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Intranets Make Companies Work
by Bill Eager

While the general public remains excited about the information and resources available on the Internet, companies and organizations are jumping head-first into INTRAnets. The same technology that has created more than fifty million Web sites can enhance communications within a company.

Intranets can connect employees in one building or offices around the world. As a result, Intranets have applications that can improve both communication and workflow within an organization. Indeed, some information on an Intranet may only have Fig. 1 Employees access Intranet information. value for other members of a specific department. HBO uses their Intranet to send text, direct-mail samples, and promotional videos to members of its sales force. Ford connects members of design and manufacturing teams.

Intranets can enhance work processes. Visa uses its Intranet to significantly reduce the millions of pieces of paper that move between branches and member banks by routing data electronically. A Rockwell International facility has home pages for computer-controlled machine tools where operators can check out everything from the status of a machine to the number of pieces a machine has made for specific orders. Employees can access online forms (401K plans, healthcare benefits enrollment or changes, expense report forms) that automatically capture and route information and data through your organization.

Both of the popular Web browsers (Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator) allow users to access different types of files. For example, you can link to an Intranet Web page that opens a Microsoft Word file, PowerPoint presentation or Excel spreadsheet (see Fig. 1). Another application is training. Because Intranets are wired with high-speed lines, companies can add animation, audio and video that would be impractical with normal 56 Kbps modems. Education programs become particularly powerful on Intranets because employees can access "just-in-time" training. Sandia National Laboratory takes advantage of this type of training by transcribing videotapes of scientists. Text is then indexed and employees can search for specific lectures and view it on their PC.

Copyright Bill Eager. All Rights Reserved.

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