What exactly is a digital workplace?

Recently several people have asked me what exactly is a digital workplace.  I start by defining the digital workplace as:

Work is what you do, not where you go to.”

While the digital workplace will vary depending on each organisation’s size, culture and structure, you will be able to all of these:

  1. Work in any location:  At home, in your own or anyone else’s office, on the train, or ideally anywhere that suits you at the time you need to.
  2. Complete tasks work online:  Make a room booking, checking a person’s contacts details, searching for information you need, or reading the latest news.
  3. Use any device:  Use your laptop, a shared PC, a smartphone  or tablet anytime, anywhere.
  4. Share information:  Be able to use collaboration tools to help other people.
  5. Solve problems: Ask for help from people you may not know in discussion forums and shared workspaces.
  6. Search:  From one place across all the places where information is and you have permission to access.

Of course, how your digital workplace is managed with a governance framework is critical to how good and integrated the experience will be.  You can find more here on how to get it right.

I will post next about the difference between an intranet and a digital workplace.

Why this ‘Publisher manifesto’ matters to you

This year I was able to publish my first book ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’.  I depended on a good friend of mine, Kristian Norling, who founded Intranätverk, to help my idea to become a reality to help other intranet practitioners benefit from the lessons I had learned from my experience as an intranet manager and consultant.

I wanted my book to be a guide you could check on whenever and wherever you needed to.  Being an intranet manager can sometimes be a very lonely place in an organisation I find.

The problem is some major publishers give ‘niche content’ a low priority , make excessive demands e.g. copyright of your own written intellectual property, or extortionate share of the revenue.

If we don’t support independent publishers then many books that could be written to help us about the intranet or digital workplace will not be started because there is no encouragement.  That will make all our working lives poorer if we don’t have publishers like Intranätverk.

So, please have a quick look at their ‘Publisher manifesto‘ and when you are next thinking of buying a book about intranets, digital workplaces or related topic, check out their site as well as other bigger names.

Thank you (walks off quietly, stage left exit, after finishing his speech)

3 steps to manage documents successfully

Governance doesn’t just cover intranets.  It covers wider areas e.g. digital workplace and smaller focused areas e.g. web sites.  Recently I helped to improve how a client managed their documents.

There was little guidance to show the best way to use the existing file sharing systems.  There was no clear connection between policies that affect how documents are managed and how they were being applied on a day-to-day basis.

There were no examples showing how documents should be managed or help, contact points or places to share a problem or knowledge.

I recommended a governance framework containing consistent, relevant, up-to-date guidance to help people make the right decisions when creating and managing a document.  It included:

1  Standards

The standards set out how people behaved when:

  • Naming a function, project site or document
  • Creating, updating, sharing, approving, archiving and deleting a document
  • Setting permissions
  • Understanding their role and its responsibilities

2  Help

Making the right advice available to reduce the burden on the Document Management System owner by:

  • Online discussion group, open to everyone to ask questions, share hints and tips, and help solve issues raised.
  • Frequently Asked Questions: create FAQs to answer the same questions being asked regularly that give the definitive answer that people can refer to and save time.
  • How to guides: Guidance in the form of ‘How to…’ guide that contain practical hints and tips on using the Document Management System.

3  Training

Support people needing face-to-face training on how to use the Document Management System with further online training that helps to reinforce the changes people need to make.

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersFor more practical best-practice examples of good governance try 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

Intranet governance book – print edition

When I first started as an intranet manager, many years ago, I didn’t know where to find good practices or guidance. Blogs came along that shared people’s experiences and, over time, accepted approaches used. Social media has brought many intranet managers together in a loosely coupled network, which is different to a decade ago when organisations had a vacuum around them, denying external conversation.

This networking is good and valuable, because you don’t always want to search and wade through off-topic pages. Just like in the workplace, you often want to ask someone. Your personal network extends the knowledge available to you, even more so than Google.

But still, people wonder where to start, how to learn about the different ways of approaching intranet management and improvement. There are only so many questions you can ask on LinkedIn and only so many slightly irrelevant blog posts you can tolerate!

When I was an intranet manager, I felt I needed a practical guide to intranets that I could always have by my side to help me. Something that was based on first-hand experience so I could easily learn from it and how it related to my intranet.

It’s here that I trust my book on intranet (and website) governance fills a need; ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’ is now available in print (paperback) for delivery worldwide. When you order the printed book, the ebook is sent to you immediately. So there’s virtually no waiting.

As I’ve written my book from my hands-on experience within large organisations, and from my recent work with a wide variety of companies, I hope ‘Digital success’ will stand the test of time and be a valuable reference for you. It’s 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’.

