Global intranets – more on paths, strategies and global integration

August 24, 2007

One of the Globally Local readers (hi Samuel!) has asked me to develop my comments on paths 2 and 3 in this diagram I used in my post “Global Intranets – Different Challenges, Different Paths


Samuel says: “The difference between companies started in the USA with intranet evolution is interesting. What is your explanation for
this fact? The way US companies are organized? Organizational culture?”

JMC response: In my experience, the majority of USA companies who expand abroad do so by following the path started at point 2A. They  “impose” their intranet structure in a natural way (passing through the 2B cookie cutter stage) as they grow gradually.  They usually have a strong IT culture and a high degree of self-confidence or “we prefer what is invented here” and are thereby able to achieve the move to an integrated portal relatively easily.

European companies already have a strong sense of diversity, primarily coming from the geographical proximity of highly different cultures and ways of doing things. Personally, I have never seen the cookie cutter approach coming from a European headquartered multinational or global company.

Samuel continues: “My company relates to path 3. We are now working on one global
intranet. Why do you say: it is highly unlikely these organisations
will do what we are doing now?”

JMC response: What I said when describing path 3 is:  “One day, the organisation may decide it needs a single point of entry
(3C). However, it is highly unlikely that it will ever become more than
a thin portal with news from HQ and the businesses, multiple links to
the information resources and intranets of the organisation, and a
corporate directory (although it will take years to include all the
entities). It will primarily be a unifying layer of common information
placed on top of the standardised model.”

I believe this because unless the global company has a highly integrated business model, the final 3C point will be based on what is “common” to all employees of the global company and when you get right down to it, this is much less than one thinks from the theoretical or abstract viewpoint.

Samuel finishes with a Final Question:
“To a large extent I agree with your model. But don’t
you think there’s an intermediary step somewhere between 3B and C, or 2B
and C etc in which local intranets are migrated one-by-one to one
global intranet?”

JMC response: I have not yet seen it. The one-by-one step is a hard one to pull off. Do you start a  big one, who will usually resist, sometimes successfully? Or with a small one, where from the global viewpoint, it does not make a lot of difference? How do you achieve critical mass?

How can you be sure your integrated solution genuinely meets all needs unless you have discussed it with all types of your entities:

  • different geographies,
  • mature and young,
  • big (lots of resources) and small (DIY intranets),
  • those where the native language is the same as HQ and those where it is different,
  • Etc.

And once you’ve discussed the integration strategy and migration path with the key players, how do you establish priorities, timelines and functionalities such as search and indexing while ensuring that all entities are treated fairly, respectfully and without disrupting their day-to-day operations?

Of course this can all be organised, but not, in my opinion, on a “one-by-one” basis. It requires well thought-out strategy with a maximum of communication, diplomacy and change management actions. Not the least of which must address the concerns of local senior managers who are “losing their intranets”!

Thank you for pushing me with your questions, Samuel. Keep them coming.

If other readers have comments or experiences to share, please join us!

Does your job title reflect the strategy and vision behind your role?

August 6, 2007

How many times have I heard intranet managers complain that they get phone calls when there are email problems, or there is a problem with a password for a collaborative space or the user cannot get ahold of a document stored in a document management system that is technically separate from the intranet. In fact, it is irrelevant to the user whether or not the intranet team is actually responsible for these things.

All the user knows is that he/she goes to the intranet, clicks on a link, and has a problem. Whether or not the application is fully integrated, just connected via  a link, or actually a totally separate functionality that the intranet manager has absolutely nothing to do with, the user experience comes down to “I went to the intranet and I had this problem.”

Intranet managers should be delighted that users consider the intranet the reference point for all things – all things good and bad, of course. This is a sign that the intranet is becoming the single point of entry into the organisations’s internal online tool set. Is your organisation embracing this new mind set? Or are you still organised in “online tool silos”?

The very name of your departement or team or even your job title can be used to reflect the vision your organisation has of the intranet and the intranet landscape. I use the word landscape to mean the intranet and all pieces of the environment in which the intranet exists. This can include email, the employee directory, dedicated portals, document management systems, collaborative spaces and so on. I am including whatever the user perceives as “the intranet”.

While analysing the data and producing the 2006 Global Intranet Report, I observed many different titles. The 2007 Survey participants have an even wider range of titles. Take a look at some of these team and/or job titles, and think about the different images they project and whether or not some of these might be of interest to you.

