In a world where we can instant message with a friend halfway across the world at any time of day, while browsing his latest vacation photos, it seems odd that communicating with someone in our own office can often feel so troublesome. "Typically, employees who use social networking tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter in their home life are often frustrated when a company's legacy intranet does not have similar social functionality and collaboration tools," says Tom Wentworth, vice president of web solutions at Ektron. Enter the company's eIntranet, released at Enterprise 2.0 in Boston on June 14, which combines social software and web content management in one enterprise application.
"Approximately 400 million people now use Facebook everyday without having been taught how to do so," explains Bill Rogers, Ektron's founder and CEO. "Our eIntranet product offering is designed and built around best practices that have been proven to increase adoption and retain its users much like Facebook but for a business audience."
It allows for intranet users to share and exchange information just as they do with friends at home. Using personal profiles, groupspaces, forums, blogs, calendars and wikis, internal teams can collaborate on documents before sharing them with the entire organization. eIntranet ensures that everyone is informed instantly of status updates and has access to the most recent versions of documents.
IT departments can use Ektron's customizable widgets to integrate with business-critical systems. Developers and marketers can create their own widgets or download the latest widgets from the Ektron Exchange. Drag-and-drop widgets may be added or removed based on preference or advanced technical intranet demands. In addition, eIntranet offers mobile capabilities. Critical information is delivered to employees via SMS alerts, e-mail or the eIntranet Mobile App anywhere, anytime.
Collaboration is a key performance driver in many companies, particularly where knowledge sharing is important. Rogers cites research conducted by Frost and Sullivan that found 36% of a company's overall performance is driven by its ability to collaborate and share information. With that in mind, Brookstone uses Ektron's eIntranet solution for its retail stores so that its over 3,000 employees can access and share product information, as well as collaborate with colleagues. Users can also rate and write reviews of documents.
Sales associates are able to find relevant sales materials, such as datasheets, through the improved search and navigation. They can search not just by title, but also by user ratings, and the amount of views a particular document has received. In Brookstone's case, the eIntranet platform's analytics capabilities allow management to see what information is accessed and shared. They can monitor what's hot and what's not, by observing usage statistics and making adjustments to their marketing mix as required.
Rogers feels that analytics are extremely valuable in determining the most efficient allocation of marketing dollars spent on collateral material used by sales representatives in order to better sell the products in stores. Upper level marketing managers can customize content when usage statistics dictate that sales associates find certain marketing materials more useful than others.
"It takes a significant amount of time and effort to build an intranet that uses social networking tools," says Wentworth. "We found that customers weren't able to put in the amount of effort it would take. Therefore, what customers generally do is repurpose their existing tools and spend months and months trying to adapt something. Ultimately, it fails." Although eIntranet was built on Ektron's CMS400.Net platform, customers don't need to purchase the platform to implement the social solution. In fact, they may use eIntranet in conjunction with existing programs and software already on their servers, making it possible for eIntranet to become a portal for other enterprise applications such as Sharepoint, CRM, HR, and ERP systems.
With a price point starting at $5,000 per year for 25 users, Rogers says, "We're not selling our customers a generic content management solution. We're selling them a product that is tailored to make intranets more collaborative and an overall better tool for enterprises."