Do your intranet and internal comms approaches clash?

Whatever the strategy for your intranet is, it needs to align with your organisation’s overall strategy.  It must clearly show how it supports and will help your organisation to deliver its strategic priorities.

You should also consider how it aligns with other strategies that support different business areas and functions.  It is important to know the direction they are taking and if they support or conflict with your intranet strategy.  One of the most common business functions relevant to your strategy and plans will be Internal Communications.

In some cases, the intranet strategy is part of the internal communications strategy. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, your intranet is more than a communications tool.  It has a much wider strategic role that includes operational information, business processes and tools to share knowledge.

There is normally agreement and minimal conflict between each strategy.  However, there are two areas with the highest risk of conflict between the approaches for the Intranet and Internal Comms.

News

Sometimes Internal Comms’ focus on news to the virtual exclusion of any other information.  There are probably several places on the intranet where people read the news: corporate homepage, each business area and function site, senior leader’s pages, etc., as well as news feeds or discussion groups.

But they don’t want to find the same news article or angle on that news wherever and whenever they go to these sites.  When people reach a saturation point they will be turned off by the amount of news that is the same.  People feel bombarded by news and will switch off rather than feel engaged and interested.

I have not found one survey that showed reading the news as the most effective use of an intranet in helping people with their work.

You need to find the right balance so people see the right amount of news in the right places at the right times.  Less is more.  Make sure the news is only in specific places and relevant to each audience.

homepage

The other area of concern is the amount of space news takes up on your corporate intranet portal or Homepage compared with business tools, operational information and ways to share ideas and problems.  Too often I find a mismatch.

The majority of people emphasise how important business tools, information and sharing are but the majority of space is taken up with news, particularly images.  While not directly a strategic or governance issue, it does contribute to the overall user experience if the Homepage does not meet people’s needs.

Ultimately, this can affect people’s overall effectiveness and productivity.  That risks a conflict with Internal Comms narrower approach to the intranet as a good communications tool rather than it being a great business tool as well.

Get the balance right so you provide what people need.  Test out with people who use the Homepage to find out what helps them with their work, then provide it.  That will probably be less news than exists but will likely mean the remaining news will be viewed more because it matches people’s needs.

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersFind out more information on how to avoid this conflict sinister underwebs from my new book ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘.  Read the introductory chapter to find out more.  A license to share the ebook with publishers across your organisation is available.

Oh no! Avoid sinister underwebs!!

Developing the best governance framework will give the right support to your intranet and organisation.  Don’t forget your governance needs to help, not hinder, how people use the intranet.  That is the best way that your intranet can support your organisation’s goals.

Governance needs people using your intranet to be confident in the integrity of the information and tools every time they use them. They can always rely on your intranet helping, not hindering, them with their work.

Getting the right balance is critical to avoid a sinister underweb.  You need to be pragmatic with your governance approach. It doesn not have to be perfect but it must be good enough to give people confidence whenever they use the intranet.  What exactly do I mean?  Here is an example:

If your ‘Official’ intranet is designed and branded to a very high standard, containing all the information people should need but rarely use, the problem is probably that governance is too rigid.

Publishers must follow a complex process especially when it comes to branding for the ‘Official’ intranet.  If their site has an image that deviates by a few pixels it can’t be published.  Yes, it can be that tight!  To add to their misery, the steps to final approval are onerous and take a lot of time and effort.

Naturally, publishers become frustrated and look for other options to publish their content more easily.  Over time, an ‘Underweb’ starts to sprout up and competes with the ‘Official’ intranet.

If left unchecked, you can have a bizarre situation with an ‘Official’ intranet looking beautiful, on-brand, but little content that people need for their work. Conversely, the ‘Underweb’ thrives although it is not completely on brand.  It has information and tools that people use for their work and it’s easy to use.

You need a good publishing experience as it is easy to create content and make changes to meet people’s needs.  You also need a user experience that is good enough.

The lesson here is to remember the purpose of your intranet.  It is to provide the information and tools that people need to help them.  Your governance must support this.  Research with people using your intranet what they like most and what they do not.  It will quickly help you to assess if your governance is helping or hindering people’s use.

