I recently did some research for someone who wanted to update their company intranet. Although I have been developing websites with WordPress for a number of years, I have never thought of using it WordPress for an intranet. My first task was to determine some of the basic reasons companies use an intranet. Then I could determine whether or not WordPress could handle the requirements for a functional, professional, robust company intranet.
Basic Uses of a Company Intranet
Even a small company needs to keep lines of communication open. Company news, announcements, values, goals, specific project timelines, weekly reports and memos can all be posted on an intranet that all employees can access. Common documents such as newsletters, catalogues, manuals, spec sheets, product sell sheets, and price lists can all be stored on an intranet.
Basic HR information can be communicated via an intranet so employees can learn about policies and procedures, job descriptions, benefits, leave information, scheduled holidays, internal job postings, etc. Organizational charts can also be posted.
An internal company calendar can include things like holidays, company functions, meeting room schedules, training sessions.
Any department requiring a streamlined data collection system can post PDF forms (to be printed or filled online). An easier method is to create online forms which can send instant notifications to the right people as well as collect data in a CSV file which can be used for data analysis.
Polls and Surveys
An intranet can be used to quickly post an online poll to survey and efficiently collect employee feedback.
Many people use social media on a regular basis now, making a dedicated internal social communication tool much easier to integrate into a company intranet. The nice thing about an internal system is the ability to design only the features which best suit the needs and goals of the organization. Additionally, with an internal system companies are not dependant on popular external social media options like LinkedIn and Facebook.
Employee or Location Directories
An intranet allows any employee to search for other employees, build teams for specific projects, and increase communication and productivity. Companies with regional offices or franchise locations can easily be added to searchable directories.
Besides creating an internal online store, employees can post items for sale, trade, or donation.
Photos and videos of company events, ceremonies, new location announcements, featured products, and more.
Why Consider WordPress for an Intranet?
Although I was previously ignorant to the possibilities of WordPress for an intranet, I was not surprised to discover that WordPress is not only a viable option, it is already used by many companies. Here are four simple reasons for considering WordPress as an option for building a company intranet.
WordPress has a powerful built-in commenting system that could allow employees to interact with virtually anything that is posted on an intranet.
WordPress is famous for its extensive plugin repository. New features and functionality can easily be added and customized as a company’s intranet needs grow.
Modern, Responsive Design
WordPress allows for flexible design and UI which can be adapted to look great on any device. Employees can check in anywhere and easily read intranet pages on their computers, tablets, or smartphones.
WordPress can be hosted internally or externally depending on company resources. Installation and setup is fast and easy.
Two options for a WordPress-based Intranet
Option 1: Use only the plugins needed
Looking at the list of intranet needs above, here are some plugin options available to WordPress users.
1. Multisite. According to wordpress.org, multisite is “a collection of sites that all share the same WordPress installation. They can also share plugins and themes. The individual sites in the network are virtual sites in the sense that they do not have their own directories on your server, although they do have separate directories for media uploads within the shared installation, and they do have separate tables in the database.”
For example, each department, location, or franchise can have their own site while maintaining the common look of the intranet. Users can add their own websites, or you can set it up so only administrators can add new sites. Each site can be added as a sub-directory or sub-domain.
2. Basic membership plugin, or set site wide privacy with login access. Employees can be added as WordPress users with the ability to update their profiles.
3. Communication. News, announcements, memos, etc. can all be sent as WordPress posts, separated into categories and tags for better search results.
4. Calendar. There are many simple and some great premium calendar plugins (eg. Events Calendar). Google calendars can also be easily integrated into WordPress.
5. Forms. Any department can add their forms to pages as downloadable/fillable PDFs. But online forms can be added using a premium plugin like Gravity Forms or Formidable. These plugins can also handle polls and surveys.
6. Member directory. There are various options here, each needing some level of customization. But with a little creativity, the possibilities are endless. Here are two examples:
Simple Intranet Directory
7. Chat. Expand communication from a specific department or location by adding an online chat function. One nice example is WPMU Chat.
8. BuddyPress. I have not seen too many BuddyPress sites that have a nice UI, but this plugin could potentially add many intranet features like employee profiles, private messaging, forums, and much more. It has built in functionality for groups and group management, profiles, messaging, blogging, and forums. Like an internal “social network” for communication. BuddyPress is a heavy duty plugin so it does require customization to make it work well for specific company needs.
9. Marketplace. WooCommerce. Professional quality e-commerce, extensive feature set, lots of payment gateway options, nice UI, the list goes on.
10. Galleries. There are many gallery plugins now, including the old standby NextGen Gallery. But the built-in gallery function in the latest version of WordPress is quite powerful on its own, not to mention customizable.
Option 2: All in one package
Of course, you could start with a plugin that already offers many of these plugin features in one bundled option. Something simple, like Simple Intranet. With Simple’s solution, you get many features built in, and – as you have likely figured out an important aspect for me – it’s customizable and extendable.
Once again, I realize the many applications for WordPress in website development. Intranets can be useful for small businesses as well as large corporations. While it might seem more obvious for small or medium sized companies to use WordPress for an intranet platform, I am curious to know how well it might work for a large national or even multi-national company.