Of course you cannot completely control the name of your department or team, but you can surely influence it. Maybe some ideas below – all from real people –  will inspire you!

“My role is focused on the intranet”

Let’s start with what I call the “Intranet Something” titles. These are the most frequent, and reflect different philosophies and degrees of responsibility

  • Intranet Coordinator
  • Intranet Manager
  • Intranet Leader
  • Intranet Gatekeeper
  • Intranet Overseer

These five words carry quite different meanings and your choice should be made carefully. It will in part depend on your company culture and the degree to which you are centralised or decentralised, using global processes or not.

Coordinator –  a person whose job is to make different things work well together, and must often work through influence rather than direct control

Manager- a person with a team of people and a certain degree of control and direct responsiblity

Leader – a person with vision and the ability to bring others together around this vision

Gatekeeper – a person whose job it is to protect something of value and to ensure that it is well taken care of

Overseer – a person whose role is to supervise people and/or things to make sure all goes well

“I am in charge of content”

Then we have titles that reflect responsibility for content on the intranet.

  • Intranet Producer
  • Intranet Content Management
  • Editorial Webmaster – Internet – Intranet – e-communications

These three titles are different in that:

Producers do the “real” work – the often thankless task of producing and maintaining high quality content

Content management may refer to managing either producers or the whole content provision system (people and tools)

The third title uses the unfortunate word “web master” and although it is preceded by “editorial”, still suggests someone who executes what others create. The extension of “e-communications” to the title raises the level a little, but it still projects a limited level of responsibility.

“We are here to serve”

Another set of titles suggest the intranet is there to serve the organisation, help people do their work, but do not make a direct relationship to the actual business of the organisation

  • Director, Intranet Services
  • Interactive Communications Manager
  • IT Manager: Communication – Collaboration
  • Intranet Team, Internal & Change Communications
  • Online Communications Officer
  • Internet & Intranet Support Team Leader
  • Global Intranet Services Manager
  • Manager, Enterprise Web Management

“The intranet is important”

Another set suggests importance of the intranet

  • Vice President Intranet Services
  • Corporate Communications: Program Manager, Intranet Strategy & Production
  • Global Intranet Specialist

Having a VP in charge of intranet services, setting up an official program with a person in charge of strategy and production, and have intranet specialists all suggest that the organisations attribute value and importance to the intranet. They recognise the need for expertise, strategy and high level management.

“The intranet brings business value to the organisation”

The following titles go on step further, with an indication of the business value the intranet brings to the organisation

  • Internal Web Capability
  • Business Consultant | Web Strategy and Marketing
  • Intranet Business Analyst
  • Business Change Manager – Intranet

“Beyond the intranet”

The final title in my list is the one that reflects a strong vision that goes far beyond the intranet itself.

  • Director, Workplace Strategy & Enablement : Total Workplace Experience CoE

This suggests a company that has a strategy for the workplace, wants to enable employees, and has gone so far as to create a center of excellence for the “total workplace experience”. This company is clearly people and user-focused, and considers this concept sufficiently important to build a team of experts around it.

What is your title?

I would love to hear from you, and get your comments on titles, or some new titles to add to my list. The Global Intranet 2007 Survey is still on-going, so drop me a line if you would like to participate.

I’ll publish a list of titles in one of the appendices so we’ll have a global view on titles being used today in the intranet world.

I’d like to remind you quickly of one of the learnings from the 2006 Report, and we will see if it has changed in 2007 as I have repeated the question.

Strategic but not recognized

Note that of the 74 % of global intranet teams who do strategic work, only 40% of them are recognised by management for doing so. Let’s hope that changes.


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Two strategic tools often neglected: the vision and the mission statement

August 3, 2007

Do you have both a vision and a mission statement for your intranet? If so, you’re one of the rare organisations to do so. Most jump straight to what they call “strategy” which may be a mix of the above plus some strategy.

What follows is an adaptation of a short article I wrote for my web site back in 2004 and it seemed timely to refresh it and share it. I’ve had occasion recently to hear people throw the words “mission”, “vision” and “strategy” around carelessly, without understanding the differences and how they relate to each other.

So, at the risk of being abstract, I have attempted to define the 3 terms below:

The Vision

The vision answers the question “What will success be like?”

It is a picture in words of a desirable future state, a description that triggers a strong mental image for each person who hears it. The vision serves to motivate people, on condition that they have participated in defining it, or have integrated it as their own.

A common vision is a pre-requirement for a flexible, win-win approach among the different players involved in building and sustaining a living, dynamic intranet.

