Appropriate governance ensures the intranet supports your organisation’s objectives – helping your business do business. Intranet governance lays out how the intranet is managed, how decisions get made, and who is responsible for what.
Great intranet governance also encourages desired behaviours and supports or develops the organisation’s culture.
As with any plan, it’s difficult to get things right if your organisation doesn’t have clearly stated goals and an actual intranet strategy. Your governance must support both.
Your governance should evolve over time as your intranet develops; it’s likely that you’ll even change your governance model as your intranet matures. Take a look at how companies of different sizes choose different governance approaches. Large companies tend to still have a small core team concerned with strategy and publishing standards; publishing and site management responsibilities are distributed to department and team site owners.
It’s tempting to ask the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to sponsor the intranet, especially if the IT department is paying for the platform or the development work. But stop to consider the objectives of the intranet within the wider digital workplace and within the context of the business.
While a senior leader is needed, do you want the intranet to be seen as ‘an IT initiative’? The CTO is always going to be a key stakeholder but, depending on your goals and culture, you might get better buy-in from across the organisation if the sponsor is from within the business. The purpose of your intranet might lead you to a great candidate; are you focusing on comms and content, or employee engagement? If so, consider the Head of Internal Communications and the HR Director. If your organisation is large enough, you may have an Innovation Team or Chief Engagement Officer – think about the many purposes of your intranet before inviting a sponsor to lead its use and evolution.
Once you’ve a sponsor in place, they will want have input to the intranet strategy and monitor its implementation. If the sponsor is also considered an owner of the intranet, then they will also be responsible for setting and releasing budget for management, maintenance, and improvement.
Some organisations give the sponsor more tactical and more managerial tasks, but I think the intranet team should be given room to breathe when it comes to executing the strategy.
Some would say that five people is enough for any team that has to make decisions, but the steering team needs representatives from each key business function.
The defined purpose should set the agenda for each, regular meeting. When bigger intranet initiatives are underway, meetings might be more frequent, while during ‘business as usual’ (BAU) the team might only meet every quarter.
Because the steering team should be accountable for the success of the intranet, it needs authority to make decisions and set / approve the intranet strategy. Steering team members do not have to be experts in intranet platforms, rather, they should understand the organisation’s direction and needs.
The steering team will want to know what’s working and what isn’t. The intranet team should provide a report around the intranet key performance indicators (KPIs).
The core team is likely to be only two or three people – and there are plenty ‘lone intranet managers’ out there. Whatever the core intranet team size and skills, always consider the extended team – including comms and content contributors, IT support, user experience (UX) support, information security (infosec), and search engine management.
The core team is responsible for implementing the intranet strategy (and possibly drafting it) and managing the intranet in general. Measuring and monitoring is vital if stakeholders are to understand progress and for the team to take remedial action.
When adhering to a centralised publishing model, the core team needs to be larger but with any model, the extended team is crucial.
How will the intranet team field feedback and major requests? Is an advisory team (made up of representative end-users) or is a network of Intranet Champions enough?
When setting the duties of your steering team, and considering other stakeholders, keep in mind ARCI:
- Having the authority to make decisions and being prepared to take the blame.
- Entrusted to implement the strategy in an appropriate manner.
- Advisory groups, representatives, and individual stakeholders that input to decisions and plans.
- Don’t just announce change; share ideas, not just decisions. Share progress and results. Keep your colleagues and every ‘end user’ involved throughout any initiative or project.
Does something as broad as the intranet (as part of the digital workplace) need a single owner? Is ‘ownership’ the right term?
Start with your governance model:
Centralised (strong ownership, controlled use)
Collaborative / Federated / Hybrid (guided use from the centre)
Decentralised (shared ownership, distributed responsibilities)
Governance isn’t as exciting as rolling out new features in an agile manner, but governance can make or break an intranet. Too many rules and you’ll never have a social, collaborative digital workspace; too little monitoring and guidance and parts of your intranet will become a Wild West of poorly structured and duplicative information warren while other parts will become wastelands of abandoned document libraries and empty micro-sites.