What is the difference between an intranet and an online collaborative space?


This article gives a breakdown for the differences between intranets and online collaborative spaces.

Intranets have been used by organizations for a few decades to share files and business-related content, such as corporate news, announcements, events, etc., with their employees. However, in the last few years, new tools have become available allowing teams to share information and work together in real time. Work that was formerly created and stored separately on the individual desktops and laptops of team members is now being produced directly in online collaborative spaces where it is available to all team members.


What is an online collaborative space?

"Collaborative Space" is a term that describes locations where two or more people meet to work together on projects and initiatives. Online collaborative spaces represent cloud-based work areas where the members can share documents, share electronic media, chat, meet online, schedule events, and perform other actions that support their collaborative efforts.

How do intranets differ from online collaborative spaces?

Intranets and online collaborative spaces differ in several ways including purpose, creation process, and daily usage as shown in the table below.

  Intranet Online Collaborative Space
Purpose Provide a centralized home for published organization content Provide teams or groups within the organization with online tools that they can use to interact in real time and produce content
Creation Process Designed upfront around content areas that the organization wants to share with employees Deployed on the fly to support the collaboration needs of a team or a group
Daily Usage Employees reference the intranet for the latest news, events, and other content published by the organization. Generally, content is submitted by various groups to the central intranet team where it is reviewed for publication Team members actively use the collaborative spaces to facilitate their interactions with each other including chat, online meetings, and content creation

When thinking about how intranets and online collaborative spaces work together, consider a publishing model where an organization has multiple online collaborative spaces working on various projects. As each of these teams are ready to share their content with the rest of the organization, they publish their documents and submit them to a review team for review and final publication to the intranet.

When should I use an intranet and when should I use an online collaborative space?

The table below provides a comparison of use cases that we recommend for each environment.

Use an Intranet Use an Online Collaborative Space

You are sharing content for the benefit of all employees within the organization (such as the news, announcements, events, policies, etc.)

You want to collect feedback from the organization (such as a survey or a corporate social feed)

You are storing a static version of files for employee reference (such as policies, annual strategic plans, or similar published documents)

You want to recognize a team member for a significant contribution as part of the organization’s recognition program

You are meeting in person or online (planned or impromptu) to work on project content and capture meeting notes

You need to chat with team members or ask a question

You want to send a quick acknowledgement to a team member about their good work

You want to get feedback on a team-related document or share the latest status

You want to collaborate with team members in developing content

You want to store or share files related to your team’s project or group work

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