An example: “A friend you trust, who is always there to help you do what you have to do.”

The Mission Statement

The mission statement answers the question “Why are we doing this?”

It is composed of three elements: your objectives, your target user groups, and what you will offer or provide to achieve the objectives .

It can then further broken down into specific services or functions to be offered to each target user group, and priorities can be established for each one. However, this more detailed analysis may fit better in the Strategy document.

An example: Provide the sales force with the sales tools, competitive information and good practices that will enable them to prepare sales calls and close deals faster and better.

The Strategy

The strategy document answers the question “How will we do this?”

This document will vary in length depending on the amount of detail included. It will include all or part of the following pieces:

  • Audit and needs analysis based on present situation
  • Study (projection) of what is needed in the future
  • A concept that meets these needs
  • High level project steps and milestones
  • Roles and responsibilities of different members of the organisation
  • Costs (ballpark) for internal and external resources
  • Risk assessment

A strong vision and mission statement will make the strategy document much easier to write.

2.0 on the intranet – still a long ways off

August 3, 2007

This post is my third prediction about the results of the second annual Global Intranet & Portal Strategies Survey. It is on-going at the moment, and I have not yet downloaded the data, so these short posts are “best bets” or shall we say educated guesses!

2007 will not have been the tipping point towards integrating 2.0 tools and technologies into intranets and portals. There will be a significantly higher proportion of organisations looking at 2.0 than in the 2006 survey, but very few organisations will have integrated 2.0 into the way of working. I expect fewer than 10% to actually have a 2.0 strategy for the intranet or portal. (In 2006, 2 companies out of 101 organisations did.)

I’m not suggesting that companies are not experimenting with blogs, wikis and other 2.0 tools. I mean the vast majority will not have a strategy around them.

You can read the previous predictions at these links:

Prediction 1: What keeps senior management awake at night and what is your intranet doing about it?

Prediction 2: To all Intranet Managers: Things are getting better… aren’t they?

To all intranet managers: things are getting better, aren’t they … ?

August 1, 2007

The second annual Global Intranet & Portal Strategies Survey is currently on going and as I said a few days ago, I want to go down on record with some predictions before I close the survey and begin analysis.

This post is the second prediction and focuses on the intranet manager him/herself.

(The first one was on whether or not the intranet has become the “way of working” in organizations: What keeps senior management awake at night and what is your intranet doing about it?)

Here’s my second prediction :


In spite of difficulties and some major challenges in individual cases, the intranet manager community is growing in solidarity, self-confidence and overall job satisfaction. There will be significantly less professional frustration expressed this year by intranet and portal managers.

If you did not see it, you might want to check out my blog post from November 10, 2006 from the 2006 Report: No career path for an intranet manager. The change I sense since last year is in part because a growing number of forums, clubs and information services are becoming available for intranet managers  – including the Global Intranet Survey itself!

I’m personally aware of grass roots initiatives in the UK, France and the US – all kicked off by companies themselves, not consultants. Some are faring better than others.

Another change I feel is that intranet managers are becoming more knowledgeable and skilful in their jobs. The average “intranet manager” found him/herself in the role without training or preparation. Although in some companies the person fulfilling the role changes often, in other organisations the same person is in the role for a number of years, and becomes highly expert in the job. Of course the job itself is evolving, and offering more challenges and rewards.

I feel an increasing sense of communication, sharing and pride in the job role within the global intranet manager community. It will be interesting to see the answers to the 2007 survey question asking the intranet manager his/her opinion if the intranet is a tool that does or can do the following:

•    Increase an organization competitive advantage in the market place or arena of operation. It lets teams work better and faster, create value and better serve customers

•    Improve external communication and public relations in general because well-informed employees who understand the organization strategy consciously or unconsciously transmit positive or negative messages about their organization to the outside world.

•    Enable change: help the organization move to a more effective, productive and satisfying way of working.

•    Become one of the factors that make job applicants think that your organization could be “a great place to work” because the intranet is so appealing, efficient, modern and enjoyable

I expect the answers to be upbeat, with most managers at the higher end of the scale that runs from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”.

We’ll have to wait and see….comments anyone? The 2007 Report will be published in October.

