Since their inception, intranets have revolutionized the workplace and the way employees collaborate and work together. But how do they continue to be such an asset? Through ongoing evolution that reflect technological and workplace advancements.

Andrew Dixon, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Igloo Software, spoke with CMSWire about the past, current and future state of intranets.

Intranets of the Past: Legacy and Self-Service

In the early days, Dixon found that many companies relied on what is referred to as the Legacy approach: tools, such as the still commonly used email that are based around the IT department.

This model wasn't collaborative or flexible and often required a lot of maintenance. Email was -- and still is -- used as a conversation and file sharing tool, but its limitations are many. Aside from setbacks like slow email servers, file limitations, and server problems, email is a closed communications device, keeping knowledge and information restricted to those included in the email trail.

Dixon says the approach changed in the 2000's with the introduction of cloud-based solutions, apps like Box and Yammer and social sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. These solutions weren't focused around the IT department.

It was a whole different breed of applications; they were self-serve, lightweight and easy to use, and there wasn't need for a lot maintenance,” says Dixon.

As with any form of technology however, these intranet tools, although effective, had their own flaws.

They were successful because the end users were promoting it themselves,” says Dixon. "But they didn't work with what IT had, they weren't secure, and they weren't integrated solutions. They only did one thing such as file sharing, screen transfers or micro-blogging.”

Performing one singular task wasn't enough for this kind of intranet to be a long-lasting, effective or favorable system, so changes had to be made to make intranets more dimensional, secure, social and collaborative. This is the stage that Dixon says intranets are currently at.

Today’s Intranets: A Product Suite

Individual tools in the past were good, but could only be used for one or two activities, which is why the product suite became the next step. Integrated product suites are collections of tools that are designed for those who need a highly collaborative, cloud-based, multi-tasking group of products to help with workflow management, employee engagement and collaboration.

All of those things together, in a comprehensive suite, allows you to be able to really ease your workflow with modern collaboration tools, and to make more use of the tools, so that they work the way you do,” says Dixon.

Employees have access to an interactive workspace or community and tools -- such as micro-blogging, wikis, discussion forums and activity feeds, which have the ability to be integrated with Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Lync and platform APIs.

While this method is a good way for employees to connect and collaborate, Dixon says the only next logical step is to move away from a product suite and into a platform.

The Igloo Platform

Looking Toward the Future

Although similar to the product suite approach, the platform is something that has every tool in one place: a singular, self-integrated platform. 

According to Dixon this is where his company, Igloo Software is headed. With Igloo, users get a customizable system of wikis, mobile access, forums, a social network-like feature and user analytics that can be accessed from a platform space. Dixon believes social business and intranet products are becoming more based around an end user design point, not an enterprise application standpoint.

Although the platform is the next stage, as technical and employee needs change, so will the idea of what an intranet is.

There’s been a revolution of tools that are continually becoming friendlier and friendlier because they are being built for people,” says Dixon. “The revolution is really a combination of social, mobile and cloud; These forces are converging and driving an incredible adoption of social technologies, because social tools help people process information.”