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Why Intranet, and why different one

I watch periodically Internet articles and blogs dealing with intranet problems, to keep vision where tends evolution in this area. Here are results of my very personal research.

Problems of middle and small factories are other than problems of corporation. Central and lower chiefs, on arrival at the work place, instead of morning coffee, hunt for information on previous shifts plan filling, production quality, down time and causes, laboratory analysis, or job changes in production. They need this information in order to hand out work, ensure remedy, or in order not to look like an idiot on morning dispatching, who gets to know about problem as the last one.

Production data collection in small factories is not done at all, in better case is done by help of paper slip, in the best case data are entered to the clumsy Excel.

Try to provide needed data to your workers by means of intranet. Try to intranet applications, which enable data entry right in process area, save data on the secured server and display results on any PC wherever in the factory. Try to create different intranet working with real data and in real-time.

Several discontinuous notes and personal experience with intranet development in small factory follow (without title to universal acceptance).


At building-up intranet, fundamental question is what this will be about. If you want primarily share documents, direction, offer to dowload forms and if you expect that employees will contribute by their stylistic exercise and in addition you expect increasing productivity yet, you will be disapointed.

Intranet orientation should be derivated from factory activities. I am sure you will find a lot of paper sheets, or files, which your staff daily fill in and resend. If these forms contain some data, which somebody else really needs, intranet orientation is found.


Do not wait help from top management. They have other troubles and preferences. The best help they can do for you, is to let you work. Avoid committee, nothing resolves, only adds you problems, like always. The best help is from middle and lower leaders, headmen and masters. These are just those people that know real factory processes.

Do not copy Internet nor corporate intranet. Your intranet must solve problems of your factory. Articles, blogs, wiki may be extension, not base. Normal user will enter data, which are related to his workload, to the intranet forms with pleasure. But do not press him to write belles-lettres.


Avoid projects if possible. According to project it is possible to build house or set tree. But to birth son according to project can perhaps manager only. It is exception when application development proceeds without problems. Sometimes after month of parturient pain you have to throw away prime concept and start all over again. Basic goal of projects is to shorten terms. Creative work and terms are antagonism, under term pressure you can produce aborted application easily.

On the other hand, concept or draft is very usefull, few points: what application is going to solve, what data are needed, what user role are defined, it is absolutely ok. Concept can help you to find comformity in discussion with incoming users.


Free yourself of Office files. It is extremly difficult for server to retrieve data from Excel file. Files are good for documents. Production and technological process data should be saved in database. For intranet application isn't problem open database from another application and obtain needed, actual data. In that way production report can contain data from other applications like product type catalog, production plan, down time etc.

Excel file containing down time data from last month and published until next month, even completed with nice graph is good at most for bonus reduction, but never for operative maintainance management. As far as you mean yourself, that such .xls document you can update every day several times, download, edit and save back to server, all that by several users in parallel, try it on live.


There are some advantages for intranet applications, over desktop programms:
You do not have to install anything on client PC (except browser). Immediately after application is installed on server and link to that application is located on intranet home page, at the same time it is available to all users. Small programm changes are possible on running application, this changes comes to light at all users immediately.

It is possible to run intranet (web) application in any modern browser, regardless of platform. So if you plan, or are already running e.g. Linux stations, intranet applications will run on these stations also.

You can control user access to every page of intranet application by help of SSO, no complicated ACL managed by network administrator is required. Only one simple database table containing list of users and their role.

Well designed navigation can release users from useless entering parameters. In most cases users can do all job with mouse clicking (except edit). For example: each bar in graph may link to report or form with different requested date.

Intranet applications are usually ready made to actual needs. There are no need for vast general-purpose functions, options, settings. Good application do nothing more then is expected. Simplicity at programming and largely at usage shoud be your target. In fact you can build literally miniapplications.

Intranet applications have very good response time. Only requested page with limited data are loaded into already running browser. Data which you are not interested in stay on server. On the other hand desktop program have to start first and then download often huge document file. All that causes longer response.

updated 1.11.2006