Intranet governance teams and responsibilities

Appropriate governance ensures the intranet supports your organisations 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 organisations culture.

As with any plan, its difficult to get things right if your organisation doesnt have clearly stated goals and an actual intranet strategy. Your governance must support both.

Your governance should evolve over time as your intranet develops; its likely that youll 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.

Sponsor

LighthouseIts 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 youve 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.

Steering team

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 organisations direction and needs.

The steering team will want to know whats working and what isnt. The intranet team should provide a report around the intranet key performance indicators (KPIs).

Intranet team

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?

Stakeholder management

When setting the duties of your steering team, and considering other stakeholders, keep in mind ARCI:

Accountable
Having the authority to make decisions and being prepared to take the blame.
Responsible
Entrusted to implement the strategy in an appropriate manner.
Consult
Advisory groups, representatives, and individual stakeholders that input to decisions and plans.
Inform
Dont 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.

Ownership

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 isnt as exciting as rolling out new features in an agile manner, but governance can make or break an intranet. Too many rules and youll 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.

A framework for intranet governance

Los cautro postesIntranets are big things; too big to just plan, launch and maintain as if its just another web project. Stakeholder management can be a nightmare as, in order to grow a successful intranet, the platform has to be everything to all people, and everyone has their opinion and needs.

While everyone has a stake in the success of the intranet, not everyone is equal in their influence. I suggest that stakeholders need to be identified and differentiated in a structured manner. This will provide clarity when it comes to decision making, tactics, and strategy – the very foundation of intranet governance.

While I propose the use of groups and committees to govern and steer the direction of the intranet, you might prefer a more informal approach. How ever you structure the stakeholders, I think it’s useful to think in ARCI terms.

A is for accountable

This is a very serious word. To be accountable for something means being prepared to take the blame. Accountability means having the authority to make decisions.

If you can’t make decisions and implement change then it may be that you are not accountable.

The litmus test is this – you are not accountable for something unless failure would damage your position. You are accountable if you literally have a stake in the success.

In practice, the core intranet team may be accountable for the intranet, but perhaps this is not ideal. Surely the intranet team needs senior guidance?

This is where the Intranet Steering Committee comes in. The 6 to 9 committee members, who come from all levels and areas of the organisation, weigh up the guidance from the Intranet Team, the IT department, and their own stakeholders and colleagues, and ratify the intranet strategy.

Being accountable, they share the blame for stalls, delays, and intranet cul-de-sacs, because no single team can be accountable for success or failure. It has to be shared across the organisation.

R is for responsible

The core Intranet Team is responsible for the intranet, and works hard to layout the intranet strategy, and once approved by the Steering Committee, implement it on a daily basis.

The Intranet Team is responsible for how the intranet achieves the objectives that the organisation sets (via the Steering Committee). This includes daily tactical decision making. The Intranet Team maintains and develops the intranet as per the expertise that responsibility implies.

The Intranet Team often has to listen to complaints and receive departmental requests that may be wildly outside the intranet strategy. Saying ‘no’ can be really hard, and so the beauty of having a Steering Committee is that the intranet manager can say ‘thank you, I’ll pass this on to the Committee’. It’s now up to the Intranet Team to guide the Steering Committee, and the Steering Committee to say yay or nay to the request. Naturally, the Intranet Team (or Intranet Manager) takes responsibility for the daily, business as usual, requests.

Having a robust process for feedback and requests is vital if the Intranet Team is to make strategic progress, and not be seen as a ‘blocker’ by others.

C is for consult

The few members of the Steering Committee can’t truly represent the whole organisation. Further advisory groups are needed. Your intranet team might run ‘intranet champion breakfasts’ or ‘site owner engagement sessions’. You might simply have a section on the intranet where you share your intranet improvement plans and seek feedback. Whether you have one formal ‘Advisory Group’ or several groups and channels for feedback, the idea is to be transparent and engaging.

Consulting, or encouraging contributions from, people across the organisation should hopefully provide you with a practical understanding of where the intranet is stronger and weaker in serving the needs of your people.

Maintaining an advisory group or groups also means you have ready access to people who should be willing to take part in intranet improvement exercises (like usability testing, card sorting, branding feedback etc.).

Ideas from the advisory group(s) can be fed to the Steering Committee, providing evidence to support the guidance from the Intranet Team.

I is for inform

Never, ever, redesign the home page as a surprise. Your ‘new look’ is not a gift for every employee – it’s a change they have to deal with.

While it’s possible to add things to the main navigation and the home page without too much fuss, it’s much harder to take things away without disrupting people’s ways of working.

Always keep everyone informed. Remember that communication does not happen just because you’ve published a news article. A proper communications plan is necessary, so that people are kept informed about the proposed changes and what the improvements will mean to them.

Although everyone seems apathetic, even hostile, towards change, by engaging people and providing plenty of screenshots and key points, people will be more accepting. ‘Change communications’ is too big a topic for this article, but always keep in mind the importance of every staff member; the intranet is to serve their needs.

Setting the governance is part of our four-step approach to intranet launch and managegement. Read how we like to see governance embedded, and the roles needed.

Photo credit: David Jones

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