This means you need a publishing process that is both easy to use and compliant with your publishing standards.  You also need people using the intranet to have a consistently good experience.  Achieving the needs of both groups means you will have more productive and effective people.  That is what your organisation needs most of all.

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersFind out more information on how to avoid sinister underwebs from my new book ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘.  Read the introductory chapter to find out more.  A license to share the ebook with publishers across your organisation is available.

3 steps to demonstrate the full value of your intranet

It is not enough just to set up a governance framework underpinning your strategy.  While they are prerequisites for a well-managed intranet, you also need to measure and demonstrate the benefits the intranet provides for your organisation, especially if you need further investment in the intranet or its governance.

Traditional Return On Investment (ROI) financial benefits usually have the biggest impact on your organisation, especially on those approving financial spend.  However, there are other types of benefits with significant value.  You need to consider all of the following to justify the benefits of good governance:

  • Financial benefits that impact on the bottom line of your organisation’s financial results
  • Quantified, non-financial benefits, such as improved productivity
  • Unquantified, non-financial benefits such as culture changes

Some benefits are easier to measure.  Other benefits have greater prominence with your stakeholders.  The amount of benefit measured may also vary. Sometimes you may find the amount is so large, the benefits can be difficult to justify as achieved.  You will need to judge the best benefits to justify investment in the intranet.

An example would be a change in people’s behaviour that increases productivity with time saved.  This may appear to deliver a large amount of benefits.  However, showing what people do with that time saved can be harder.  Are they working better or on other work tasks, or are they relaxing and having more time to talk with colleagues?  It can be demanding finding a suitable benefit.

Remember to:

  1. Choose how to measure the benefits your intranet provides.
  2. Decide when is a good time to measure the benefits e.g. interviewing people before and after a major change to assess its impact on their work activities.  There are different approaches to take when you measure these benefits.
  3. Consider how much time you have to measure the benefits, what resources you can call upon, and whether you need wider expertise.

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersFind out more information on how to manage your publishing community and intranet from my new book ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘.  Read the introductory chapter to find out more.  A license to share the ebook with publishers across your organisation is also available.

How can new publishers comply with your intranet standards?

Implementing publishing standards that meet your organisation’s requirements helps create a consistently good experience for people accessing your intranet.

They are critical to you implementing a successful governance framework.  The publishing standards will support your intranet strategy, publishing model, roles and responsibilities.

All your content owners and editors need to comply with the publishing standards.  Knowing this, people will access your intranet and use it more, confident in the integrity of the content and applications and aware that you ensure publishers comply with each standard.

And that can be the weakest link in your governance framework!  How do you continue to provide that consistently good user experience with new publishers?

I am talking about publishing accredited – news articles, company policies, etc. – content, not collaborative – blogs, discussion groups, etc. – in this post.

Your governance framework must cover how you manage new content owners and editors.  This is the best way to sustain the baseline you have established for best practice.  Without it, people will inevitably see a decline when they access your intranet.  Their productivity and effectiveness risks declining and affecting their overall work performance.

There are five actions that you need to consider taking so new publishers are good publishers:

  1. Induction training on how to use the publishing tool.  This is not just about what to use it for.  It includes how to use the publishing templates.  It needs to covers features like global navigation bar, content owner, review and last updated dates.  By explaining why this is important it helps encourage best practice.
  2. Have good communications channels so new publishers can keep up to date with the latest news that affects them.  Publishers should be able to ask other publishers for help and get answers.  New publishers should feel they are fully informed about how they use the intranet.
  3. Offer clear online guidance and best practice tips on how to publish on the intranet.  Reinforce this when you contact content owners and editors e.g. email, discussion group, conference call or webinar.
  4. Invite all new publishers to join a discussion group covering publishing topics to help develop a broader understanding.  It is much easier (and cheaper) to have peer-to-peer conversations where practical tips are shared quickly with each other.
  5. Have one set of publishing templates that you manage.  Keep publishing simple and easy to encourage best practice.  One publishing process will save content owners and editors’ time.  It avoids the temptation to try alternative methods or create more templates.Book cover - Digital success or digital disasters

Find out more information on how to manage your publishing community and intranet from my new book ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘.  Read the introductory chapter to find out more.  A license to share the ebook with publishers across your organisation is also available.

