The intranet is shedding its boring bulletin board image and emerging as the way forward in internal communications. Plus we preview this year's Softworld HR payroll event.
Intranets are coming of age as security and reliability worries subside and a host of new applications start to emerge. Yet many organisations have yet to see the point: according to the International Data Corporation only 21 per cent of British work sites, mainly in high-tech, media and other expanding sectors, were connected by an intranet system last year.
But that figure is set to double as intranets shed their image of glorified bulletin boards and become a genuinely interactive medium.
Forty-eight per cent of UK private sector companies are planning to implement HR self-service facilities over the next year, a Midland Software survey found, saving the private sector about £350m in administration costs.
Staff will log on to the company intranet to access personal details, absence records, holiday forms, and training opportunities.
"The notion that employees are not capable of managing their own records is nonsense," says product planning director Peter Collinson. "Organisations that are doing this find their information more up-to-date, accurate and efficient."
An intranet is relatively easy to set up, with IT departments installing the server and software, and HR typically providing the content.
Experts advise against giving too much responsibility to either, however - creating a dedicated project team that reports directly to the board helps maintain a strategic focus.
Share the authoring as widely as possible, making employees responsible for their own web pages. Besides saving time and money, that gives them a sense of ownership and helps ensure they use the intranet effectively.
One common pitfall is to provide mountains of text in small font, which is difficult to read and quickly deters interest. One way round this is to layer, catering for individual needs by providing pages with successively greater amounts of detail.
"If it does not look good it will put people off," says Robert Wyeth, sales and marketing director at Infosupport Centre. "A well-designed layout provided by us can still be made messy by clients slotting in old material, which may have different fonts and lack