Who should own the Intranet? It’s probably not who you think…

I’m often asked by those with responsibilities for Internal Communications ‘where does the responsibility lay for the different parts of the collaboration eco-system and who should own the intranet?’

This is rarely documented, with intranet governance within most organisation being something often plagued with perplexities. It is usual to find Internal Communications  technically ‘owning’ the Intranet, while  IT often acts like they do (and also takes responsibility for providing employees with Collaboration Team Spaces, which can often be provided by the same product, further adding to the confusion). To further muddy the waters, often a further combination of professionals from External Communications, Marketing, Sales and Public Relations teams take responsibility for running the organisation’s external communities. All of this leaves a lot of room for confusion, office politics and a very disjointed user experience.

Fundamentally the trouble with the concept of a Social Intranet and the Digital Workplace is that all these use-cases and technologies need to come together to provide a unified experience for employees, and to be fair that is what the software vendors are trying to do with varying degrees of success. See How to pick a digital workplace vendor?

In an ideal world, Communications, IT and HR will come together to agree on the experience and who will take responsibility for each part of the estate. Sadly, this is nearly always more complex than it first seems, particularly in larger multi-national organisations where there many be many intranets and microsites, each owned by a different Communications team, or where CIO’s and their teams (understandably) are focusing on keeping the ‘lights on’ and keeping the organisation’s data secure, rather than the experience provided to colleagues.

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In reality, whilst there maybe support for a combined effort, often while one department may be ready to move their area forward, either through the identification of technology obsolescence or a desire for new benefits, the others may have no such desire in the short term. Sadly, often these programmes are lead by IT (often in a desire to lower costs, consolidate technology estate and leverage new cloud based services – which are all valid reasons), and the IT Department forces change on users and the other interested Departments who due to conflicting priorities don’t invest the time they should (particularly round intranet replacements) until it is too late.

Often a business case must be made (usually centered around cost reduction and an improved  experience for users) to consolidate all intranet sites, micro-sites and community platforms into one.

Once done, my suggestion is that central Communications Professionals should place a line in the sand with their IT counterparts, stating a desire to work together, particular around the selection of the technology and the experience. By doing so, Communications Professionals will be able to keep their responsibility for the intranet and the responsibility of replacing this with a social intranet, as well as expanding their influence and responsibility at the same time for the organisation’s people directory, community solution, blogging platform and internal video streaming offering. If possible, seek to ‘borrow’ colleagues who are focusing on your organisation’s customer digital experience, create a small, cross discipline focus group that consists of people who actually do whatever your organisation does (serving the public in call centers, building things, digging stuff out of the ground etc.) to guide you and keep you business focused. See post on 10 Guiding Principles for your Digital Workplace programme

The reality though is a phrase, (often uttered by Communications Professionals) “content is king” and it really is. For the Social Intranet, as part of an integrated Digital workplace that allows for unified streams of information and communications (including corporate communications and blog posts containing communications from business leaders) that is condensed for rapid scanning and that only shows the user what they want to see and is filtered to show them what matters most in their world.

So soon the debate over who owns the intranet will be a moot point, for while some Department somewhere, whoever it is, may own the infrastructure, it is the end user who owns the content they see and their experience with the platform – but whether or not you decide to simply relaunch your intranet as social intranet, or choose to make it part of a wider digital workplace will be a decision for each Communication’s Leader.

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