In the vast majority of SMEs, employees spend a lot of time trying to work out who to ask for information. Often the most senior member of staff is the fountain of knowledge, directing their colleagues to the files they need.
Employees are frequently met with responses such as “That's on the shared drive” or “I can't remember what folder it’s in, let me have a look.” They’ll then spend five minutes or so trying to remind themselves where it is, before they eventually dig it out and email it on. Years later when the document is needed again, someone has to navigate the search function in their email inbox, or sift through various folders to dig it out.
Managers are constantly asked for the same documents, such as the annual leave or sick leave policies, and without realising it spend great deal of their day sending the same information again and again. Time is wasted just trying to get hold of a document that you could have found in a matter of seconds by having it on an intranet – time that should have been spend doing productive work.
In the early days, these problems generally don’t manifest themselves too badly. A small, tight-knit group of staff can manage the flow of internal information easily enough. As the business grows and the staff numbers increase, as does the time it takes to track down the right information. By the time there are 10 or 15 employees, the cost to the business due to loss of productivity becomes a real factor.
It has been estimated that, even with conservative figures, a company of 15 employees on average salaries could be wasting up to £10,000 per year paying staff to find information that should have been found in seconds. As the employee numbers grow, as does the cost to the business. Add to that a sudden move to remote working, and these problems are amplified exponentially.
A lot of companies also struggle with managing customer or supplier information, which is often kept in relatively unreliable formats such as Excel spreadsheets. These spreadsheets were often started by and stored by the business owner back in year one, but over time the database has gotten large, and been stored in a shared drive somewhere.
These documents might even get emailed around to different team members, who add their own client information, resulting in different versions being saved. These methods require a lot of management in order to keep on top of the information. If the business owner spends even 30 mins per week tracking down or managing this information, that could cost the business over £1,000 per year, not to mention the distraction from revenue-generating activities.
For new starters, onboarding information is often kept in a shared drive, or even on the desktop of the person who created it. Trying to get information out to new starters efficiently can be a big problem. Particularly for small to medium-sized companies that might not yet have a handle on their HR processes.
It has been estimated that manually onboarding a new employee can cost the business up to £1,000. By having an onboarding category on your intranet, enrolling new starters becomes as simple as directing them to it and letting them digest the information it contains. The material is also easily found again if it needs to be referred back to.
If a local network drive goes down, no one has access until it is fixed. In contrast, an intranet can be accessed on phones, tablets, computers or laptops using mobile data or Wi-Fi, because it is cloud-based. When a company is using a cloud-based drive, they normally access it via a VPN or Active Directory login. This process is not very straightforward, and often involves downloading some sort of app on your phone. With an intranet, you simply enter a URL into your browser, so access is easy and user-friendly.
Poorly managed internal knowledge and information is costing SMEs big. It is throttling the productivity of entire organisations. It is like a tap that won’t fully open, or a rev limiter on your motorbike. An intranet removes that throttle and allows your organisation to operate at its full potential. What’s more, it enables your business to scale effectively, before that throttle becomes even worse.