Can you run your intranet using just Google Apps or Salesforce Chatter?
5 October 2012
Could you run your intranet on a cloud-based solution like Google or Salesforce?
Google Sites is designed to host web content, so that's actually not so much of a stretch and some companies are already using it as an intranet. On a LinkedIn discussion, Darko Jaksic has recently argued that Google Sites, when combined with other features in Google Apps, is under appreciated as an powerful but easy to configure intranet platform. (personally, I agree with some of the arguments for Google Sites, but right now it appears to get little attention from Google is poorly integrated with Google+).
People have also been talking about the potential for using Salesforce Chatter as an intranet platform for a few years too and some are actively pursuing the idea. But writing recently on CMSWire, Jed Cawthorne, asked this question about Salesforce and concluded that Chatter isn't ready, yet.
Actually, really the question of on premises or hosted externally ("cloud" or otherwise) isn't really that much of issue. Lots of companies - big and small - already outsource their primary intranet platform.
Some vendor specialise in intranet packages that they will host for you. Just off the top of my head, they include… Bitrix Intranet, Claromentis, Igloo Software, Interact Intranet, Intranet Connections, Intranet Dashboard, Orchidnet, Small Worlders and Thought Farmer.
Other vendors - including Google - that offer hosted email and productivity suites also offer intranet solutions. Other major or well known players include Microsoft (Office 365 - using SharePoint), Zoho and IBM (Smartcloud - using IBM Connections). There are also solutions like Papyrs that directly target Google Apps customers.
I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer here - at least at a technology level. Different solutions will fit different organisations, based on a range of factors. In some the decision will be (unfortunately, short sighted) driven by cost and capability, but others will take a strategic or capability-based view. Others might just have an outdated view or entrenched departmental fiefdoms that override any rational planning.
This actually bring us to the question of what is an 'intranet'?
- Not just content management - While many people think an intranet is just an internal Website, its actually more than just a single system or an internally deployed Web content management system (WCMS). Read my post, a short history of intranets for more detail.
- Where its hosted doesn't matter - Where an intranet is hosted doesn't actually define the intranet - it doesn't need to be inside your firewall, just private and only accessible to authorised internal users (plus perhaps partners and maybe customers). The main issue is more likely to be about how your organisation views risk, data sovereignty and mobile access.
- What's the business & technology orientation of your intranet? - Is the intranet concept in your organisation anchored to content and portals (think classic internal communications intranet), line of business integration (e.g. CRM, HR) or productivity and communication (e.g email, enterprise social network, word processing, spreadsheets, files, etc). This may determine how much your organisation is prepared to invest in the elements of people, process, technology and content that underpin your intranet.
Can you run your intranet using just Google or Salesforce? Of course you can, if you want. But that doesn't make it the right solution for everyone or that everyone will adopt.