Setting up an Intranet with Joomla

If you are a business with a reasonable sized number of people, and multiple departments, then collaboration between people across departments is essential for the business to function smoothly.
Organizations without an Intranet, use Email and personal meetings for collaboration.

This is not necessarily very effective or productive since neither of these modes are flexible enough to allow easy tracking of discussions and keeping discussion threads organized. A more organized way of asynchronous communication is essential and imperative.

There are several proprietary solutions available. Some built as complete Intranets, and also Microsoft Sharepoint which allows collaboration between employees. The problem with proprietary solutions
is that the licensing is generally expensive, and the cost of developing the solution too can cost quite a bit. Given these considerations, it is not surprising that not many organizations, excepting the large ones have Intranets deployed.

Joomla as an open-source platform with thousands of active developers is an excellent platform on which a secure Intranet can be built very inexpensively. However I am a little surprised that so few Intranets are being built on it. Considering the surprising low cost at which a Joomla Intranet can be deployed, it is a little mystifying that so few of them are around. My personal opinion is that, the primary reason for this would be the relative high perceived cost of an Intranet, and the fact that this investment need not be made.

This article is meant to give an overview of what features can be had on a Joomla Intranet. And yes, you can have an Intranet on Joomla, even after buying components at a total cost under 750$. The productivity gains in even a reasonably small organization with 50 to 100 employees will cover this cost in under a month.

Lets now take a look at some things you can do on Joomla.

Discussion Forums:

A discussion forum is a very powerful tool for knowledge management. If you have a support department, and if they use it to post and discuss technical problems, over a very short period of time, it will become a knowledge base that can cut down dramatically the time to resolve customer’s or internal technical problems. Discussion Forums can also be used by your Sales departments to
collaborate with different organizational units on preparing and submitting complex solutions for the customer.  There is a powerful access control list (ACL) in Joomla, and who accesses which
part of the forum can be easily controlled.

A Joomla component you can look at for a Discussion Forum is Kunena.

Articles & Documents

The heart of any Intranet is uniform communication across different employees asynchronously. Joomla has an article system which enables creation of an unlimited number of categories and subcategories. This can be used to publish various documents from different departments
such as HR, Admin and Marketing. Apart from the built in Article system in Joomla with its powerful
content editor, you may also want to look at ‘K2’ – a content construction kit. This allows you to create forms within articles.

Employee Profile

It is important for employees to find each other, and know what they are doing. User profile is built into Joomla. In addition you have components that enable users to build their profile on the Intranet. A
component you may specifically want to look at for Employee Profile would be ‘Community Builder’.

Forms

Forms to be filled are the lifeblood of any organization. For forms that don’t need a paper signature, you can create them and allow them to be submitted over the Intranet. There are some Forms components that allow you to easily create forms – such as RS Forms and Breezing Forms.

File downloads

This is yet another important requirement for any Intranet. It can be to download HR Policies, Leave travel forms, Marketing Collateral, of if you are a software company – maybe software patches, or software distributions. There are several components out there, and one such you can look at is Phoca Gallery

Other applications

Apart from the applications detailed earlier, Joomla has a lot of other ready components for various applications. In an Intranet you may want to look at

  • Photo Galleries
  •  Online Meetings
  • Video chats and Video conferencing
  • Private Messaging (functions like an email system within the Intranet)
  • LDAP integration (Your windows server
    users can log into Joomla Intranets with their windows user credentials
  • Social Networking (Use it for business purposes)
  • Calendar
  • Event Booking and Event Management
  • Task Management and Project Management
  • CRM
  • LMS

If you need ERP or HRM integration, then largely you will need to get them custom coded. There are no extensions available as of now that will straightaway connect to enterprise ERP, CRM or HRM. But most of them generate XML output by way of RSS Feeds.

Security

Joomla has a robust access control system, and you can set hierarchical based access to different areas of your Intranet and the components. The access control system also helps control what a particular user can do within the Intranet.

Costs of setting it up

Joomla itself is open-source and free. Several components on the platform are free, or priced extremely low.  The major cost would be that needs to be paid to a Joomla Intranet developer to put it all together. I would think that any Intranet you set up using components already available cannot exceed US$ 1000 – including components you may need to buy.  OF course, it could go up if you need custom coding. And if you should choose to buy a whole bunch of expensive components, then sure, it will go higher, but that will be only in cases of really complex and large Intranets

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