Following the guidance given in this book, based on best-practice examples, you can make the right decisions more easily. You will be more confident the decision you make will achieve the improvements you want. Make your life easier and your intranet better by keeping this book with you to help lead the way!

“A practical, systematic, approach to intranet governance. Every intranet manager would find value in going through this with their team.”
Sam Marshall, ClearBox Consulting

Right requirements + right approach = right technology

It can be daunting when faced with the chance to improve your intranet or digital workplace by updating or replacing the technology you use.

I had mixed feelings when I was an intranet manager: good that I could make a difference; bad when thinking how I need to make the right decision!

Here are some steps I recommend you take to make sure you have a good outcome.

business requirements

Make sure you have a complete a set of business requirements.  The better informed you are on what your organisation will require, the more likely you are to meet their needs.

Check with stakeholders what they need.  What are their biggest pain points?  What works well and they want more of?

Present the business requirements in a way that helps everyone to understand what is needed.  This helps avoid misunderstandings and delays.


You now have the business requirements.  From these you need to build your business case.  This needs to show what the improvements will be.  More importantly, you need to demonstrate the benefits – how much and how quickly – to be gained.

How much money is available?  Is there a time limit for when the money has to be spent?  Who needs to approve your business case?

You need to gain approval and understand what the conditions are that you need to achieve.

Working with it

You have the budget and the business requirements now.  The next stage is to work with your IT partners to find the best technical solution. It is usual for your priorities to differ from IT.

You may want the best technical solution; IT want a solution that fits with their technical skills and experience.  You may want to stagger the changes so people can accept the changes gradually; IT may want a ‘big bang’ approach because they need to reduce their costs supporting existing technologies quickly.

Proper engagement, clear understanding, agreed priorities and roles and responsibilities help to avoid different approaches becoming huge barriers that prevent progress being made.

Only when you have reached this stage can you use the budget and requirements to assess the possible technical solutions that could help.


You now have agreed which technical solutions you need to investigate further.  This leads to the next stage of testing.  You need to be shown how each solution can meet your business requirements.  The best way is to test it on your own digital environment.

Agree with the provider of the technical solution what you require and for how long.  Develop your business requirements into user stories or journeys that replicate typical examples of how people use your intranet.

Have criteria to show the results and understand the differences between each new technical solution.  If you are only testing one then compare it with your existing technology you use.


You now have assessed the technical solution(s) by testing the business requirements.  You have a winner that demonstrates it can improve how people use the intranet or digital workplace.

But can you afford it?  The costs may restrict your choice.  Maybe the second best solution is far more affordable and best for your organisation?  Decide on the solution that will gain you the most benefits.

Next agree how it will be implemented.  What is the top priority?  Understand timescales.

Most importantly, have a governance framework and information architecture that supports your strategy before you start implementing your new technical solution.  Without these success will be more difficult to achieve!

more information

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersFind out more information 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.

Great intranets need the right governance to succeed

For anyone who reads my posts, you will know I call myself the Intranet Pioneer.  Recently I met a friend and digital consultant who jokingly referred to me as the “Intranet Guv’nor” because of my book about governance ‘Digital success or digital disaster ‘ that helps show people how to manage their intranets and other digital spaces better.

While I appreciated the joke, it did make me think about the meaning of governance.  Depending on who you ask, you will get a different response on what they think it is.  Sometimes it even creates a sense of fear!  People think it is ‘bad’ because it will stop you doing ‘good things’ online.

What do I mean by governance?  It is a word which has been described in different ways by many people with lots of diagrams and flow charts.  However, the problem is not what governance is for – it is how you apply it online. So let me be very clear here.  Governance is good and can be easy to apply well within an overall framework.

A governance framework covers:

  • The roles and responsibilities for different participants in your organisation (intranet manager, stakeholders, publishers and users)
  • The standards and processes for making decisions and through which objectives are set for all information and applications
  • Monitoring the actions, policies and decisions of intranet publishers and users

I have found the best intranets help people to be more productive and effective.  A consistently good overall experience helps achieve these benefits. People need this every time they use your intranet.

Whatever people want to do, they need to be able to rely on your intranet delivering it.  It needs to give them confidence that it will always meet their requirements.  Without this, people will be less productive and effective with their work.

This benefits their organisation too. People use their intranet more frequently.  They are confident they can easily find what they need.  They know they can rely on the integrity of the information and applications.

It is having a strong governance framework supports an intranet or digital strategy, aligned with the organisation’s strategy.

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.

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.


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.


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.