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Weave a Social Intranet for Long-Term Business Success?

Startups are perpetually proliferating. How can a company's internal network help with collaboration and communication?

22 Nov. 2016 Lutz Hirsch
International networking with the social intranet? (Foto: Eyo)

The startup and creative industries are Germany's poster children for digitalization. Their business models have a digital mindset baked into their DNA. The same is true for the working habits of young companies and creative agencies. Where large firms in traditional industries often lag behind when it comes to digital real-time communication across locations and devices, these methods are considered a given for creative types and startup workers. When it comes to quick, simple project management or document storage, many decision-makers in the startup and creative industries understand how tools from the cloud can help. But what about internal networking at young companies?

The answer is clear and simple: There remains a lot of work to be done. The quicker a company grows, the more crucial it becomes that internal transfer of information and knowledge be nurtured and orchestrated. Why? Because many startups and agencies are defined by their rapid growth. To keep ahead of the competition, however, they need digital instruments for communication and collaboration. Such tools help make work more productive and efficient and drive innovation. A social intranet offers precisely these functions and can support companies with a variety of key tasks:

Integration of new employees and internal networking

Fast-growing companies need a steady stream of new, qualified employees. Finding them and binding them long-term to the company is an art unto itself. Foosball tables, office dogs, flexible hours and feel-good managers can help. But after obtaining a certain critical mass — perhaps 100+ employees — a social intranet with employee profiles helps bring clarity and promotes communication and collaboration. Employee profiles are also relevant when establishing project teams. They serve as a form of "competency database", indicating an employee's responsibilities, skills and competencies.

Archivable communication paths

Image one employee using Slack, another chatting on Skype and a third texting on Whatsapp. This can devolve into a shadow IT system — a nightmare for any IT administrator. A social intranet can help. For one, it allows for top down communication, which can be necessary even in flat hierarchies when official announcements are required. For another, it also allows for bottom-up communication and other models tailored to the needs of the employees. Modern social intranet software has long offered newsfeeds like those on Facebook, business chats like on Slack, mobile apps for messaging while on the go and even video calls.

Sustainable knowledge sharing and growth driver

Social Intranet
(Illustration: Hirschtec)

The bigger the company, the more important it becomes: sustainable knowledge sharing as a sub-discipline of communication. This includes for example a company Wiki as a social intranet component, bundling expert knowledge and making it easier for employees, especially new ones, to feel their way into topics and projects. The social intranet thus becomes a central platform for all employees seeking quick and uncomplicated access to relevant information and files. And beyond that: by helping drastically reduce the learning curve for new employees, those workers begin pulling their weight quicker. They are soon themselves in a position to help other new employees as well. As such, a social intranet is also a growth driver.

Establishment of clear structures and processes

In the founding phase and early years of a startup or agency, many employees feel like they are responsible for everything. Once a certain size has been reached, however, that no longer works. Decision makers must delegate tasks and employees must assume responsibility. The social intranet helps establish spheres of responsibility, define clear task responsibilities and break down complex work processes into mappable steps.

Social intranets no longer represent a major cost factor. Quite the contrary: they are affordable. The introduction of modern platforms such as Bitrix24, coyo, Just Social, Intrexx Share and Xelos cannot be compared with the huge costs associated with traditional intranets. Beyond that, these innovative social intranets are tailored precisely to the needs of digital companies in the startup and creative industries.

What is certain: those foosball tables and hammocks may give a different impression, but at some point thriving companies, even startups and agencies, begin to become "quite normal" commercial enterprises. A properly established social intranet can help lay down the necessary structures for ongoing corporate growth and long-term business success.