Governance in the digital workplace – the issues

March 16, 2011

(Updated with minor edits: Aug 2014) A sure sign that the digital workplace is on the fast lane in a lot of people’s minds is that well over 120 people came to my workshop on intranet governance at Congres Intranet 2011 in Utrecht. I could not believe my eyes. It was an exciting moment and I only regret that we had too little time to dig in and too many people to interact.

Some of my points:

  • The coming together of the digital workplace has forced a new approach to governance.
  • We need a holistic perspective, where the [“intranet” + collaboration + social + mobile] are looked at as a coordinated, enabling “virtual platform”. (Post from 2011.) Also see this post from 2012.
  • This “virtual platform” must be coherent for people. They don’t care if it is made up of different systems and technologies.
  • Governance is a key for management teams. Governance means steering, not directly managing.
  • There are different ownership models for the digital workplace, each placing  decision-making points in different places.
  • Ownership means responsibility for all or part of the “virtual platform”, not everything on the platform. It means responsibility for the governing framework, not all the policies derived from the framework.

The conversation continues on Twitter…

@svenhagg: Thank you for your great presentation. Now finding a way to practise it in our organisation!
@netjmc: How? @svenhagg: I think I’ll start with convincing my colleagues about the value of consulting HRM and IT. And what struck me most is letting go of old ideas and control. And start thinking of new solutions.

congresintranet @netjmc interestingly links influence in organizations to what’s on the intranet homepage.

I sure do. The home page is a promise. What you see on it indicates what you’ll get beyond it. The entry page represents the digital workplace or lack of.

Who to involve?

JeroendeBoer RT @lteunissen: @netjmc: It’s a big strategic mistake to not involve middle management.

That’s for sure. I know a large organization that nearly risked their new intranet launch because only the “top” and the “bottom” had been involved.

@TonyByrne #intra11 Jane McConnell @netjmc showing how trad’l stakeholders “losing control” of intranets. erikmhartman #intra11 jeynote @netjmc “HR is feeling threatened by social intranet”.  RiaBreuer @netjmc 5 out of 650 participants of #intra11 in HR

I was surprised at how few people in the room were from HR functions. This is a serious issue I wrote about here.

New roles and models

Nathalielh According to @netjmc, the business is taking over control on intranet. We’ll see about that… ;) #intra11

Great reaction! Will be interesting to see how the traditional owners assume new roles!

congresintranet @netjmc shows governance model examples from practice. Audience can relate to one or the other #intra11

It’s important to build your own governance model based, in large part, on your own organizational decision-making culture.

@driessen: @netjmc stresses we are all learning, there are hardly any companies that “have cracked it”

The pioneers in the digital workplace are the first to say they have a lot to learn. Especially in governance.

What are your governance issues?

Get in touch here, via Twitter or by email if you’d like to talk about governance. It’s a hot topic right now, as it should be!

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Richard Dennison

Of course … feel free.

Jane McConnell

Richard- I had seen your controlometer and think it’s very useful. I’d like to include it in the governance toolset I’m putting together for the digital workplace, crediting you, of course. Is that OK?

Richard Dennison

Jane – great post. I totally agree that governance is about the over-arching framework and not about the content itself. While I also agree that the concept of the digital workplace must be coherent to the user, I think it’s worth pointing out that this doesn’t mean you need a single governance regime for the whole space.

It’s a mistake to think that the digital workplace/intranet is an amorphous blob which should be dealt with in governance terms as a single entity – it’s made up of different content types which require separate governance. I created a sort of ‘controlometer’ to try to illustrate this point on my blog (

Keep up the great work! :-)