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Information on demand will keep employees in the loop

IN the past few years the Internet and e-commerce have had a phenomenal effect on companies’ relationships with their customers. But while this effect has been the focus of much research, little has been written on the use of Intranets.

Many companies use Intranets to interact with their employees and i-commerce, or B2E, as it is termed, is an increasingly popular form of internal communi-cation throughout the world.

With today’s workforce characterised by globalised employees and virtual offices, employers are faced with additional obstacles in their efforts to communicate with internal markets. Walking the floor or large meetings are no longer economically or logistically feasible, so companies have turned to using Intranets as an alternative way of communicating with staff.

An Intranet uses the same protocols and principles as the Internet but is applied to a private network within an organisation. Through the use of software and hardware firewalls, Intranets are inherently secure and allow employees to access sensitive information, while protecting against outsiders accessing the network.

Intranets gained prominence around 1995 when large petroleum, clothing and pharmaceutical companies began adopting the technology. Before 1995 only leading-edge computer firms used Intranets.

Like the Internet, the way companies utilise their Intranet ranges from a basic electronic bulletin board to a fully managed knowledge system. Intranets are being developed to enhance communication with remote employees, provide training, minimise the costs associated with traditional media, to provide sensitive information and to establish a sophisticated knowledge management system.

Intranets have provided B2E benefits in the human resource area, where rationalisation has resulted in fewer people taking on more tasks.

In the US, where legislation requires employers to provide information on benefits, Intranets are enabling staff to access the information themselves. Prior to US manufacturer Black and Decker introducing an internal network, the company found there was a lot of confusion because so many different people were explaining benefits information to the 12,000 staff across the country.

As the correlation between productivity, profits and employee job satisfaction becomes more widely noted, B2E has become more important. However, employers, particularly large, multinational organi-sations, are not always effective communicators of information.

One of the reasons for poor communication is that traditional tools, such as telephones or email, do not lend themselves to providing accurate information to employees on demand. A properly managed Intranet can allow employees to get correct information where and when they need it, while also providing infor-mation to each other and to the organisation.

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