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Friday, September 17, 2004

Website Planning - intranets and extranets

What is an intranet? And what is an extranet?

To make the Internet work, standards were established like TCP/IP and HTTP. These standards allow networks and computers to communicate, and the end result is browsers delivering a wide range of information to the desktop.

It did not take long to figure out that if you could build a website easily to provide information over the Internet, you could build the same sort of website to provide information over a Company network to everyone in the company. The company network is only accessible to those that work in the company. Now one browser can deliver Internet websites and company only websites.

These websites can provide information about company benefits, company news, and company processes and procedures. These networks are called intranets.

What kinds of disciplines are associated with intranets? Because websites are a great place to store, organize and present documents, companies started to put information on intranets that were critical to running a company. Disciplines like knowledge management, portals, and content management are associated with intranets, because intranets provide the structure to share knowledge and content accross an organization.

What about an extranet? Here is a story. A salesman from Acme comes to call, he is asked about an order, he signs on to the Acme intranet to see the status of the order, and he tells the customer the status of the order. It is a critical order, and the customer calls the salesman four times the next day to follow the order on its shipping journey.

Finally the salesman goes to the Acme technical people and pleades for the customers to be able to see the status of their orders. It is done. Now the customer can sign on to the Acme intranet and see the status of their orders without bothering the salesman.

The intranet just crossed company borders; it is now an extranet. Perhaps the next step is to allow the customer to enter orders directly into the Acme extranet system.

What are the disciplines that get associated with extranets? Because extranets facilitate communication between companies, called B2B (Business to Business), extranets encourage systems that follow the supply chain from order to delivery.

Website planning should include considerations about whether this website should be on the Internet, an intranet, or an extranet.

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