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What does an intranet mean to you? Do you expect it to be just an internal website, where you can consult company-related information? Or do you expect it to be a central gateway to the most frequently used internal applications and services, a tool that facilitates collaboration and improves employee involvement? Thanks to new technologies, the intranet’s potential and role as a communication tool within organisations have evolved enormously.
The Province of Antwerp knows all about old and new-generation intranets. Its old intranet, which had been operating for six years, was out-of-date. In fact, compared to today’s intranets, it was positively prehistoric. Nor was it very user-friendly. For instance, the navigation was not transparent, making it difficult for users to find the information they wanted. What’s more, the people supplying information were unable to put anything online themselves, since the content-editing process was centralised and had to be arranged through the Communications Department. So most content was rather static and outdated. Moreover the intranet was difficult to maintain, had poor search features and did not allow any user interaction. Plenty of reasons then for the Province to choose a new-generation internal communication tool.
The new intranet proved to be quite a challenge for the Province of Antwerp, not least because the organisation has around 2000 members of staff who work in some 70 departments at 40 locations. Needless to say, each department has its own specific information requirements, and the province must take into account all locations and all members of staff at every level, from workers in the parks department to middle management and top management.
This brand new communication portal features an attractive homepage, with a clear navigation structure. The Province of Antwerp also aimed to make its intranet as interactive as possible and very easy to use, in order to engage all users. This goal was achieved in a number of ways. Departmental notices can for example be posted on the new intranet and people can respond to them, a feature not unlike microblogging. Staff can also place wanted ads and set up forums on it. All users can perform a number of actions on each page, such as reporting corrections, and all staff can upload a photo of themselves to their own personal profile page. Thanks to the ‘Who's Who’ application, an online directory of the province’s workforce, it is now also far easier to search for information on members of staff. In addition, each department now has one person responsible for providing information for the intranet and ensuring it is kept up-to-date. In this way, the Province has empowered individual departments, and is able to keep lines of communication short when providing information.
The Province of Antwerp’s intranet project was carried out under a two-year partnership between the Province’s Communication and IT Department, Amplexor and Internet Architects. Liferay Portal Enterprise technology was used as a platform to build this new-generation intranet.