Don’t follow this advice

Companies are working overtime to put in place intranets, local networks set up within a company for employees; and extranets, internal computer networks available to select outside users.

But in their haste to get some system — any system — in place, many aren’t considering all the angles. To help you get it right the first time, here are 10 common misperceptions and mistakes to avoid making in setting up your company’s intranets and extranets.

1. It’s all in how it looks. The actual content doesn’t really matter.

“Content is king,” says Sam Keller, CEO of Kelltech, an Independence-based company specializing in content management systems. Intranets and extranets are “used much more frequently that a Web site and have to be just as fun and exciting as a Web site to keep you coming back. Companies set up an intranet, then wonder why internal use has dropped off. If content isn’t fresh and valuable, no one wants to go there.”

2. You can save money by using old equipment.

Many companies want to “retain old equipment and old technology and adjust it to the new standards,” says Alex Desberg, marketing director of Internet Providers, a Doylestown-based company based which recently opened a Cleveland office. “People try to salvage three- or four-year-old machines,” often spending more money to upgrade than they would have to replace old equipment.

Many figure if the old equipment still works, why upgrade?

“They don’t want to change it,” Desberg says. “It works, why look at something else? Because it just doesn’t work as well.”

Dale Malick, marketing director and co-owner of Malick Peterson Productions Inc. in Akron, adds, “It will cost you some money up front, but the money you put into it will pay itself back in the very near future.”

3. You can have a system up and running tomorrow.

Without planning, a company will inevitably be disappointed.

“The more time you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it,” Desberg says.

Too often, companies are excited about setting up a system, then disappointed when it doesn’t bring the expected results.

“You can’t build a house on sand,” Keller says. “It’s such an emotional process. People are so excited, but every step has to be checked and doubled checked. Start collecting e-mail addresses and profiles of your accounts, and you’re that much closer.

Malick suggests starting slowly.

“That gives clients the ability to take it in small steps, then take it to the next level,” Malick says. “They can grow into it and see results. They can see the benefits of stage one, then move on to stage two and stage three.”

4. You can’t predict the future, so base your system on your needs today.

Companies buy equipment to meet the needs of today’s 10 employees, but “don’t realize that they’re growing and in six months they’re going to have 20 people,” Desberg says. “Instead of spending a little extra money now, they lock themselves in. In six months, they realize they could be (doing more), and their system has no upgradability.”

And buying discounted equipment to save a few dollars is a big mistake.

“It’s an upgrade over what they have, but they’re saving $100 on something that went out of date last week,” Desberg says.

Malick adds that companies are best served by equipment and services that can be easily taken to the next level.

5. Find a great provider, and let go.

Stay involved in the development process. Keller says many companies fail to commit the time and resources to do it right.

“They don’t realize that they have to sit down and understand the fulfillment process, how to manage the content to keep it fresh,” Keller says.

Adds Desberg, “It becomes a great educational process.”

6. Don’t know your audience? It doesn’t really matter.

Failing to clearly identify your audience can sink your site.

“You need to understand who’s interested in what,” Keller says. Suppliers accessing an extranet need information in a timely manner. Employees accessing an intranet need a reason to keep coming back.

7. Make the site easily accessible.

Extranets should be difficult to find, so only those who have a reason to be there end up there.

“You want it to be buried under a rock so anyone who find the site is qualified to be there,” Keller says

8. Make your site applicable to anyone and everyone.

Instead of setting up a general extranet site, target wholesalers and customers individually.

“You can dynamically generate a site for that particular resaler,” Keller says. “People don’t realize you can be that specific.”

9. Find a cheap provider and go with it.

“Look out for cheap, quick solutions,” Keller says. “There’s no such thing. To implement takes a long period of time.”

Desberg recommends hiring a provider because it is the best one to meet your company’s needs, not because it’s the cheapest.

10. You can get a better deal if you sign a long-term contract.

Signing an extended contract may be a mistake.

“Talk about slitting your wrists,” Desberg says. “Technology is changing so quickly.” sees clients now who “should have been out of (their current) technology 18 months ago,” but were locked into contracts.

“Why would you shackle yourself if you know it’s going to change?”