Global intranets – different challenges, different paths

July 31, 2007

Following my previous blog post on how intranet and portal landscapes evolve, I will develop 3 evolutionary paths in more detail in this post. (click to enlarge diagram)


Path 1 – The Red Path

This is typical of an enterprise that starts from a home country base or what I call a “single geography” context, and then either acquires other companies or is part of one or more mergers. The comfortable single geography intranet (1A) has now become part of a diverse set of intranets (1B) where it is not longer so easy to find content, to know where to publish, to even know which other intranets exist!

The Center will try to take control of the situation. I’ve seen a wide variety of methods ranging from creating a global intranet team (the white hat approach) to decreeing rules from HQ and sending them out as an attachment to an email signed by the CEO (the black hat approach).

Some of the landscapes will evolve to a more or less standardized family of intranets with agreements on roles and scopes for each (1C). In today’s world of information overload and web 2.0 opportunities, they may eventually move to a single-point of entry, possibly even a truly integrated portal over time (1D) but it will take time.

Other landscapes may stay blocked for years, with frustration felt from the center and from the entities. The breakthrough will occur when they realize that it is the management and people who will make the changes happen, not the technology or the rules.

Path 2 – The Green Path

This is typical of many enterprises born and raised in the US, then evolving into international and eventually global operations. The intranets in the different countries where the enterprise sets up will be built with the cookie cutter approach, or what we can call “cut and paste”, each one being a copy of the home country intranet, give or take a little (2B).

If the enterprise has no acquisitions, participates in no mergers, continues its fairly controlled organic growth, and has a homogenous product or service offering worldwide,  it may eventually evolve to an integrated portal, with a high degree of customization per country primarily for HR, administrative and logistical aspects. (2C).

If any of the “ifs” above occur, it will likely deviate through a longer path including phases of the “diverse” model, moving to the “standardized” model before reaching the portal model. It will in fact have followed a path similar to the Red one, but possibly even longer because the “cut and paste” model will have momentarily created a comfortable illusion that “we all do things the same way”.

Enterprises on the Red Path have known for a long time that “we do not all do things the same way!”

Path 3 – The Blue Path

This is typical of an enterprise or holding company created through numerous, nearly simultaneous, acquisitions. The intranet landscape is a mixture of very different, non connected sites, portals, intranets, even Notes databases (3A).

If there is commonality among the businesses, the intranet may evolve to the standardized model (3B) although it will be very hard work.

One day, the organization may decide it needs a single point of entry (3C). However, it is highly unlikely that it will ever become more than a thin portal with news from HQ and the businesses, multiple links to the information resources and intranets of the organization, and a corporate directory (although it will take years to include all the entities). It will primarily be a unifying layer of common information placed on top of the standardized model.

I invite comments from those of you who are on one of these paths, or a different one…

How intranet & portal landscapes evolve

July 30, 2007

Over the past 5 years, I have been working on defining models for different types of intranets and portals. I have reached a set of 6 types that I have tested with both international companies, with government,  institutional and non-profit organizations.
In this post, I shall attempt to describe each model in a few words, and invite your comments, questions and opinions.

The diagram below is an extract from the 2007 Global Intranet Trends Survey. There is a lot to be said for each type: its history, its relation to organizational or business strategies, its relevance for users, and so on.

The evolution from 1 to 6 is not systematic. In fact, intranets follow specific paths depending on the history of the organization and how it is growing, evolving, down-sizing, devolving, etc. I will write more about this shortly.

In the meantime, comments welcome.



How is an intranet both “globally local” and “locally global”?

July 23, 2007

I think I have never explained why I named this blog “Globally Local and Locally Global” so here goes.*

For me, those 5 words represent the deepest, most difficult challenge of all global intranets and portals.

And I do mean 5 words, and not 4. The “and” is as important – if not more – than the other 2 sides of the equation!

Here are some questions and answers for each part of the equation:

 “Globally Local” challenges

Q: How do home pages that are supposed to be the single point of entry for the entire organization become meaningful to people in the field, in offices far from the center?

A: By being “Globally Local” in that they successfully blend global and local news from around the organization, and offer customized versions that “speak to” everyone.

Q: How do global intranet teams define strategies that will really work around the world, that are realistic and doable?

A: By including intranet managers from around the world into the thinking and planning from the beginning.

Q: How can you implement shared models and procedures to bring coherence to a diversified and decentralized  family of intranets?

A: By starting with a true globalization strategy that passes through the internationalization phase (building models that take differences into account)  before the localization phase (where local teams adapt to their needs).

“Locally Global” challenges

Q: How can you help people in operations and field units see the big picture, become interested in what is happening across the organization, see beyond their own local unit?

