Lifehacker has a good article on how small businesses and teams need to “stop repeating yourself” and collaborate with a company “wiki” and use it as an intranet. Basically, you want a password protected web page where everyone on your team can view, edit and collaborate on ideas, processes and “how to’s” so a team member does need to keep asking for information or bother anyone on how to do something, what is so and so’s phone number, what is the time-off policy, etc. The basic premise is that if you need to send an email to everyone in the company about something (especially how to do something, a policy change, procedure update, etc.), you can probably post it on your small business intranet where everyone can access it.
If you can centralize your company documents, instructions, contact lists and procedures in one place, and make that information easy to update, then you have a fantastic time-saving resource. Moreover, you have gotten one step closer to automating your business, standardizing your procedures. You’ve also made your company more valuable because a) you can sell it as a “system” and b) you can have your company run by others who know what to do and how to do it.
Lifehacker recommends MediaWiki, the free open-source software that powers WikiPedia, to power your intranet. However, the learning curve is steep, it requires installation on your own web server and is not entirely user-friendly. There are many other professional solutions like HyperOffice and Microsoft Sharepoint but they have their own complexities – usually too many bells and whistles for a small business intranet.
We use and recommend EditMe. EditMe is like a user-friendly, password protected version of WikiPedia. Basically, you setup an account instantly, double click the page you are on and you can edit it in a regular Word-like editor. Same goes with the side menu where you will be adding links to other pages (which you can create in one click). Basically, you create a page, name it, then link to it on your menu – you can even attach files to each page (employee manuals, etc.). You can add users with different permissions (view/edit/delete, etc.) quickly and it sends email notices when pages have been updated. A basic account starts at $19/month (30 day free trial as well) and is easily the best $19 MyNewCompany.com has ever spent. I’ve seen all the intranet solutions and this is by far the easiest for small business.
Small Business Intranet suggestions:
- Have a “Home” page that everyone must check daily – this is where you post any important notices or updates – prevents endless “memo” type emails. Tip: set company browser home pages to this page.
- Let anyone make updates but make sure there is an “administrator” who can reverse those updates and “undelete” files and pages. EditMe has this feature.
- Recommended pages: Contact List, Procedures Manual, “How to” page (change printer ink, setup email account, etc.), Business Ideas, Suggestion Box, Marketing Info, Vendor List, Employee Contact Info, projects, etc.
- Make sure every employee uses it. EditMe takes 10 minutes to learn so every new and existing employee should get an overview.
If you need to collaborate on a higher level, you may want to consider, in addition to a small business intranet, using a simple project manager like BaseCamp. BaseCamp has some additional features that make managing tasks, projects and more extremely simple and they offer a free basic account.
So “stop repeating yourself”, setup your intranet now and focus on your business – you won’t regret it.