But what if much of that communication and collaboration has to happen with external, third-party partners, suppliers or clients? Enter the extranet. An extranet is an extension of an intranet. Like an intranet, an extranet is a private network that is separate from the internet, but the difference is that it is available to selected users outside an organisation, whether individuals or groups.
The benefits of an extranet
Creating a network that breaks out of the confines of a business at first might seem counterintuitive – the whole point of an intranet is that it enables staff to use tools specific to them and their business. However, providing outsiders with limited access to certain elements of an intranet can create significant advantages.
- Process automation – extranets connected to external suppliers can be set up to monitor business activities and automatically place orders when certain parameters are met, such as supplies are running low or a specific event is coming up.
- Improved customer satisfaction and loyalty – providing customers and partners with access to their order, account and other information offers them greater control and convenience. The added benefit is that this can be viewed at any time, making the life of customers easier while reducing the burden on, and associated costs of, customer service operatives.
- More immediate and accurate information sharing – sensitive or important data can be changed and distributed to relevant parties at the click of a button, reducing any confusion or costly errors caused by delays, for instance updating prices or inventory information.
- Quicker time to market – sharing designs and specifications immediately with suppliers can improve the speed at which products can be created. An extranet can also keep customers and partners in the loop to stop them from losing interest in purchasing or investing.
Ultimately, an extranet breaks down the barriers between a businesses and external stakeholders. The benefits of improving such communication and collaboration can have a great positive impact on a company, driving innovation, efficiencies and ultimately profits. In short, an extranet offers extra benefits.