Enterprise Software

Google Sites as an enterprise intranet platform

Ian Hardenburgh considers the advantages and disadvantages of Google Sites for use as an enterprise intranet.

An Intranet can offer a lot to the enterprise in terms of content and document management for information workers needing to collaborate in teams. Depending on business need, an organization may require an advanced set of features in order to address these activities on at least a fundamental basis. And so long as the more advanced built-in reporting and workflow elements aren't necessitated, as can be seen with certain web application platforms like Microsoft S SharePoint, Google Sites can prove to be an extremely low-cost, yet effective, alternative to your more traditional CMS type of solution. Furthermore, given a serious commitment to some kind of integrated Google App Engine initiative, in order to fill the gap with some of its intranet deficiencies, Google Sites' scalability holds the potential to become relatively limitless.

Google Sites comes standard with Google Apps, the online productivity suite that is probably best known for its email, calendaring, and document creation products. Surprisingly though, Google Sites actually is centrally situated to all of them, when considering the fact that it can pull in content from both Google Calendar and Google Docs, and considering the idea that it offers numerous email integration capabilities. This is accomplished mostly through precompiled or custom (Google App Engine) scripts known as gadgets.

A user does most of his/her styling through a wiki-like interface that also allows for customized HTML and CSS web presentation. However, Google Sites WYSIWYG editor alone allows for your everyday user to perform many of the same design tasks that can be accomplished with any kind of markup language, not just HTML. In fact, outside of your more complex layout situations, it's probably better to use Google Site's GUI for development, as the internal mechanism for rendering code is a little bit dodgy.

Style and functional elements and Google gadgets for point-and-click inserting into web/wiki page...

Given Google Sites' development and design features, one would think it would make for an ideal platform for a company intranet. All the basic makings are there for creating and collaborating on documents, projects, team sites -- you name it. Additionally, an on-premise infrastructure is superseded by the idea that everything is hosted in Google's cloud. Conversely though, this ability to make Google Sites what you want can also serve as a disadvantage, as continuity across the enterprise becomes a concern.

The usual goal of each department, team or set of activities in an organization is to apply the same type of strategy for intranet site development throughout the company and to discourage information silos, in favor of sharing of knowledge across the enterprise. If control and standardization are important, your organization would be much better served through platforms like SharePoint, where rules permeate throughout each component. On top of this, most content management systems allow for access control down to each individual article or functional element.

As mentioned before, Google Sites certainly has the scalability to make up for this lack of standardization, but this is something entirely left to the organization employing its use. Notwithstanding, Google Sites at least warrants examination, as it can serve as a viable and easy-to-use communications tool amongst enterprise users.

See also:

10 myths about Google Sites debunked and dispelled

About

Ian is a manager of business intelligence/analytics for a small cap NYSE traded energy company. He also freelance writes about business and technology, as well as consults SMBs upon Internet marketing strategy.

2 comments
Ramanonos
Ramanonos

Interesting article. I think ease-of-use is often overlooked with all of these software solutions, which results in ineffective and costly training. Google sites is easy --no training. Still, I dont trust Google or Facebook with anything I want private. That's a huge show stopper. We tried many Intranet vendors, but settled on Centroy mainly because it was easy to use for the non-tech folks and didnt require formal training. They also made pricing simple by bundling all the features bundled in the core offering (things like document management, wiki, discussions, etc).  I'm not the tech guy, but I am very much the revenue guy, and efficient collaboration is an absolute must-have. That said, unless it's simply to use, all the other bells and whistles the technology guys push matter less if no one adopts. That's the dirty little secret about most of collaboration offerings --many on your list--which disregard the end-user experience. In theory collaboration can pay big dividends in terms of increased employee productivity; however, an important point missing here is that these tools need to be adopted in order to be useful, which means they need to be easy to use..Anyways, we've been pretty happy with Centroy. https://centroy.com  I'm not tied to them at all. Just a happy customer. 

KirksvilleWebDesign
KirksvilleWebDesign

Thanks for the balanced take on Google Sites. As Google Sites designers, we are seeing that the demand for well-organized intranet built on Google Sites platform increasing. I agree that, at the very least, it deserves consideration alongside traditional or proprietary software.

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