Within a business, the necessity to be able to communicate with every single department within your company is pretty much vital, no matter whether it employes 50 people or 5,000 people. There are plenty of ways to do this (such as e-mail and telephone) but now, more companies are pushing towards an actual Internet platform, or intranets, as the medium for collaboration and sharing information.
There are plenty of sites out there on the net that will help you set up a company intranet (most require little technological knowledge as well). Today, let’s look at Igloo, which promises to be much more than a simple corporate intranet, but rather an entire digital workplace as a platform for all your ideas and a place to go to collaborate with your team, coordinate with your partners or even interact with your customers.
I got in touch with the developers and they kindly provided me with a free demo version to evaluate for this review. Read on after the break for my thoughts.
Igloo is entirely web-based and there’s no additional software to install so as long as you’ve got internet access on your device, then you can access your company’s intranet. You can sign up to a 30-day free, no commitment trial via their website (they will even call you to discuss your needs and to walk you through the product) and pricing starts $4 per user per month (billed on an annual basis).
Once the Igloo team have set up your community and provided you with an invite to it, then are redirected to the Home page, which gives you an general overview of your entire company (in the view below, we’ve got the weather, some important corporate announcements, a video of the week and a corporate calendar on the home page however this view can be fully tailored to your individual requirements).
As the demo version is quite limited (and not customised at all), for the purposes of this review I am going to use a community provided by the Igloo team.
Igloo is simply brimming with features and covering them all in this review would take me absolutely forever! Let’s take a look at the main ones, though, in a bit more detail.
Just like in your actual company, each part of the business is assigned an individual “department” in Igloo – for example, the sales team would have a department and the purchasing would have a separate one and so on. The aim of this is to create a much more interactive intranet so you can see relevant information about what people are working on. Unlike other kinds of intranet, where you would see everything from each department in the company, Igloo allows you to narrow this down to information that is just relevant to you.
Each department gets its own Activity Stream, which is similar to your Timeline in Twitter or your News Feed in Facebook, so you can see what everyone in your department is working on. Igloo allows you to set permissions for each member, so the administrator can control exactly what each member sees (for example, you may want to restrict some content to senior members of the department).
Individual departments can also set up blogs and each department can share information relevant only to their members. Blog posts can also be scheduled to go out at a certain time, and members can comment on each post and share them with other users as well.
Instead of saving documents on company servers, Igloo aims to be the centre of document exchange, and it does this well. Documents can be viewed using a built-in Flash player and Igloo supports most file formats, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF documents. The built-in search functionality searches the entire document for search terms, not just keywords or document tags, so your documents don’t go missing.
When a member saves a new version of the document, Igloo automatically keeps the older version stored in the system so that visitors to the document can see which changes have been made. Members can also “follow” documents, like on Twitter, who are then alerted if anything is changed. You can tag, label and comment on documents and they can be shared easily to other users on the intranet via Igloo’s built-in message centre or via e-mail.
Igloo features a built-in forum system aimed at stimulating discussions between your members and departments. Each user (depending on their permissions) can post a question for other members to answer. Each response has a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” rating, allowing members to judge the answers posted and if a question has been resolved, Igloo will automatically notify all the members in that discussion.
Depending on the permission settings, questions and answers can be checked by a moderator before it is posted. One of the great features here is that the moderator doesn’t necessarily have to be the author of the question – Igloo will allow you to publish questions and answers as if they have come from someone else. This is extremely useful if the moderator isn’t an expert in that particular area – all comments and thoughts regarding the question will be directed to the person responsible.
Igloo allows each member to create their own personal profile, a bit like on Facebook, where other users of the intranet can find out about their fellow employees. Each profile has an activity page which shows exactly what each other member has been up do and Igloo also summarises where he or she has been most of the time (e.g. on discussions, projects and so on).
There is also a menu bar in Igloo which appears system-wide so members can set their online status (online, away, busy or offline), access the main areas of Igloo (Profile, Contacts, Communities, To-Dos and so on) and view their messages and bookmarks.
Customisation and Other Features
One of the most useful features about Igloo (and one that will surely appeal to many administrators and developers) is the ability to customise virtually every aspect of the intranet. The company has several pre-made “templates” which can then be tailored to your individual requirements, from a corporate internet (like we’ve shown above) or a sales portal to a digital boardroom and even a self-support site for your customers.
The Control Panel allows system administrators to manage the entire system (e.g. creating new departments, partners, pages and so on) and the entire look of Igloo can be tailored using the built-in wallpaper editor (for beginners) or CSS-style sheets (for techies). The site manager features a drag-and-drop interface for easy construction of pages and Google Analytics can also be integrated with the entire site, allowing for precise tracking with your UA number.
And it doesn’t stop there, either. Each Igloo package can be tailor-made with a number of extras (head over to their website for the full list!) such as full product support, additional storage and integration with other programs so really, there are almost no limits to what you can do with the system!
Igloo is just how corporate intranets – and web apps – should be. The entire system feels incomprehensibly powerful, yet doesn’t overwhelm the user with a complicated interface and steep learning curve. Of course, this review really is just the tip of the iceberg and to really experience all the features of Igloo, it’s best to sign up for a 30-day free trial to find them all out for yourself.
Igloo is a popular system – according to the developers they have over 4,000 communities in over 80 countries – and your intranet doesn’t have to be confined to simply being a platform for your employees to share information. Thanks to their open API (Application Programming Interface), you can integrate with a wide range of business programs, for example SharePoint and SAP, to maximise your potential. Igloo is also regularly updated (the developers promise a new release every 90 days) and there’s no complicated update installation program either – simply log on and it’s all there for you.
The app deserves our highly prized 10/10 rating as for a social intranet platform, there’s pretty much nothing better out there. The endless possibilites with Igloo will make it an ideal candidate for any company looking towards tighter collaboration with their employees. I’d also like to say a big thank you to Chris Willard and Stephan Rahal at Igloo Software for taking the time to explain this great product in detail to me!