For so long, the company intranet was left unattended and somewhat neglected. Advances in the technology of the internet itself meant it was easier to look for information and resources on the world wide web rather than the company intranet.
But intranet, extranet, and enterprise collaboration tools have been growing in recent years. An industry report pegged the enterprise collaboration market to grow from USD 31.0 billion in 2019 to USD 48.1 billion by 2024. This is a Compound Annual Growth Rate on 9.2% over five years.
Growth factors behind enterprise collaboration tools.
The growth behind enterprise collaboration tools has been driven by the emergence of AI as a driving force for the improved usability of intranets and extranets.
Josh Smith, Product Manager for Google Drive comments on the success the Priority feature in Google Drive, “The intelligence that makes Priority so helpful is actually powered by your own day-to-day actions.”
Cloud services, a key force in growth.
Cloud services have also been a key force behind the emergence of third-party enterprise collaboration intranets such as Microsoft’s SharePoint and Google Drive. One report notes that the global cloud computing market size is expected to grow from USD 272 billion to USD 623 billion in the five-year cycle between 2018 and 2023. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 18%.
Reliance on the cloud has not only made widespread intranet and extranet usage more popular, but it has also removed much of the need for internal IT support in favour of cloud-hosting IT outsourcing services.
The modern intranet.
A refresher for everyone who forgot that intranets exist. The intranet is a closed-off network that is used by private members of a company. Access is restricted to approved members.
The intranet is still a requirement for most large organizations. It is good for housing documents and other company content. The intranet is also great for fostering team purpose and engagement. Its internet-powered architecture is perfect for in-group collaboration. Modern intranets can be used for telephony and message exchange.
But as employees are used to a certain level of usability and intuitiveness with the internet, they expect the same with their intranet. This is where AI is so useful, and has its mark over the future of intranets and extranets.
Future Trends of Intranets
Trends in intranets predict that several new features will take form and prominence over time:
Artificial Intelligence to the fore
AI is already beginning to perform some of the mundane work like auto-filling in of keywords and common questions. The fingerprints of ML are all over intranets in terms of voice recognition and error correction. Jason Mayes, Senior Creative Engineer at Google refers to emerging AI as, “human intelligence exhibited by machines.”
Personalized Experiences Improved
Intranets will also start to make the experience more personalized. The personalize experience will be achieved by investing efforts in learning user preferences.
In practice, the face of the intranet will become more welcoming by calling users by name, and picking up where they left off in tasks. This is the tried and tested domain of AI and ML.
The holy grail for developers is to improve the user experience. Even with intranets, dwell time is important. Google Drive already uses AI for its smart reply and smart compose functions. These tools make suggestions on the next word a user might need to type.
Staff members will begin to use intranets as gateways into the organizations they represent. Preferences will be tracked, and increasingly, team members will find preferences from their intranet browsing seeping into other daily applications.
Moves to Become Mobile Friendly
Normally a web offering, intranets will be more mobile friendly as organizations try to enter every waking moment of the lives of users. In the future there may no longer be a clear-cut logging off time as users may need to access the intranet on mobile devices after hours.
Chatbots are already happening and will become more common. Chatbots are intelligent and unflustered personal assistants who will never become annoyed by repeated questions. The chatbots in Microsoft Teams are tireless and eternally helpful.
Usage statistics and analytics are already the currency of the internet. Intranets will leverage off this to learn how to provide better experiences to users.
Developers will take just as much time and effort in studying trends in intranet behavior in order to keep users engaged with the experience.
High-Powered Search Capability
Imagine not having to exit your company intranet to be able to tap into all the knowledge in your organization or even the web at large. Staff productivity will increase by eliminating the trouble of swapping between different programs.
Already, the Explore function in Google Drive makes researching and writing reports much simpler. Using powerful AI, it makes instant suggestions based on the content in the document.
Google Drive recommends helpful supporting material when it detects a user is writing an analysis, summary or proposal.
Intranets will seek to provide a friendly, knowing interface. Social features on intranets will continue to evolve and will not be that distant from a user’s personal life.
This social integration could come in the form of a blending of the user’s private persona and a less traditional, less serious employee profile. This will present employees as more rounded people.
The Modern Extranet
Not to be confused with the intranet, an extranet is a private network which allows partners, vendors, clients, and other stakeholders to gain access to part of an organization.
Extranets can be used in a number of ways as a service extension or value add for clients or stakeholders. Think of all the service websites we use every day for banking, travel, dining, and entertainment.
Future Trends of Extranets
Extranets have traditionally had a slightly different emphasis to intranets. Future trends in this space are:
Security will become of greater importance for extranets. With the rise in remote working, intranets and enterprise collaboration tools will be subject to malicious attacks when employees use public networks and personal devices.
Companies will work ever closer with partners to ensure that access control, authentication, and encryption are taken care of. Google uses powerful AI to scan email attachments for malware. Gmail scans an incredible 300 billion attachments every week. According to the company, this smart AI eradicates 99.9% of malware threats.
There are ever-present security threats which AI is combatting on multiple fronts. Scott Young, CEO of outsourced IT company Penncomp warns of the dangers of security breaches, “Defense in depth is based on the first principle that there is no one, invincible security solution”.
Extranets Will Take Away Jobs
Market realities will force companies to move more operations and functions onto extranets. One way this could happen is to provide real-time services such as pricing or bookings. This is already happening, but will go to an even higher level. Almost every conceivable service that can be performed by a machine over a human will be introduced in the end. Time and money can be saved through extranets, and as AI becomes better at mastering mundane tasks, human jobs will be lost.
The Extranet as A Competitive Tool
The most sophisticated extranets can become invaluable to a company’s product and service offering. Extranets can establish customer loyalty if they continue to be useful and integral to clients. Over time, the best extranets will become rivals and a major part of the competitive landscape as businesses compete.
The much-heralded Internet of Things relies on an interconnectedness of personal and business systems. Intranets, extranets, and business collaboration tools will play their part in this interconnectedness.
AI drives experiences which adapt to the user. Adaptation to users helps them become more productive and gives users time to address other tasks. With AI underpinning more and more everyday office tools such as intranets, it is inevitable that it will become integral and irreplaceable in our lives.