Corporate intranets have long been the backbone of internal corporate computing. Once the domain of large-scale enterprises, they’ve made their way to companies of all sizes, and are nearly ubiquitous in one form or another.
But many modern companies are moving away from legacy intranet systems and choosing something a little different. Learning management systems (LMSs) have many of the benefits of corporate intranets but few of the drawbacks.
If you’re looking for the best corporate intranet system for your company, you may be surprised to find that it’s not an intranet at all, but an LMS. Let’s take a look at the difference between the two and the benefits of going with an LMS.
Corporate Intranet vs. Learning Management System
An intranet is a network that’s only available to a specific group of people. A corporate intranet, then, is a network only available to the employees of a particular company.
Over the years, though, “corporate intranet” has come to mean something rather specific. Corporate intranets are usually communication and collaboration systems. They often serve as a central repository for information at the company and provide project management and reporting features, as well.
Many enterprise intranets also offer flexibility in features. For example, some intranets let companies distribute training materials in the form of videos or text. Others support tests and quizzes to make sure employees learn materials effectively. Still others include features like video conferencing, content management, sales enablement, help desk ticketing, and issue tracking.
With all these possibilities, it’s difficult to nail down what defines a corporate intranet. But in the end, all of the options are central locations for storing and distributing information.
And that’s exactly what an LMS is—a hub for information creation, storage, and distribution.
But there are some crucial differences. Learning management systems tend to have more focused feature sets. Few, for example, enable collaboration on document editing (though they do allow collaboration in other ways).
Instead, they offer social information sharing that helps keep employees updated and connected. LMSes also emphasize reporting and data-driven decision-making. As platforms for learning, information-sharing, and analysis, they’ve taken over many of the functions of intranets.
And with more focused features and nicer interfaces, they make managers’ jobs easier. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that are convincing companies to replace their intranets with learning management systems:
1. Single Source of Truth
This is a common phrase in corporate intranet marketing. The idea of single source of truth comes from information design: it’s a system where every piece of data is stored only once.
Every other reference to that data is exactly that: a reference. Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say our company has a document about the sales enablement workflow. If there’s no single source of truth, the marketing and sales teams could both have a copy of that document.
If the marketing team makes an update to the document, but forgets to tell the sales team about it, they’re going to have conflicting documents, and that’s going to result in a mess.
With a single source of truth, there’s only one copy, and both teams reference it. If one team makes a change, the other team sees it. It’s much more efficient, and prevents conflicting versions.
Both corporate intranets and learning management systems are designed to function as a single source of truth. Documents are stored in highly organized hierarchies, and properly version-controlled. The collaboration tools we’ll discuss in a moment further expand this functionality.
And while you could use something as simple as Google Drive or Dropbox as a single source of truth, there are numerous drawbacks. Versioning, permissions, and a focus on collaboration make LMSes better suited to store this kind of information.
The reporting function of many learning platforms, which we’ll address shortly, make it easy to see if your single source of truth is working. Reports tell managers when documents are used, how well employees have retained information in them, and which pieces of content are being shared with customers.
This additional information helps you not only manage your single source of truth, but improve its efficacy.
2. Communication and Collaboration
Corporate communication tools like Slack, HipChat, Stride, Redkix, and many more have become ubiquitous. The biggest disadvantage to tools like these is that they’re not directly connected to your company’s other systems.
Many of them connect to Google Drive or other common apps, which makes them more valuable. But LMS communication tools take it to the next level. They’re directly connected to your cloud storage, issue tracking, and file sharing (our own solution also integrates seamlessly with Slack). Whether you use the system’s tools or integrate it with third-party options, these tools enable lightning-fast interactions with your data.
Enterprise-level intranets often include additional methods of communication. In addition to real-time messaging, you may get access to video conferencing, audio calling, file commenting, and more.
File commenting also dovetails with other collaboration features. Most corporate intranets let multiple people work on the same file at one time, enabling real-time collaboration even when employees aren’t in the same room—or country.
Change tracking, review workflows, permissions, and dynamic content embedding are included in some intranet packages, and add even more functionality to your teamwork software.
While learning management systems don’t usually offer file-editing collaboration, they do facilitate close communication (and sometimes file sharing). Social communication tools like blogs, content commenting, and live workshop broadcasting keep employees closely connected.
And when those are combined with third-party collaboration tools, employees are able to keep in close contact when they’re working on a project together.
When you’re managing a large group of people, it’s tough to stay on top of what everyone’s doing. You might not realize that one person or team has gotten behind on their tasks or run into difficulty until the issue has derailed the larger project.