A: By bringing global news and services to them in an non intrusive way, through opt-in feeds for example, and by making sure news from operations gets promoted on the intranet. (Too often, news on the home page is limited to sales and marketing accomplishments.)

Q: How can you get more cross organization information flowing – get people in local units more involved with people in other units and the center?

A: By implementing light-weight collaboration tools such as blogs and wikis that make it easy for even the smallest units with the least on-site IT support to get involved.

And finally, the “and” challenge

Q: How can you ensure that your intranet and portal strategies will meet the needs of all your users?

A: By talking to them and listening before you decide to implement. (All the intranet audits I’ve conducted for  global organizations – and I’ve done a lot – have had one thing in common: the people from the small countries or business units respond to the request to be interviewed much faster than people from the big countries and BUs. Why? Because it is relatively rare that the center asks them what they think, and what their needs are in advance of a new implementation. They are almost always happy and willing to be involved.)

Q: How can you decide what should be standardized globally and what should be left to local preferences?

A: By making sure your standardization on the intranet keeps pace, but does not move faster than the standardization of processes within your organization.

The intranet must be aligned with organizational and business strategies, not behind and not in advance. Being behind pulls the organization down; being too far ahead makes it unrealistic to achieve.

This chart shows the 2006 survey results (published as Global Intranet Trends for 2007) to the question: How are decision-making & responsibilities balanced between the center and the different entities?



* Footnote December 2011: the blog is no longer called “Globally Local – Locally Global” but it carried that name for several years.

What keeps senior management awake at night and what is your intranet doing about it?

July 19, 2007

The second annual Global Intranet Trends Survey is currently on going. It will still be open for several weeks, and I want to go down on record with some predictions before I close the survey to begin analysis.

Three predictions about the 2007 intranet survey results

This article is the first one and focuses on whether or not the intranet has become the “way of working” in organizations:

1. Intranets will still be primarily perceived as information tools.

The major perception of intranets is that they are information tools, only somewhat a collaboration tool and practically not at all a tool that brings business value to the organization.

This was the result in 2006, and I expect only a slight change in 2007 results.

2. Intranets will not yet be the “way of working” for the vast majority of organisations.

There will be a small number of organizations where the intranet will have become the way of working, but not even 1 out of 4 or 5.

The 2007 survey asks the question: “How soon do you think the intranet or portal will become the “way of working” in your organization?” and offers a choice of answers:

  • Not foreseeable.
  • It’s a long way off. (Over 5 years.)
  • We have made progress. Still far away. (Another 3 or 4 years.)
  • It is in the process of becoming so. (Another 1 or 2 years.)
  • It already is.

My guess is that most organizations will fall into the “we have made progress” group.

3. Awareness by senior management of the potential role of the intranet will have increased very little if at all.

I would love to see a jump from the 2006 survey results where in only 13% of the cases, did senior management consider the intranet to be “business critical”. Another 29 % considered it “very useful”.

This left 58 % where it was considered “useful” or “nice to have”.

“Lack of awareness of the potential role of the intranet” was considered the biggest hindrance in 72 % of the organizations.

I do not expect to find a big change in the numbers for 2007 because this is a long-term issue that will require much communication and work on the part of organizations.

A few words on “business critical”

Most intranets lack the “full service offering” that makes them indispensable to doing business within the organizations. How many of the following statements are true about your intranet?

  • The intranet facilitates business changes & reactivity because the information architecture and navigational options are defined from a user-centric viewpoint, not an organizational one.
  • Senior management communicates regularly on the intranet, with “real” content, not corporate speak.
  • The home page has new news every day, not just from headquarters but from around the world, specifically from the field operations.
  • Business connections can be made across the organization because staff directories let people find people without knowing the exact name, do searches by function, geography and expertise.

There are many other statements to be made, and I invite your contributions!

What keeps senior management awake at night?

I close with one piece of advice. If you want your intranet to be perceived as critical by top management, do the following:

  • Brainstorm on what keeps the senior management of your organization awake at night.
  • Make a short list.
  • Then make sure your intranet content and service offering relate to these things, whatever they are.

If your intranet is going in the right direction, it should not be hard to do. If the points you come up with and your intranet offer seem unrelated, then some re-thinking might be called for.


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Intranets tomorrow – much more than today

May 25, 2007

A slide from  the presentation I gave at Intranets.Today, Wed. 23 May 2007  in Frankfort on “Intranets Tomorrow – a glimpse into the future”.

The red circle represents intranets today.