Category Archives: strategy

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.

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.

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.

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!

10 best intranet designs…but you need good governance first!

When Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) announced the best intranets of 2015 (hats off to Verizon as 3 times winners!) they said “While intranet teams continue to grow they simultaneously streamline processes and work faster, resulting in innovative designs. Common feature trends include: responsive design, search filters, flat design, and mega menus, to name a few.”

What did become clear to me is these intranets did not win by luck.  What NN/g didn’t say this is also because they have good governance, applied effectively, to build the foundations for well designed (and managed) intranets.

What do I mean by good governance?  Here are a few practical examples:

1. Have a clear strategy and direction set.  This should be approved by your stakeholders who help its implementation by openly supporting it.
2. Have a governance hierarchy setting out the roles and responsibilities for people involved with the intranet.
3. Develop publishing standards, especially for Usability, based on business requirements.
4. Most importantly, have the means to combine all these features of governance in a great way that results in the wonderful examples we can see with the winners.

These intranets didn’t win by accident but through managing their intranets well.  Good governance leads to great user experiences!

Measuring the unmeasurable benefits

Having a good governance framework supporting your strategy helps you to manage your intranet better.  The benefits people using the intranet will experience include:

  • Consistently good experience whenever they access it
  • Confident they can rely on the information
  • Reassured by the integrity of the information and apps
  • Quickly find what they need
  • The intranet is the best way to help with their work
  • They can see the value of using it

However, intranet stakeholders will need more than good words about the benefits.  They need to see the case for investing in it as well.  That means making a financial case based on measurable benefits.  Having a well-managed intranet helps make it easier to identify and measure the benefits.

How will you answer with confidence the questions that people ask you starting with “Why…?” or “How…?” or “What…? and their statements starting with “You can’t…, You shouldn’t…, You won’t…, That’s not possible…”

There are different benefits you can measure. While they include traditional financial “return on investment” (ROI) benefits, they extend beyond that to wider benefits that good governance can support to cover:

  • 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 of these may be familiar to you.  However, how you can use them, may be novel. They will help show wider benefits you had not considered before. This is especially so if you can combine these

It seems to be the larger the amount of benefits, the more difficult it is to measure accurately and to a level of confidence, that can convince your stakeholders!  The best chance of succeeding is to determine the method that will be most effective for measuring the benefits for your own particular audience.

It is what you measure, how you measure it and how you demonstrate the benefits.  That is critical to gain the support you need for, and the understanding of, good governance.

Providing clear examples that senior stakeholders accept helps you to get their attention and support when you demonstrate how your intranet is critical and beneficial to your organisation.

Lastly, you have a better idea what it is that you can measure and avoid wasting time trying to find out something that is very difficult.  You need to decide on the benefits you will measure, the way that you measure, and how you explain and show the results, that will help you to improve your intranet.

Without this, the full value of the strategy and governance framework you have worked so hard to implement will be unknown.  It is vital to show the benefits to justify the work you have done and to plan with confidence for further improvements based on the success of your intranet to your organisation so far.

Developing your Intranet Manager career: it’s all about partnerships

I have written a guest post for ClearBox Consulting on the need to invest at least as much time connecting with your stakeholders as identifying business requirements for technology.

In January, I wrote that intranets are transforming into digital workplaces.  As your intranet transforms into a digital workplace so the people you need to work with will expand and change.  That will involve you investing time building relationships with new and existing senior managers. They will be your stakeholders who will be at the top of your governance hierarchy.

Read more about how getting that balance right will be a giant step forward to likely success.