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Benefits of an Extranet for Your Business

Historically, client reporting required significant manual input throughout the process, and needed a the input of multiple staff through the sign off process, however in modern business settings, where real time intelligence is essential, automating the process of reporting core data can provide a massive competitive advantage and suppoer better decision making.  As a result of the ability to achieve real time reporting, service businesses are adopting extranets for reporting services that provide client information online so that it can be accessed immediately.

An Extranet using SharePoint offers multiple benefits to organisations which go beyond basic reporting functionality. 

The ability to customise permissions for different user levels in a partner organisation means that the Extranet provide tiered data for different roles and as a result can streamline communication between parties, reducing the need for team members to provide documentation on demand.

A solid extranet combines features that allow improved communication.  In addition to reporting services, it can also act as a news hub with information about the business that partners might find useful.  This can ensure that clients are fully engaged with important developments in the relationship.

Extranets can be configured to incorporate real time reporting on what actions are taking place on a project by connecting to project management tools which means clients can view the current status of any work that is being undertaken and provide feedback as required.

A major advantage of extranets is that they allow for audited communication.  Rather than relying on email, where messages are often not tracked, communication via a SharePoint extranet can be used to set off specific workflows – including escalation processes and sign off for internal meetings or follow up actions for management when certain criteria are met.

Using an extranet as a contact hub enables easy access to team members both business and client side.  This means that a client will always have access to an informed member of their team and vice versa when action is needed.

Modern web based extranets using SharePoint are fully branded to match corporate identity, and incorporate SharePoint’s core collaboration services to improve sharing, and security.  They can be accessed via any approved device from anywhere in the world to gain important information.

Planning an Extranet

When planning an extranet for your organisation, you need to invest time in understanding the precise requirements of clients as well as those of internal stakeholders.  We’d recommend including clients in the initial workshops in order to get feedback on what information they want to access through the service.

With a thorough understanding of the information that needs to be included, the development process should involve an audit of how that information will be collected internally before being exposed through the Extranet.  This may involve the creation of multiple workflows and sign off processes internally, as well as some investigation through the development team to ensure that the desired information is accessible and reliable.

The extranet build process normally falls into two main phases: the technical development phase when the specification will be agreed and enacted, followed by a branding exercise to bring the user facing design in line with corporate identity.  This should involve input from various areas of your organisation including marketing, client services, and technical development.

Ongoing Support

The primary goal of the Extranet is to enable clients to access information in a timely manner while freeing up internal staff from additional communication.  With this in mind, robust technical infrastructure is essential.

Cloud Hosting for SharePoint or SharePoint Online both offer reliable access platforms and ensure that demand at peak times will not be met with slowdowns or outages that could undermine user confidence.

At igroup we provide ongoing technical support for SharePoint and supported applications to give our clients confidence that their clients will be able to access their extranet data simply and effectively when they need to.

For more information about how a SharePoint extranet can benefit your business, and to discuss your needs with a member of our consulting team, please contact us today on 0203 697 0302, or request a call back from a member of our team.

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