Business & Value, Governance & Process, Guidance & How To

Is Business Steering Your Digital Workplace?

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in April 2011 ……

Everyone talks about aligning the intranet (or digital workplace) to business needs. Yet, when you look at the typical strategic governing group (i.e. Digital Board,  Steering Committee, …), it is rare to find active participation from business people.

The genuine business presence is nearly always missing.

Governing groups tend to be driven by the organizations support functions, i.e. communication, IT and HR. Their intentions may well be to “ensure the intranet meets business needs”. They will certainly conduct user surveys, interviews, focus groups and so on. All this is good stuff, and must be done.

However, it is not the same as having business people on the strategic governing group. Why aren’t they there? Reasons differ.

>> They don’t have time? Their job is to run the business. In this case, the intranet is not yet key to doing  business better. Or the governing group itself may be inefficient or ineffective.

>> Intranets are the job of the support functions? They know what business needs. You’ll soon lose that illusion if you put them and business leaders in a room together and try to get them to agree on what should be on the intranet home page.

Strategic governing groups need direct and active business presence.There are no alternatives to this.

You need to understand your own organizational dynamics to know where to get the right business people.

It is a two-dimensional question: how high in the organization? where in the organization?

Tap the right level.

1. Don’t take someone at the very top of the organization. They risk delegating to someone else.

2. Take people who have direct access to the top person but are also tied closely to front line teams. You want people skilled at bridging strategy and operations.

Understand where business happens in your organization.

3. If you are a layered, multinational company, take people from outside the central point (head-quarters). Managers of divisions or countries or business units from around the world are much better qualified to express business needs than are the HQ-based teams.

4. If you are a “hub and spokes” organization with a central HQ and teams on the ground in different countries, take people from the ground teams or at least the regional reps for the ground teams.

5. If you are a highly skilled professional organization (consultants, accountants, …) include these professionals.

6. If you’re a truly global company with strategic decision-making in different parts of the world, take people from the key places. However, do not neglect the smaller, fast-growing places that may become big fast.

An example of a successful strategic governing group: One of the most successful steering groups I’ve ever worked with is headed up by the top manager of one of the major business units. There are 5 other business people in this group, each one from a different business line in a different region of the world. In this way, they have covered their main business lines and main world regions.  The intranet manager and communications manager are the only non-business people in the group.