Why do intranets fail?
Before going through an intranet governance checklist it’s useful first to think about the context and purposes of intranet governance. In our work we are often called in to rescue failing intranets. The following is a list of problems that we typically come across. They are all signs of poor or non-existent intranet governance:
Technology focused delivery – the project focuses on delivering the platform and an ’empty shell’ effectively for business users to populate and manage their own content. Business users do not have knowledge and skills to build out effective intranet sites and populate them with content. This problem often comes about due to oversold software platforms that promise out-of-the-box quick and easy deployment.
Lack of input from the business at design stage and post launch – gathering input from stakeholders at build stage is effectively gathering their support and fostering their engagement. Site and content ownership is rarely given as a primary responsibility and so stakeholders simply don’t see the value versus their priorities. It’s very easy to be too busy to work on the intranet. Involving stakeholders is an ongoing process post-launch, especially as people move and their roles change.
Lack of content strategy – There is no framework around who creates content, when and how. No defined taxonomy, no content curation process and undefined metadata rules. The intranet can be sprawling and chaotic in some areas and a desert in others.
Lack of site creation assistance and training – business stakeholders are left to their own devices to develop their own content and sites and therefore user experience is not consistent or large gaps exist. Content can also be poor quality.
Lack of funding – there is little or no resource assigned to managing and improving the intranet .The best intranets have a central team who beyond their day-to-day activities are planning strategy and interfacing with senior sponsors to secure budgets for ongoing management, intranet support and improvements.
Poor technical infrastructure – slow, buggy intranet platforms lead to frustration and site owners simply give up.
Poor user experience – badly designed and poorly structured intranets lead to confusion and inability to find content. Users simply give up. Poor user experience can also affect site owners who struggle to upload content.
Lack of senior level support – leaders don’t show their support and so stakeholders and site owners don’t invest time in a thankless activity. This often comes about because the intranet owner fails to show the value of the intranet and linking it to business goals.
What does intranet governance look like?
First, let’s look at a definition:
“Intranet governance is the rules, processes and people involved with managing and improving the intranet, and ensuring it supports business goals.”
A good intranet governance model includes:
A strategy & roadmap – showing where the intranet is headed and how it aligns with the organisation’s strategy
A steering team – with representation across key business functions. The team should meet regularly and have a clear, defined purpose.
Roles and responsibilities – for the various stakeholders such as the intranet team, the steering team, IT, content owners, the sponsor, etc.
Defined ownership – who owns what section; who is accountable and who makes decisions? Take a look at our RACI model for intranet governance
Policies and guidelines – simple rules outlining what you can and can’t do on the intranet, especially around quality, copy style, design, the homepage, the navigation
Feedback – mechanisms in place to gather feedback (e.g. user feedback, analytics, search logs) and act upon that feedback
Support – processes and people to support users and publishers when working on the intranet or when things go wrong.
Training – for end users but most importantly for content authors. Should include details on governance as well as technical elements
How to go about creating your governance framework
When working on developing your intranet governance avoid the temptation to create a long, heavy document because you will probably struggle to get people to read it. Instead create short punchy documents, slides or even FAQs (backed up with slides where necessary) that address specific audiences and specific need states. For example, if I am the sales director wanting to publish an article to the homepage to publicise my department’s recent success in securing a big new client, I just need a few pointers: how do I get started?; quick writing tips; news upload instructions, where to turn if I have problems; etc…