LMS reporting solutions let managers and executives see at a glance what’s going on in their team.
Many corporate intranets have project-management-focused reporting. These systems focus on task completion, resource allocation, and workload. Other intranet systems may emphasize different types of reporting. For example, an intranet with learning and development features might tell executives how many employees have gone through a training module and how many passed the follow-up quiz.
High-end intranets even allow custom scripting and API access to create custom reports on the fly.
Learning management systems are usually less project-focused. Instead, they give managers information on how people are interacting with the content stored in the system. Are people watching your videos? Reading your newsletters? Taking follow-up quizzes?
These reports give managers a detailed view of the efficacy of the content stored in the system. Instead of micro-managing individual tasks, LMSes enable leaders to monitor how employees are growing and developing the skills necessary to become more self-sufficient and productive.
In the end, these reporting capabilities give a more complete picture of a company’s employees. There are plenty of tools available to make company-wide task management possible, but few take a more holistic view of company productivity.
4. Project Management
Project management software keeps large or dispersed teams coordinated on big projects. Corporate intranets unify communication, collaboration, and reporting to make it easier for managers to monitor the progression of projects.
Many of the project management features of corporate intranets are related to task management. Tasks can be assigned to specific team members, given due dates, plotted on Gantt charts and timelines, and be used to calculate workload allocation.
In short, this software gives managers the power to organize their teams for maximum efficiency. If one person is taking longer than expected, the manager can see it and reassign or reorganize tasks so the team can keep moving at top speed.
And because organization intranets connect so many different tools and services, managers can be involved in the entire project process.
As with reporting, LMSes tend to take a less project-focused view of growth and productivity. Instead, they help managers teach employees to be self-sufficient and gain the skills that let them power through any project.
5. Corporate Culture
Companies are placing an increasing emphasis on corporate culture. Values- and mission-driven teams are a huge help in the business world. Even after gathering the right employees, companies need to stay in close communication to shape corporate culture and keep employees engaged.
LMSes are perfect for distributing the information that creates an effective, positive culture. They’re built for distributing trainings (often organized into learning tracks) that help create an inclusive and diverse company culture. Some also include built-in support for employee recognition programs, the importance of which can’t be overstated.
Many systems give employees dashboards or homepages where communications from executives, newsletters, and other pieces of company information are highlighted.
All of these types of information keep employees involved in the wider goings-on at their company. This is increasingly important as teams become distributed across time zones, countries, and continents.
Whether at a global enterprise or a small startup, LMSes help establish a stronger culture. And that’s good for everyone.
Why LMSes Are Replacing Corporate Intranets
Corporate intranets have become a staple in the business world, with companies both large and small. And most of the benefits above apply to both types of systems. But many companies are opting to use learning management systems (LMSes) instead.
First, setting up a corporate intranet—especially at scale—can be time-consuming and effort-intensive. Permissions, reporting, APIs, and integrations are useful, but may require a great deal of IT expertise to set up and maintain.
Most LMSes are built to be plug-and-play, enabling quick setup and onboarding. Whether you have learning content prepared or not, your LMS can become a central information hub in no time. And you can keep any information you want there; it doesn’t just have to be trainings.
Second, the communication and collaboration functionality in many corporate intranets largely duplicate tools that businesses are already using.
Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox Paper, and similar well-known apps are in wide use. And while many intranet systems integrate with these apps, it seems like more effort than it’s worth to implement a new system over those that are already working well.
Third, corporate intranets are overkill for some businesses. If you don’t need all the functionality provided, why pay for it? There are certainly options that are more budget-friendly, but if you’re not using the system to its fullest extent, why use it at all?
Learning management systems are focused on information storage and distribution. They’re the single source of truth for the company, and ensure that every employee can get their questions answered quickly—and correctly.
LMSes make it easy to create, store, and distribute any information. Policy documents, training and development, and culture-building content are all highly accessible and distributed directly to employees.
In short, learning management systems meet the needs of most modern companies without providing extra features at extra cost. Unless you’re looking to completely retool how your company communicates and collaborate, you’re likely better off with an LMS.
What Does This Mean for You?
With learning management systems replacing many legacy corporate intranets, you have a new bevy of options when you want to improve the information flow at your company. Learning, development, collaboration, company culture . . . all can be significantly improved by a good learning management system.
And because there are so many available, you can find a learning management system that fits the needs of your company. If you need integrations with the apps you already use, you can get them. Want detailed reports on knowledge sharing within your organization? No problem. Track the content that’s being used and distributed? Simple.
The right learning management system can take your company to the next level through enhanced learning and collaboration. Check out our list of the top LMS providers to find the best option for your company!