When it comes to maintaining an intranet, the most important is not the platform or software but the dedication of updating and maintaining the site.
After all, you can get the most expensive world class software that may cost hundreds of thousands to build, it would remain nothing but a white elephant if you do not have responsible and dedicated resource to take care of it.
Therefore, if you are riding on limited resource and all you want is an information portal to contain reference for your staff, you can build it using WordPress.
Installation, hosting and audit requirements
Intranet systems are generally protected by firewalls. Hosting the intranet would depend in your IT team- whether it is to be hosted in cloud or within the company’s servers. It would not be within the scope of article to address the scope of installation.
Also, most companies would require audit trail for pages for updates on pages as well as maker and checker option. WPBeginner has written an excellent post with regards to the different roles you can assign to your site- you would need to check if it can pass your internal audit’s requirement.
It is serious, please address this issue first because you do not wish to put in months of effort with the site going live only to be told by audit that there are potential risk issues that you need to fix.
Now assuming you have all the above matters sorted out, let’s move on…
Structuring information for your intranet
I will be covering more on how you can structure information in an information portal or intranet riding on WordPress platform.
Now, WordPress itself contains a lot of free themes- but you could encounter a lot of limitation when you wish to customize the site and layout unless you know php and css.
Therefore, when you are building an intranet using open source software, you may require a theme that allow you to build custom sidebar and pages to opt for different product and services that you offer. As I am using Thesis theme for my sites, I can only advise based on the customization using Thesis theme. Please feel free to explore other themes.
Layout and navigation
For clarity, let’s use an example of setting up an intranet for an insurance company. Let’s say you are tasked to come up with an intranet with very small budget.
Here are some suggestions:
Static pages to use “Page format“:
Top navigation bar to consists of common areas as well as frequently accessed:
- Home- to allow users to click to go back to the homepage
- Products offered- when users click on the page, a listing of all products (example houseowner insurance, travel insurance, investment linked, etc are listed)
- Directory – consisting of customer service number, sales branches and agency offices
- Standard scripting and complaint handling
- Handbook and codes– example containing technical terminologies and standard turnaround (example how long does an autopay form gets processed or how it takes for claims to be processed)
- Guide for the corporate login site– many of your staff may not hold the policies and products, hence they cannot visualise the contents of the customer postlogin pages. A prototype as well as detailing various error messages and ways to manage these errors would be useful
- Recent updates/ emails– you can use this portal to announce updates and changes (publish using the format of a blog post)
For example, when your staff clicks on travel insurance, the user would be brought to a custom page and sidebar focusing on travel insurance product feature, brochures, fees and charges, terms and conditions, process and procedures (eg channels of signing up, how to submit claim, documentation required) and frequently asked questions.
To give you are better picture, just like for this site, when you are reading this article, you would notice that my sidebar carries articles related to intranet because this article belonged to the intranet portion. But if you click to other tabs on the top navigation menu and read its related article, for example an article on career, the sidebar looks different.
How to structure the information at your custom sidebar for your intranet
Each of your products would contain different elements like features, paid price, frequently asked questions.
When I run a blog like this one, I automate most of the contents in my sidebar (such posts displayed according to categories) using plugin and shortscript.
However, when I managed intranets in the past, I would manually list down the items on the sidebar. It is advisable for you to manually list the items in the sidebar as most information (except recent news or happenings) are quite fixed and static (unless there are product changes).
Should you use a Page or Post format for fixed topics?
My recommendation is that if you are publishing articles such as product features or fees and charges, you should use the “page” format. WordPress supports nested pages.
For example, you can have a main “Fees and Charges” build on Page format. Then a subset of the “Fees & Charges of Travel Insurance” which the parent page is “Fees and Charges”. Take note that the permalink structure would look something like this:
Hence if you suddenly remove the parent category, any links pointing to the old link would break. Therefore, you need to decide carefully when assigning parent category, or else if you need to do a change, you would need to change all incoming links to that category.
You can also download the plugin that enable you to assign categories and tags to Page structure (by default WordPress only allow you to assign for Post structure). That would allow you to structure and sort your pages based on categories, for example under Travel Insurance you can see the pages you build related to it if you assign the specific category label to it… which will make it easier for you to find and edit your article.
Permalink structure for Blog Post
If you are using a Page structure for information and Post structure for news/changing info, then it is advisable to assign date and month permalinks to your Post structure so that your users can see the date of the article upfront from the published date.
By using that, you can updates by the site instead of emails (it is not surprising because I’ve worked with a number of bosses that spoke of the intention to discontinue internal email and to get staff to refer to intranet for updates). The emails can be archived just like a blog’s archives. This would benefit new joiners where they can check on past announcements since they do not have those old emails.
However if you are recycling the same blog post for different articles- for example, I used to have 10 generic posts which I reuse again and again to publish news which is placed at the e-news section which contains quick reads of changes that my staff need to take note off….for those you can use non date permalinks.
Hopefully, the tips above would give you an idea on how to set up an intranet using WordPress structure.
With determination, you can set up a useful intranet using any platform or software with whatever budget.
I have operated an intranets using the most primitive system (heard of notepad html pages?) and still get people to use it because I am dedicated to get the information updated.
If you want to get users to use your intranet, the information must be current and helpful.