have on our intranet software. Of course the best source to talk to would be our customers and we can help put you in touch with one in your industry.
Social Intranet Software
What question should we have asked? And if we had, what would the answer have been?
What do you believe in as an intranet software company?
Culture is huge for us. For us it is about the connection we have with our customers, and also with each other – hence our name. From day one I wanted to build a company that was about the people. My passion is intranets and our software, no question, but for all of us it is about coming to work energized and stoked to work together and build something great for our customers. And I believe in KISS. It may be complex under the hood, but it has to work fast and be drop dead simple and intuitive for an end-user. Everyone we hire has to understand that it is about simplicity. And having fun. Always put yourself in the customer shoes is my secret ingredient, and that is hard wired into everything we do.
We are very grateful for the time taken by Intranet Connections 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.