Intranet vs. Extranet
Intranet and Extranet are too often confused in the vast world of the digital workspace and interactive collaboration tools. Though Intranet and Extranet can have some similar features, they have key differences in terms of applications, use cases, technologies, and features.
They also need different technical expertise. While Intranet is often a standard tool inside organisations, Modern Extranet Platforms need to mobilize much more advanced skills in Technology, Data, Security, and UI/UX Design.
In today's context, Extranet has become one of the most strategic places to do business with external partners, members, third-party stakeholders or customers.
Definition of an extranet
Gartner defines extranets as “a collaborative, internet-based network that facilitates inter-company relationships by linking an enterprise with its suppliers, customers, or other external business partners. Extranets provide secured extensions of internal business processes to external business partners”.
An Extranet is a private collaborative space allowing some specific third-party partners, clients, external people that do not belong to the company or organisation to log in safely. In the extranet, they can explore exclusive content (that is not available on a public website). They can also learn, exchange ideas, and collaborate inside a secure network.
Extranet is used for external and internal communications.
It is much more than a knowledge sharing tool or a document sharing system. Extranet can embrace many more collaborative features and options.
Definition of an intranet
An Intranet is a private digital space for employees within an organisation. Intranets usually centralize documents, events, information, and directory in a unified platform. They can be accessed only by the staff having the same professional email (eg: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org). Intranet is an internal communication channel.
A modern Extranet is a strategic digital space to create business value
As digital transformation is accelerating, companies, institutions or associations are investing much more in their Extranet. To learn, to collaborate, and share exclusive content.
Because, at the end of the day, a website is just a visiting card and an intranet is just about sharing knowledge among colleagues inside the same company.
Traditional Extranet are dump boxes where nobody liked to log in, unless forced to.
Having a NextGen Extranet (Member Experience Platform) is about strengthening your brand reputation, increasing your professionalism, and generating new business revenues.
It is a private secured space to exchange with external partners, vendors, clients, stakeholders, companies, members, federations, associations...
How to choose the right Extranet for your organisation?
Best-in-class businesses and associations have an Extranet that is fully distinct and separate from their intranet and internal document sharing systems.
Features of a modern Extranet
A modern and successful Extranet must necessarily encompass the following dimensions:
Cost-efficient, scalable, and mature platform
Stunning Design Experience, end-to-end. User-centric, not IT-centric.
Complete Personalized communication, keeping the full control on who is allowed to see what kind of content and piece of information, how, and when.
Rigorous and flexible User Access and the Right Management
Hyper cyber-secure place to collaborate in real-time, with advanced security and authentication features
User engagement and real-time updates notifications, without friction and across all devices
Mobile First, beyond the desktop extranet
Customizable enough to adapt the specific working cultures
Flexible enough in terms of architecture for future evolution
Many deep integrations to create a unified digital ecosystem and unlock growth
Hyper-automations for staff productivity gains (Membership Lifecycle, Invoicing, Events, Policy...)
Types of Extranet
An extranet can come with different flavours depending on the external services and resources that are required to be shared with trusted third parties:
Modern Member Area - Member Community Platform
Partner Management Portal for Channel Sales and Marketing
Customer Portal, Supplier Portal
In all cases, a modern Extranet Platform should be a secure digital platform where selected third-parties can perform collaborative work in real-time, exchange data, and learn and discover exclusive content, services or tools.
Extranet/Member Platform is a key strategic asset for Business associations. It is the core from which member relationships are managed and new revenues can be generated.
Build or Buy an Extranet?
A custom-made Extranet built from scratch is the riskiest option. And the most expensive.
Building an Extranet is no solo project. You need a big development team with extensive technological skills.
Front-end and Back-end developers, cybersecurity experts, UI/UX designers, technical writers, quality managers, and full-stack web developers.
And even if you have all these bright people, it takes them much longer to develop an Extranet than you might think, even if it’s their priority.
Making your own platform might seem appealing at first, considering that you can decide what the product will look like and do, but, at the end of the day, it’s a losing game.
However, when it comes to building a new extranet, some associations (even today!) are choosing the same old approach and the CMS framework that they choose for building a public website,… thus, they end up making the same mistakes that their peers used to make 10–15 years ago!
Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, Typo3 … are great for building public websites. But these CMS are NOT at all suited to building a serious technology platform like a secure Extranet/Member Platform.
The 3 reasons why your Extranet has failed.
1. When you create an Extranet based on a Website CMS (Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, Typo3…), you create a new content SILO, not connected to your other digital tools.
Do you still live in a digital world where your Extranet is NOT connected to your current digital ecosystem? If you choose to build your Extranet on a website CMS framework, it will continue to be a SILO and your staff will keep transferring data from one Excel to another leading to manual errors and a huge loss in productivity.
2. Extranet as an extension of a website CMS has serious Cybersecurity issues
The CMS like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla... have huge cybersecurity issues and even a Junior Computer Sciences student can hack it. For a public website, it does not matter that much as the information is meant to be shared with everybody anyway.
But for an Extranet, where your most strategic and sensitive information and conversations are archived, it is not worth the risk.
3. “Fill up approach” — Extremely time-consuming for your staff.
There is a false feeling that 1 CMS to manage website and extranet “looks easier” to manage. On the surface only. The devil is in the detail. The reality is that you need to manually «fill up» and edit the CMS with each piece of content, one by one (events, documents, news, member data…).
This approach is a pure time waste for your team. The staff will need hours of work being “Extranet Webmaster”, for keeping the member area up-to-date.
A smart Extranet should automatically fetch content and data from connected digital tools. That is what Symantra's Extranet does. Some call it, the magic Extranet!
Old-style of Extranet from the 1990s and 2000s: Extranet limited to document sharing, events and directory.
Today, your members are looking for much more than viewing a monthly calendar and downloading the agenda-related documents offered by the old-school Extranet.
Is Sharepoint an Extranet?
NOPE: Sharepoint is NOT an Extranet, nor an Intranet.
Unless some IT guys tell you the contrary: they might have vested interests!
It is just a document-sharing system between colleagues inside a company or an organisation. It is not an optimized digital workspace to collaborate with external stakeholders.
In comparison, Sharepoint is not user-centric: it is too geeky.
It is not a branded nor personalized business community experience.
A modern Extranet is very different than Sharepoint, as it offers much more possibilities, features, and flexibility. Also, a modern Extranet offers a more pleasant interface and fully branded and hyper-personalized user experience.
While Symantra's NextGen Extranet/Member Platform can indeed integrate with Sharepoint, your members and third-party users should be at the core of the digital experience. #growthmindset
Leading international Membership-based organisations across Europe choose Symantra's Extranet, to grow faster and better, fully integrated inside their digital ecosystem.
Remove the IT guys in the middle.
Get a modern Extranet.
You should never be dependent on your IT department and IT geeks to manage your Extranet.
Anybody in your team (your Communication officers, Community Manager, and Membership manager...) should be able to manage in an auto-pilot mode your Extranet content and access rights, on their own.
A great Extranet Platform should be user-centric and easy enough to manage, without any IT skills required. Your team must be fully empowered to manage the Extranet and the digital ecosystem around.
The right partner to launch your modern Extranet
At Symantra, we are specialized in implementing NextGen Member Platforms. We work with many Business Associations and NGOs across Europe.
Any size, any sector, any policy.
Symantra Member Platform/Extranet is customized to the specific needs of associations. The Member Platform and the 360° digital ecosystem around are deeply integrated, resulting in productivity gains for your staff and much better experience for your members.
Join the leaders in association management.