Should We Build or Buy an Intranet?

You’ve established the need for a new intranet. You’ve made a sound business case, you have a rough budget, and you’re ready to bring an exceptional digital employee experience to your organization. Now there’s one big question left to answer: Should we build, or buy one?

Software as a Service (SaaS) Solutions

Many organizations choose a purpose-built SaaS solution to connect employees with the knowledge, resources, and people they need to do their best work. Intranet solutions aren’t all created equally, so it’s important to be aware of the differences as you do your research.

Although there are many things that separate modern intranet platforms from one another, there are a few key areas that most share.

Faster Time to Value

One of the greatest benefits of SaaS solutions: they’re already built by experts and continuously improved through customer feedback loops. If a SaaS based intranet isn’t delivering value, customers leave.

Questions to ask:

  • What’s a typical implementation window for your product?
  • How much IT support should I expect to need?

Cost Savings (Pay only for what you use)

There’s a joke among woodworkers. A pre-built coffee table catches their partner’s eye, but they scoff, “why would we spend $100 on this mass-produced coffee table, when we could spend $400, four weeks, and at least one Sunday stroll to urgent care building one?”

Producing a tool as complex and far-reaching as an intranet in-house is not an initiative for the faint of heart. Upfront and ongoing costs can be significant in comparison to SaaS tools, which generally charge per user seat.

Questions to ask:

  • What if I need more (or less) seats mid-term?
  • Are there volume, or multi-year discounts available?

Regular feature updates, security patches, and UI improvements

SaaS-based intranet providers have entire engineering teams dedicated to making sure the intranet you buy today evolves along with workplace technology and customer needs.

A functional intranet with poor or stale UI may struggle to earn engagement, and a flashy intranet that functions poorly will have the same problem.

Questions to ask:

  • How often do you release bug fixes and new features?
  • What does your product’s future roadmap look like?
  • What security credentials do you have / when was your last incident?

Building Your Own Solution

Although many organizations choose SaaS based intranet solutions, some still make the choice to build their own. Whether this is due to unique complexities, a need for additional oversight, or other special requirements, building an intranet in-house can still be a viable solution in 2023.

Ultimate flexibility

As its architect, you can build nearly any specialized feature or functionality into a custom-built intranet. On the flip side of that coin, you’ll also be building and maintaining every feature. And even a flexible tool can break, and when it does, you'll be fixing it.

Questions to ask:

  • How important is flexibility—is it a core necessity, or a nice-to-have?
  • Which components need to be most flexible?


In an intranet you build, you own everything, from the data to the roadmap. For some organizations, this can be a significant benefit. For others, it can be a significant burden. With that in mind, it's vital to also think about ownership in the context of "who will own this set of responsibilities?"

Questions to ask:

  • What portions of this do we need to own, and why?
  • Where (if at all) will ownership exchange hands, as in the case of integrations?
  • Who will own responsibilities, like stability, updates, privacy, and security?

General Considerations

Whether you buy or build an intranet, there are a few considerations that are good to keep in mind, from the earliest stages on.


Security can be an important factor when choosing to build or purchase an intranet. If your in-house security is outstanding (and essential), building may be a viable route. If that’s not the case, a SaaS option may make more sense. Security postures and capabilities can differ significantly between providers, so be sure to find out where vendors stand.

Team Bandwidth and Expertise

Do you have the in-house expertise and bandwidth to develop and maintain an intranet that is as good or better for our purposes than a SaaS option? For some organizations, this may be the case; for many others, it is not.


No matter what type of intranet you choose, stakeholder buy-in is essential. Without it, it’s unlikely that any solution will drive strong adoption and engagement. Understand the problems an intranet can solve for stakeholders, and let that inform your choices.

Moving Forward

As you begin to narrow down your options, make sure to get exposure to as many SaaS options as you can. Take frequent stakeholder pulse checks, and get as specific as possible about your requirements.

Give the IT and design team who might be responsible for building an intranet in-house plenty of opportunities to experience the evolving field of SaaS options that are available. They may find a solution that meets their requirements while reducing overhead.

Regardless of which direction your team ultimately chooses, it will nearly always benefit from a fuller understanding of all the available options.

Ready to take the next step toward building a stronger digital employee experience?

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