In this post we discuss the future of intranets and the future of extranets. But first, let’s go back to basics.
An intranet is a closed network used by organizations to communicate and collaborate internally. Using internet-based technology, these networks span the whole enterprise and are used as tools to help employees perform their roles and stay informed on matters relating to the organization.
An extranet is a private network owned by organizations, which they extend to selected external partners for use and collaboration. For businesses, these partners are mainly vendors, suppliers, and customers, or other businesses.
These tools have historically been under-utilized by firms who have not always found ways to leverage off their power. This is changing, and more and more organizations see the potential in promoting strong internal collaboration or strong external partnerships through intranets and extranets. The future of intranets and extranets suggest that they will play a much more prominent role going forward:
The Future of Intranets
Trends in the future of intranets predict that several new features will take form and prominence over time:
AI will come to perform some of the mundane work like auto-filling in of keywords and questions even before users ask them. The fingerprints of machine learning will be all over the future of intranets in terms of voice recognition of commands and error correction.
In order to make the user experience more friendly, intranets will also start to make the experience more personalized. This will be achieved by investing efforts in learning user preferences. In practice, the future of the intranet will become more welcoming by calling users by name, and picking up where they left off in tasks.
The holy grail for developers is to improve the user experience. Even with intranets, dwell time will be important and this will be driven up by making the pages of an intranet a comfortable and intuitive place to be.
Employees will start to use intranets as gateways into the companies they work for. Movements and preferences will be tracked, and increasingly, employees will find preferences from their intranet filtering into other daily applications.
Traditionally a web offering, the future of intranets promise a more mobile friendly reality as organizations try to infiltrate the fabric of the lives of users. There may cease to be a natural logging off time from the company as users may need to access the intranet on mobile devices after hours.
This is already happening and will become more prevalent in the future of intranets. Chatbots will appear as helpful and ever-present assistants who never get tired of answering questions and will never become annoyed by repeated questions. Chatbots are already highly-successful at replacing humans. This will gather pace.
... more on the future of intranets
Just like the internet at large, usage statistics will become important to driving new iterations of the intranet. Developers will take into account user trends and preferences. They will also take more interest in the user experience to lure more users to stay online for longer.
High-Powered Search Capability
Imagine not having to exit your intranet to be able to access all the knowledge in your enterprise or even the web itself. This will increase employee productivity by eliminating the hassle of switching between different apps to get the information they require.
One of the enduring keys to internet usability is to provide a friendly, knowing interface. Social features on intranets will continue to evolve and will offer a smaller jump to a user’s personal life.
This social infiltration could come in the form of in-depth or quirky employee profiles presenting users as more rounded people. As soon as they become shareable with other more traditional social networks then a merging will occur.
As enterprises become increasingly vast in size, it is natural to foresee some having more than one intranet. In the search for consistent menu navigation and integration, these sites will merge into hub sites which require fewer different intranet memberships.
A prevalent trend in employee productivity tools is team collaboration and task tracking. This is done to coordinate effort and eliminate wasted effort. The future of intranets will be to follow this lead.
The Future Of Extranets
Extranets have traditionally had a slightly different emphasis to intranets. Some classic examples of extranets are:
- Supplier extranets with order-placing functionality. Here customers can seamlessly replenish inventories.
- Distributor extranets which give customers access to product updates, ordering and account data.
- Peer extranets which create marketplaces where firms in the same industry, large or small, can act as buyers or sellers.
Future trends in the future of extranets are:
To give customers access to internal databases, companies must expose their firewall. This opens up the possibility of malicious attacks by opportunistic elements. Companies will work ever closer with partners to ensure that access control, authentication, and encryption are well-covered.
Extranets Will Take Jobs
Competitive pressures will force companies to move more work onto extranets. This might involve providing real-time pricing, or indicative product information. Time and money can be saved through extranets. As extranets become better, jobs will be lost.
The Extranet As A Competitive Edge
The most sophisticated extranets can become invaluable to a customer’s supply chain. By allowing customers to access functionalities like pricing, tracking, or ordering, extranets establish a dependency which enforces loyalty. In time, the best extranets will compete against each other.
The much-talked about Internet of Things relies on a total and complete interconnectedness of personal and business systems. Intranets and extranets will play their part in this integration.
For so long the unattended company website which was slightly neglected, organizations will pivot to making them as indispensable and user-friendly as the rest of the internet. The companies that get it right early on will enjoy significant early-mover advantages. These benefits include increased worker productivity and a greater sense of team belonging.