Today’s Internet Business Solutions
Let’s take a look at some of the Internet business solutions that companies are driven to implement in order to improve their productivity and stay competitive. These include:
What Is an Intranet?
An intranet is an internal network based on Internet and World Wide Web technology that delivers immediate, up-to-date information and services to networked employees anytime, anywhere.
Whether providing capabilities to download the latest sales presentation, arrange travel, or report a defective disk drive to the technical assistance center, an intranet offers a common, platform-independent interface that is consistent, easy to implement, and easy to use.
Initially, organizations used intranets almost exclusively as publishing platforms for delivering up-to-the-minute information to employees worldwide. Increasingly, however, organizations are broadening the scope of their intranets to encompass interactive services that streamline business processes and reduce the time employees spend on routine, paper-based tasks.
Intranet applications are platform-independent, so they are less costly to deploy than traditional client/server applications, and they bear no installation and upgrade costs since employees access them from the network using a standard Web browser. Finally, and perhaps most important, intranets enhance employees’ productivity by equipping them with powerful, consistent tools.
Typical Intranet Applications
Most companies can benefit from an intranet. Here are some sample applications:
Employee self-service—Employee self-service provides your employees with the ability to access information at any time from anywhere they want. It enables employees to independently access vital company information. Employee self-service allows companies to save on labor costs as well as increase employee productivity and communication. We’ll look at this in more detail.
Distance learning—Employee training becomes more accessible through distance learning over the data network, which can draw employees from many sites into a single virtual classroom, saving them travel time and keeping them more productive.
Technical support—Companies with limited IS staff can deploy an intranet server to answer frequently asked technical questions, house software that users can download, and provide documentation on a variety of subjects. Users gain instant access to key technical assistance, while IS staff can concentrate on other matters.
Videoconferencing—A proven way to bring team members together without calling for travel, video conferencing is now possible over a data network, bypassing the need for an expensive parallel network. Intranets can make videoconferences easier to set up and use.
Example: Employee Self-Service
These are some of the employee self-service applications.
Let’s take a look at one in detail. By posting HR benefits information on an intranet, employees can look up routine information without taking up the time of a benefits administrator, thus reducing total headcount requirements. By giving employees the ability to look this information up anytime they wish, they are not confined to making their inquiries during regular business hours. And, they don’t have to wait on hold while another employee is being assisted, resulting in saved time.
In addition, by posting general benefits information on the internal Web site, HR is able to spend their time in more productive, strategic ways that ultimately benefit the company, as well as reduce the costs of having an administrator available on the phone all day.
Another example is corporate travel. Many employees travel frequently. New intranet applications that store an employee’s travel preferences can make it easy for employees to request or even book travel arrangements at any time of the day or night, enabling companies to provide this vital service at a lower cost.
As you can see, intranet applications are a win/win for both employees and the company.
Benefits of Intranets
Intranets are rapidly gaining wide acceptance because they make network applications much easier to access and use. Intranets enable self-service.
Intranets allow you to:
– Improve design productivity and compress time-to-market, for example, by providing engineers with immediate access to online parts information and requisitions.
– Increase productivity through greater employee collaboration.
– Share or access vital information at any time, from any location. For example, you can extend intranets around the world, for instance, to sales offices in London and Tokyo. Now sales teams or manufacturing plants in Asia can quickly access information on servers at the central office in the United States—and it’s easier to use.
– Minimize downtime and cut maintenance costs by providing work teams with complete electronic work packages.
– Lower administrative costs by automating common tasks, such as forms and benefit paperwork.