The ability of an organisation to communicate effectively across and throughout itself is critical to its efficiency and quality of output. Historically, intranets have helped groups reduce paperwork and improve efficiency, but increasingly, businesses are looking to update their systems and refine their practices.

The extranet is upon us, and to ignore the outstanding benefits of extranet innovations and collaborative, cloud-based platforms is to be left way, way behind.

Extranets allow for cross-organisational collaboration, paving the way for business partners to communicate; converge practices, knowledge and skills; and mutually benefit in a way previously impossible.

A business universe without proper systems of communication

Imagine a world where employees sought the staff kitchen walls to view post-its on the latest health and safety updates, and to find out about next month’s schedule of training and one-to-one feedback sessions. Spreadsheets are formulated over yesterday’s crosswords, reports analysed and dissected with fridge magnets.

Without integrated systems of communication businesses would fail to work cohesively on projects and accounts. Mistakes would be made doomed to repetition; crucial information would float into the ether.

Intranets and what they do

So instead, companies developed customised, in-house systems of communication – intranets – ranging from the basic to the complex, their intricacies masterminded, tweaked and maintained for the various day-to-day business ins-and-outs by the coffee-stained IT support staff, who, god bless ’em, have always been on hand should said systems ever falter. Which, on occasion, they do.

However, despite the odd emergency, such intranet systems have successfully provided organisations with the facility to communicate instantly from within and across departments, to collate and store important information on company databases, and to create and send documents, all within a secure and closed, online environment.

The limits of traditional intranets

But these deeply-imbedded intranets have a tendency towards stodginess. They are inflexible and idiosyncratic with user-training a necessity for not only new employees, but also for existing workers moving from one department to another. The IT setup can be laborious and costly, with maintenance a heavy, ongoing investment.

Extranet, extra advantages

But nowadays, those uninspired, inefficient in-house setups are being phased out and replaced with online collaborative systems that provide tremendous benefits.

Ready-to-go and user-friendly, cloud-based extranets require no more than an invitation and you’re away. This is because they are designed to be inclusive and intuitive, encouraging effective project work, with accessible platforms that are both secure and customisable – all of which means that online workspaces are clean, quick and highly cost-effective.

The daily experience of collaboration, file sharing and project management is therefore greatly improved, and general procedure and process is tighter and logical. This kind of sensible efficiency would contribute to greater levels of higher-quality production in any organisation.

Extranet going further

But the decisive feature of extranets is that they cater to remote, external involvement. A smart, cloud-based system allows companies to provide access to essential partners from outside the organisation.

That could mean that a business partner or suppler is involved in online ordering and inventory management. Or perhaps a client is able to review and collaborate on the service and so track developments and give real-time feedback. Here, the emphasis is on flexibility, communication and responsiveness.

With it so easy to switch over to an effective, cutting-edge extranet, small to mid-sized companies are able to keep up with large organisations as they adopt new technologies and systems. And, crucially, they are creating new, cheap and highly effective pathways to success with their clients and trading partners.