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Is it better to build or buy your intranet?

3 min read

Is it better to build or buy your intranet?

A recent survey showed that the average intranet took over 15 months to implement and averaged over $40,000 in costs. Yikes! Should you build or buy?

A recent survey (Modalis Research Technology) showed that the average intranet took over 15 months to implement and averaged over $40,000 in costs. Yikes! $40k in costs? 15 months to implement? I don’t know what's worse: The unrealistic cost or the lengthy implementation timeline.

Let's be honest, intranet software is a huge investment.

Sure there are a lot of options, but like most technologies you have to educate yourself and do the research. You need to weigh the pros and cons one feature over another, and determine whether you want to devote your life to building the mother of all intranets or if you just want to deploy the darn thing now.

When introducing technology obviously costs come into play, but for the sake of this brief analysis I am going to avoid comparing costs. This is for a lot of reasons, but primarily because with build/development platforms like SharePoint, there are often consultant and development fees in addition to licensing.

Buying your intranet

A ‘buy’ intranet consists of software installed on a server. It can also be turnkey and hosted in the cloud. Regardless, there are no widgets to download. You simply start adding your own content.


  • Quick deployment without the assistance of developers
  • Minimal involvement from IT
  • User friendly content curation and management systems
  • Technical support from the vendor
  • No special skills required to oversee and manage
  • Vendor oversees the evolution —including development and user experience
  • Opportunity for users to provide input and feedback into the direction of the product


  • Limited opportunity for customizations
  • Might lack specific features or capabilities initially (because of no customization)
  • Potential limited integration into other systems

Building your Intranet

A ‘build’ intranet could be based off a development tool like SharePoint, or a content management system like WordPress or Joomla. It can even be built off Google Sites.


  • Complete control over build and customization as well as navigation
  • You get exactly the features you want
  • Potentially increased integration options to other systems


  • Substantial development time
  • Deployment can also take a long time
  • Heavy involvement with IT
  • Dependence on IT beyond development and roll out
  • Potential outsourcing required as IT and developers likely to lack design and usability experience
  • Ongoing costs – constant development, bug fixes, and modifications
  • IT department often have no interest in intranets, or it is low priority
  • If you do require a consultant, the support you need from them may be ongoing
  • New features added will mean new development and a repeat of the design, build, operate, and maintain cycle

The perfect intranet can mean different things to different people. What might be right for one organization may not be right for another. So if you are still stuck ask yourself:

  • How quickly will I need this up and running?
  • How dependent do I want to be on a consultant?
  • Are I really in the business for an intranet? In other words, will a heavy and lengthy investment take me away from your company's core business objectives?
  • Do we want more than one administrator? If so, will they understand how to use the tool I choose?
  • Would I rather the vendor complete all the work and future development or is this something I have the resources to handle in-house?
  • Is mobile accessibility important?
  • Am I just looking for document storage? Or am I looking for a way to engage employees and foster collaboration?

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Kelly Batke

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