7 principles for good intranet governance

An effective governance framework is essential for a well-managed intranet.  It can be the deciding factor between a good user experience, greatly valued, and a poor user experience with little benefit.  Every intranet is different depending on the size, type, and culture of the organisation it supports.  However, there are some key governance principles that are common to their success.

Recently I spoke at Intranatverk about this based on my book  ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘ which is a practical, experience-based approach to growing and managing a successful intranet.  My slides ‘7 principles of good intranet governance’ are avilable for you to share.

The alternative to governance can be chaotic anarchy.  Posing risks to security and intellectual property provides an awful experience for those who still use your intranet.  Where governance can start to get confusing and difficult is in how it is applied.  Applying these governance principles leads to a good outcome:

  1. Know your organisation
  2. Define the scope
  3. Put people first
  4. Use all resources
  5. Compare and benchmark
  6. Do what you say you will do
  7. Keep it legal

Think about how you build a house with the foundations, walls, floors, windows, doors and finally the roof.  It would not make sense for you to have windows, doors, and a roof only.  The same applies to your governance framework.

These principles for good governance are not like a menu that you choose which items to have and leave others alone.  You need to follow all of these to build a strong foundation to improve your intranet and implement your strategy.

Read the introductory chapter of my new governance book to find out more.  A license to share the ebook within your whole organisation is also available.

What is the right publishing model for your intranet?

Last week, I ran a workshop at Intranatverk with an enthusiastic group of intranet people to cover what is the best publishing model for their intranet.  The slides I used for the workshop are available for you to share: Four intranet publishing models.

 
I took this subject from my book  ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘ which covers all the other areas of intranet governance you need to develop when improving how your intranet is managed.

There were three main conclusions from people at the workshop:

  1. The publishing model was relevant.  Most people said their intranet used the hybrid model which combined the centralised and decentralised model moulded to meet their organisation’s requirements.
  2. The centralised model could not be adopted if collaborative tools are used.  It is impractical to expect people to comment on a blog post or contribute to a discussion thread by sending their content to another person to publish on their behalf.
  3. The outsourcing model is best applied in two scenarios.  Firstly, when an organisation is young and small it can’t afford to employ someone full-time on their intranet but can afford an external specialist when needed.  Secondly, translating content from one language to another can be expensive and hard to justify the cost of a person/people to carry out this activity perfectly.  An external specialist to call upon when needed can be a cheaper and better option to consider.

The publishing model you choose needs to meet your organisation’s needs.  It also needs to fit within a wider governance framework that includes your publishing roles and responsibilities, standards, and support.

All these are needed to give an overall great, consistent, experience for anyone using your intranet.  Achieving this helps people to be more productive and effective and so benefiting your organisation.


I wrote a book about governance: ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersWhen an intranet loses its usefulness over time, and people become disengaged and end up working around it rather than through it, I often find that the strategy and governance have been neglected.

Even a strong and appropriate strategy will founder if the governance isn’t in place to execute it.

I see governance as the foundation of a great intranet, and by ‘great’ I mean an intranet that is useful, useable, and supports the organisation’s goals and people’s needs.

I often blog about intranet governance, but my brand new book offers a lot more than I could ever drip-feed via short posts.  Writing a book has helped crystallise my thinking around governance, and delve deep into my past experience as an intranet manager, and as a consultant.

Take a look at my book now – it’s called ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’ and I mean for it to be relevant to intranets, collaboration, digital workplace and mobile workspace governance, while focussing on intranets.

I’m so pleased to have it published through Intranätverk, it’s been great to work with Kristian Norling and his team.  Seeing the final book on my tablet has made the months of writing all worth the effort.  I’m thrilled to be able to offer you my experience, guidance, and tips and hope you’ll consider my book a toolkit to better governance and a better intranet.

Please take a look at what the book offers you and your organisation – this is a ‘business book’ that should help organisations of every size, but I also hope it’s of interest to individual practitioners and ‘lone intranet managers’. I think this book can support you.

* Digital success or digital disaster? – Book available now.

* Follow me on Twitter – let me know what you think!