Governance & Process, Strategy & Decision-making

Future Proofing Intranet Governance

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in December 2009 ……

One way to future proof your intranet is to future proof the governance.

There are 3 ways to do that, and I recommend doing all 3!

1. Implement cross-organizational ownership.

If you do not already have a cross-organizational ownership model in place, move in that direction. The Global Intranet Trends for 2010 showed that 14 % of the nearly 300 participating organization have this model. In Stage 3 (more mature intranets) it rises to 22 %, still not very high.

A cross-organizational model means all the key functions and divisions of the organization have representation on the Steering Committee or Advisory Board or whatever you call your top-level decision-making body.

This puts Business side by side with Communication, IT and HR, the traditional “owners” of the intranet. They can then fulfill their traditional roles of enablers and Business can take the role it should have long had as a major decision-maker for the intranet.

2. Lock in your flows to and from the intranet decision-makers and publish them.

Cross-organizational ownership ensures you full coverage of your organization. There are no black holes where the intranet is concerned. That’s good.

However, you cannot of course have dozens of people on the decision-making body, so you will have people who represent different segments of the organization.

A common problem is that the people being represented do not always know who represents them. When strategic decisions are being discussed, these people are not consulted in advance and asked for input. Sometimes they are not even informed about the decisions that are made. This leads to confusion, and worse, rejection of decisions and “we”ll do it our way”. It’s understandable if no one has talked to them!

The representatives themselves may never have thought clearly about the fact that they represent other people, not just themselves.

So, by making the consulting and communicating flows between the intranet decision-makers and the rest of the enterprise visible to all, the intranet is protected from breakdowns coming from people’s lack of awareness and lack of being involved.

The Steering Committee itself must integrate formal reporting by its members to ensure they are carrying out their “obligations” to their “constituencies”.

A simple way to do this is to publish Steering Committee names, roles and constituencies on the intranet itself. There should be also be publication of decisions made, action items including who and when.

Locking this in through visibility will ensure that when a decision-maker loses interest in the intranet or is not doing the job right, others will notice and hopefully help

3. Invite young staff to strategy sessions on a regular basis.

If you’ve implemented cross-organizational ownership, you’ve got no black holes from the organizational viewpoint.
However, you also need to make sure you don’t have black holes from the seniority viewpoint.
The actual members of the Steering Committee will usually be fairly high level people with seniority in the business. If a few members of newer staff, preferably young staff, are invited to join the Steering Committee for regular strategy sessions, the blend of years of experience with new ways of working can stimulate everyone.

When I say “new staff”, I’m thinking of young professionals who have been in the organization for at least 2 or so, but not yet long enough to be ingrained by the organizational culture.

They will bring fresh ideas to the table, and will be sufficiently involved in the organization to be able to formulate the business value in ways that will make sense to the senior people.

Having strategy session like this once a year will keep your intranet decision-makers on their toes! It will also ensure that new voices are being heard.