Global & Local, Governance & Process

Being in the middle is the hardest

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in August 2006 ……

I recently had a fascinating conversation (in the context of an intranet audit) with a business manager who was one of a very small number of expatriates in a country far from headquarters. He works at the divisional level of an organization that has had many acquisitions over the last 3 years.

One of the goals of the divisional intranet (for whom I am conducting the audit) was to facilitate the merger process.

We were talking about the role and home page of the divisional intranet, and several of his comments really struck me. 

  • ” I need my local intranet of course, for my work and a lot of practical things. The group intranet is important for staying up to day on corporate news. It has strong group branding and helps me see what’s happening globally.”
  • “I just realized, in talking to you, that the divisional home page is useless for me. All I use is the navigation.”
  • “I don’t know if the divisional intranet is supposed to be a communication tool or a work tool. When I look at it, I don’t feel like working – I feel like exploring around the company.”

Good or bad? Depends on the timing. Obviously that was once the goal of the intranet, but now…?

More input from other companies:

  • I’m currently about to start work with another client who has 4 or possibly 5 levels of intranets, each one corresponding to a level in the organization, and a team of people who have “things to say and to share.”.

However, when I draw a diagram from the user viewpoint, it’s clear that there is no clear way for the user to know where to go for specific types of information.

Core business?

Another of my clients talks about “core business”: They say that each site should provide content around its core business, and not produce content that is not related to its core business. Rather, it should publish syndicated content coming from entities also dealing with their core business.


Another client talks about “subsidiarity” –the principle that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level.

Subsidiarity is relevant for intranet governance: Give responsibility for content to the lowest level possible.

The challenge in these projects will be to define solutions that are user-oriented, yet help different stakeholders provide services and content.