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Intranets can be a pain in the neck. Very often, they fail to succeed due to a variety of factors: from poor UI/UX and IA, and a sad choice of technologies, to lacking user adoption. Ektron's (news, site) latest release of an intranet application -- eIntranet -- attempts to make intranets less useless.

The Big Intranet Hurdle

Many organizations struggle with intranets. They all seem to want them, but don't know what to do, once they got them. Some people manage to make full-time jobs out of those struggles. IA and content strategy issues aside, technology plays some role as well.

And, of course, we have many Web CMS vendors offering either standalone intranet applications, or the use of their web content management systems as the underlying technology, or technology vendors focusing exclusively on intranets. Just to name a few: Ektron is competing against the likes of MindTouch, Sitecore and Bitrix. All these options have their pros and cons.

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Ektron, by the way, offers eIntranet as an app that runs on top of their WCM product.

Generally, though, no technology is the answer to your intranet problems. The issue is much more complex than whether you use your CMS for intranet purposes or not -- especially in the light of rising social intranets, where social media behind corporate firewalls is blending with day-to-day tasks of checking the latest from marketing and searching for that well-hidden HR form.

What Does Ektron Have to Offer?

According to the vendor, they see the following as the top 3 benefits of their new app:

  1. Easy to use -- which comes as a result of them focusing on research and best practices. A good analogy here is: Facebook users didn't get trained, why do intranet users have to?
  2. Drive user adoption based on those principles. Shorter time to market is a big part of it. If intranets are too hard to build, the IT guys will cobble something together.
  3. Extend and integrate: be it with SharePoint, CRM or some other internal or external system.

So, in the new eIntranet release (having already been on the intranet path before), Ektron stresses the importance of several features:

Good ol' PageBuilder (that we saw shine in version 8 of CMS400.NET ) with all its widgets for creating mashups that take into account context of the content (home page vs. landing page) and the right social tools to solve the right problem. CSS

Activity streams and profiling: People you follow or friend show up in your stream with their status and activity updates. Employees can also send public Facebook wall-like messages, private messages, participate in threaded discussions, and use the share button (enterprise equivalent of RT). For profile management, integration with LDAP or AD is available, single sign-on only works in the Web CMS. Some information in an employee profile can be restricted via permissions management.

Personalized dashboard for every user on the intranet. Ability to use built-in photogalleries and other social tools.

Some document management under the hood with a concept of social navigation, where important docs are moved to the top. Document collaboration can also be part of employees' activities via drag&drop document upload and use of metadata. While there's no ability to work on a single doc simultaneously, there's the traditional check in and check out function, as well as versioning, history, ratings and the ability to edit in applications that users are used to, such as MS Word.

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Document Ratings

Collaboration in smaller groups inside bigger departmental intranet contact lists. Every group can have its own activity stream, blog, calendar, etc.

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eIntranet Department Page

Integration with Google Analytics, allowing to get all the useful metrics like conversion rates and traffic numbers.

The concept of mobile enablement via eIntranet’s mobile application, which allows to get relevant activity streams and notificationson the go

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Mobile eIntranet

Search is core to the entire application with basic and advanced, deep filtering capabilities.

Ektron's eIntranet is priced at US$ 5,000 for a 25-seat user license. Additional seats will result in additional cost. The license is limited to internal, not public-facing sites only.

And even though the eIntranet demo didn't win Ektron the title of JBoye's latest Web Idol, it could be an interesting solution to explore if you're an existing Ektron customer.