When Looking at Intranets: Should you Build or Should you Buy?

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When Looking at Intranets: Should you Build or Should you Buy?

By | 2017-09-15T09:49:59+00:00 August 17, 2010|Best Practices, Intranet Software|

Northwest Medical Center (NWMC) needs an intranet. They are currently using shared folders in Outlook and networked drives to shared documents and information. They want an intranet to unify the workplace and to log and access employee knowledge. After a search on Google for “intranet software” they get 293,000 results. It’s a crowded market, so how do you get started with an intranet evaluation?

A fundamental decision in determining the course of an intranet evaluation is:

Do You Build or Do You Buy?

Should You Buy

Packaged intranet software would provide the team at Northwest Medical with the framework for an intranet ready to go and out-of-the-box. The software would be installed on a server and a default intranet site will be served up. At that point the site would be ready to use for populating content, choosing applications and default settings, building and ordering navigation and theming the intranet so that it is in line with NWMC’s branding.

Pros Cons
  • Allows you to get up and running with an intranet quickly = no development required
  • Minimal administration overhead = CMS in place and streamlined processes built-in, automated and customizable
  • Ready to go applications
  • Framework for the intranet is in already in place
  • Delegation – anyone can manage areas of the intranet and publish content. Easy to use and no special skills required
  • Easy and quick installation
  • WYSIWYG options –drag & drop, point and click customizations, simple
  • Proven track record – established vendor with references, large customer base, proven track record, intranet expertise
  • Vendor does all the work – all future development, new technologies, user experience is done by the vendor
  • Future development and features/functionality often customer-driven
  • Restricted to the confines of an out-of-the-box solution
  • May have to use workarounds to accomplish tasks on your intranet
  • Not 100% customizable
  • May not meet 100% of your needs – have to balance that with the lower costs
  • Learning curve associated with new software

Buy: Cost & ROI

  • Low initial cost as pre-built applications are included – no development required
  • Time & cost savings on resources – rapid deployment and minimal administration
  • Delegation – delegate publishing with CMS functionality
  • Up-front costs – no scope creep that leads to increased and unforeseen costs
  • Vendor does the work – you have full support & on-going development by the vendor
  • Upgrades and added features and functionality offered (usually) at a minimal cost
  • Focus on education and adoption vs. development efforts

Rapid intranet deployment allows you to free up resources to move onto other more pressing projects that are valuable to the company.


Should You Build

For NWMC, building a custom intranet could range from a developer building a series of simple HTML pages that are linked together (web 1.0) to building a fully custom CMS intranet with social capabilities (web 2.0) that is often based on an existing development platform like SharePoint or Drupal. An intranet platform provides developers with the foundation and development tools to build an intranet and custom applications. Often a development platform will come with a few customizable applications, or there will be an open source community providing applications for sale that they have built using the platform. Typically these applications require development to fit into your custom needs and you can run into issues with the application no longer supported by the coder. The majority of the work requires a development team and/or consultants with intimate knowledge of the platform to build the intranet, but you have full control over the functionality.

Pros Cons
  • Full control over what you build to meet your exact needs
  • Integration with other IT systems and software
  • Full custom scalability
  • You only pay for the functionality you require to be built
  • You fully control layout, content, and navigation
  • Full control comes at a high price tag for resources and time
  • Project scope creep can be large if initial project was not properly outlined
  • Deployment can take years
  • Heavy involvement with IT
  • Staff turnover – developers leave and take their knowledge of the code with them
  • Strong dependence on the person who installs and develops the intranet
  • Developers tend to be more technical and you often need a UX designer to ensure a simple, easy to use interface for end-users
  • The focus is on development vs. content
  • Code development can be under-documented making it costly to maintain and expand the intranet

Build: Cost & ROI

  • High initial cost – research, focus groups, proof of concept, development
  • High # of resources – programmers, designers, DBAs, contractors, consultants, quality assurance
  • Cost of platform – purchase a CMS platform but you still have to build and have resources in place
  • Ongoing costs – constant development, bug fixes, modifications, new technology, user expectations

Long tail to see ROI as the initial cost of building an intranet can be high.


Buyer Beware

Purchasing intranet software can be considerably cheaper than the cost involved in building a custom intranet but fully investigate the costs involved in obtaining an out-of-the-box solution.

  • Ask about hidden fees such as implementation charges, training, and on-going maintenance
  • Build in a three – five year projection cost on your investment

Some packaged intranets can have a high price tag depending on the number of users in your organization. Most are modeled on a per user price point (costs listed below are in US dollars).

SharePoint is more of a development platform than a turnkey intranet. There are additional development and consultant fees that go along with a SharePoint implementation. The licensing costs for 1000 users on SharePoint 2010 Enterprise will run you about $195,000.

Janus Boye, founder and managing director of J.Boye recently wrote a blog post “eIntranet: A costly toolbox for stage 1 intranets” where he indicates at 4,000 users eIntranet would cost $250,000.

SaaS pricing models mean you are charged either per month or annually, also based on your number of users.  This is a rolling cost, so it can be appealing for SMB’s to get in at a lower cost, but because you are charged monthly or annually those costs add up quickly. Intranet Dashboard (iD) recently moved to a SaaS pricing model that at $1,500/month for 1000 users equals $72,000 over a four year period, $90,000 in your fifth year and so on.

Ultimately you need to assess value for the money.

See how Intranet Connections: Intranet 2.0 Software can help your company.

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By | 2017-09-15T09:49:59+00:00 August 17, 2010|Best Practices, Intranet Software|

About the Author:

Carolyn Douglas, Founder of the software Intranet Connections, started her endeavor of creating intranets out of a passion to cater to employees rather than technology. Her philosophy is your intranet can have all the bells and whistles but without employees using it, your intranet is gathering dust. This commitment to simple and easy to use intranet software, combined with amazing customer service that delivers the best of employee engagement ideas and practices, has secured Intranet Connections as one of the leading intranet solutions since its inception in 1999.


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