Fifteen essential elements that should be on your intranet governance checklist

One of our most popular posts has been our intranet governance checklist, a list of some of the essential ingredients that intranet teams need to have in place to establish robust governance to make an intranet successful and sustainable. Given the evolution of intranets over the last three years, the growth of the digital workplace and other practices such as agile methodologies, we thought the time was right to revisit the checklist. You can check out our original list and then compare it to our new, more detailed list below.

Intranet governance are the elements that stop intranets failing

Governance sounds quite a dry topic and even more so if we define it as the collection of policies, processes, roles, standards, rules and guidance that makes your intranet run every day. However, it is essential, so perhaps another way to think about it is as those elements which stop your intranet failing.

Over the years weve seen many intranets that need rescuing. Adoption might be very low, content might be inaccurate, items may be very hard to find and trust from users and stakeholders has been eroded.  The reasons for failure are numerous, but along the way there is almost always a lack of intranet governance or governance that has been poorly executed or has simply evaporated over time. Interestingly the reasons we listed in our original post, are all still true today. To recap:

Lack of input from the business at design and after launch

When an intranet doesnt involve the business, it can end up lacking support and buy-in from stakeholders, and in turn credibility from users. It can also end up as a technology rather than business initiative. The lack of support means it is very hard to drive improvement, get good adoption, or achieve strategic relevance.

Lack of content strategy

Intranets rely on good content. Without a strategy around the content lifecycle and without a taxonomy or effective use of metadata, intranets end up a sprawling mess with out of date content and poor findabilty.

Lack of stewardship and support

Without guidance and training for business stakeholders, the intranet and its constituent sites lack quality and consistency. The intranet is confusing and effectively becomes a digital Wild West.

Lack of funding and resources

Intranets need people to run them and budget to drive capabilities and upgrades. Most intranets are already under-resourced. If they are not properly funded, they fail.

Poor technical infrastructure

A lack of technical governance leads to slow and buggy platforms, as well as barriers such as a lack of Single Sign-On. This leads to frustration and dwindling adoption.

Poor user experience

Weve been battling against badly designed and poorly structured intranets from day one. Users, content owners and stakeholders give up on an intranet with poor UX.

Lack of senior level support

If you dont have the support of senior stakeholders or different groups such as IT your intranet can not only lack resources, but also lack direction.

Lack of alignment to the digital workplace and related roadmap

Heres one we didnt mention last time around!  The line between intranet and digital workplace is increasingly blurred. If your intranet doesnt align to your Office 365 roadmap or other digital workplace plans and platforms, your intranet really is missing a trick and will be less relevant in the medium to long term.

An intranet governance checklist for 2020

Heres our view of 15 key elements you need to establish for robust intranet governance.

1.Intranet strategy and roadmap

A documented strategy and roadmap covering the fundamental purpose of the intranet, its current direction, how it aligns to your organisational strategy, and its key objectives and aims. Ideally this should also include criteria for success.

2.Steering committee

Most intranets for larger organisations have some kind of steering committee which represents different functions (IT, Comms, HR etc.) and may include the heads of these functions. A steering committee will sign-off strategy, make or ratify major decisions and generally make sure the intranet is going in the right direction. Some larger organisations have a more senior steering committee and more of a working group.  Groups have a purpose and meet regularly.

3.Roles and responsibilities and related ownership

It takes many different roles to run an intranet. These should be defined and can include individuals and groups. It can cover the central intranet team, your steering committee, as well as site managers, owners, and associated content roles. There will also be specialist and technical roles, for example in IT or covering search. As well as defining roles, associated ownership should be defined. The ideal way to do this is through a RACI matrix

4.Content strategy

A content strategy should define all your content governance measures and should understand the purpose of content, the types of content and how they are being delivered. A document content strategy should be based on user research and also align to your wider intranet strategy and roadmap.

5.Design and brand standards

Design and brand standards help to define the look and feel of your intranet reflected in site and page templates, but also how content should be laid out and some use of imagery, for example brand standards can also define element such as tone of voice. Generally, design and brand standards are usually already defined for external digital channels and may need to be adapted for internal-facing channels.

6.Publishing standards and related guidelines

Publishing standards should follow design and brand standards but are usually more specific, covering different types of intranet content, and could include elements such as guidelines for structure, tone of voice, formatting and spelling policies.

7.Technical and compliance standards and related processes

Like any other application, intranets will need to meet a number of different standards and criteria,  to ensure that they are compliant with legal and regulatory commitments, as well as being fully secure and being compatible with your wider IT infrastructure. Usually IT and risk due diligence processes will cover these elements, but when there are upgrades, changes or new circumstances (such as updated GDPR guidance or a security issue, for example) then your governance framework should have appropriate processes in place.  These standards will also cover elements such as authentications standards, password formats etc.

8.Usage policies

Its always sensible to have a usage policy on what can and cannot be posted on the intranet, for example. You may hardly ever have to refer to it and it may be largely common sense, but if someone does report inappropriate content it can be important to have something in writing to then guide any subsequent actions.

9.Content lifecycle management processes

Your content strategy will also help to define the processes around content lifecycle management. Managing your content through the lifecycle is absolutely essential to ensure it is accurate, up to date and findable. Lifecycle management includes approval processes, regular reviews (automated if possible) and archiving, as well as establishing clear ownership of content right down to the page level.

10.Approved tools

Digital workplaces are complex and involve multiple tools. Although not necessarily intranet governance, a digital workplace governance framework usually defines which tools are approved for use, something that can include publishing, communication and collaboration tools, all of which may involve the intranet. A related matrix of the best tools to use for what purpose can also be very helpful. A list of approved tools may also dictate the contents of a service or apps catalogue, usually available on the intranet.

11.Site provisioning and decommissioning

A really important part of any governance framework is to have a process around site commissioning and decommissioning This can mean sites need to go through an approval process before being created. Sites can mean content, team, community or collaboration sites. Having a process in place helps you to ensure that your environment remains tidy, minimises risk, avoids irrelevant or duplicate sites, helps you to gather important role and metadata information and more.

12.Feedback mechanisms

Your governance should include mechanisms to gather feedback and then processes to act on it. User feedback is very important for helping improve your intranet but also reporting where there are any issues. An intranet should have a system for users to submit feedback, give ideas and report offensive content. Additionally, you could set up formal groups of users, content owners and super users who can give more structured controlled feedback on a regular basis.

13.Support structures

A governance framework should include support structures to answer questions and resolve issues for users, content owners and super-users. The support structure may include the IT helpdesk but also communities of experts and even champions.

14.Training

Your governance should include the process for any training needed for content owners and editors, super users, authors, site or community managers or even users on the intranet. This may dovetail with training approaches for other elements of the digital workplace, for Office 365 and should include a process to introduce training for new joiners and those taking up intranet or collaboration-related roles. Sometimes the granting of permissions is subject to training being carried out.

15.Measurement plan

A measurement plan that is aligned to the criteria for success defined in the intranet strategy. This should define the metrics and analytics used to track success, any associated KPIs, and processes for evaluating metrics and then taking appropriate action to make intranet improvements.

Creating your own intranet governance framework

No intranet governance framework is the same, so youll need to create your own to suit the needs of your organization, stakeholders and intranets. Creating the framework also usually benefits from input from those who will be involved, as this can help to drive acceptance and adherence to the different parts of the framework.  Realistically it can also take some work to be able to implement all the elements, and it can also evolve over time. If youd like to discuss creating your own intranet governance framework or to let us know any elements that weve left out, when why not get in touch?

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