Is there a career path from intranets to digital workplaces?

I have written before about career paths and future job opportunities for intranet practitioners.  I don’t believe the only option is to become intranet consultants like I chose to do after leaving as BT’s intranet manager.  If you want to move to another organisation then IntraTeam’s job vacancies in LinkedIn is a good place to start looking.

This post is about career development and progression within your own organisation.  It’s about taking advantage by the creation of the digital workplace to extend your experience and skills into wider and more strategic areas of your business.  I also owe this post to a certain intranet professional (yes, you know who you are!) who I promised this to sometime ago.

At the moment many intranet practitoners are based in the Communications part of their organisation. For intranets it’s probably been the best place since intranets were created.  Typically the first use of intranets was probably to improve communications which then developed into information management, standards, etc.  While intranets mainly had that traditional purpose it made good sense to work there.

Being an intranet manager was a unique role, not always fully understood, and led to frustration when you wanted to take the next step on a career path.  The question was in which direction and, more importantly, whether your organisation recognise your skills and experience could transfer to another role and business unit.  Sadly for many frustrated intranet practitioners this didn’t happen.

The evolution of the digital workplace changes this.  The digital workplace covers social intranets – collaboration with wikis, blogs, shared workspaces; applications – training, performance management, ordering services; micro-blogging – Yammer, Twitter along with the focus changing from the IT equipment chosen by the organisation to what an employee wants to continue using for personal and business use and the changing way in which people don’t need to be in one place to do their work and connect with the information and tools they use.

It means the natural base for ownership of the digital workplace is not in Communications.  It needs to have broader ownership to reflect the extra functions a digital workplace with stakeholders who can either influence the strategy or be affected by it.  Jane McConnell’s recommends a digital board which sounds right to me.  After all, it will still need managing to be effective.

Being part of this digital board can raise your profile with more senior managers who have a broad, strategic, view of the organisation and how technology can enhance operations.  Instead of being the big fish in an intranet bowl think of becoming a smaller fish in a bigger digital workplace bowl.

The digital workplace gives you new new career path opportunities to:

a) Expand your existing role to be more strategic and wider in its scope

b) Take on a new role connected to your intranet role because your skills and experience are better understood and appreciated

How is the best way to do this?  Are there better examples?

5 responses to “Is there a career path from intranets to digital workplaces?

  1. I agree with you that the the role of intranet manager is potentially a launch point into other areas of the business, and while the idea of the Digital Workplace is gaining currency, the idea of a ‘Digital Board’ misses the mark for me. It has too much of an IT ring to it – ‘managing the digitalness’.
    I think the focus of the ‘Digital Worklpace’ should be on ‘Work’ and getting it done – making it easier, more accessible – and sure – making use of digital tools. But digital tools have been around for many decades – they are simply changing form – again.
    Where I have seen the intranet and digital workplace ownership sit very well is in Continuous Improvement parts of the organisation. This generally have a key focus on the frontline operations, is cross organisation, often has high level visibility and sponsorship and so forth. Also, not a bad step for career progression … ?

  2. In fact, as I think about this, I realise that ‘Digital Management’ is a better description for what IT do these days than ‘Information Management’ – they are more often than not, the facilitators of the digits more than the information.

    • Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for your comments. I agree with you that the ‘continuous improvement’ or maybe business improvement part of an organisation is a good place for intranet and digital workplace ownership to be.

      By digital board I mean senior stakeholders – people who can decide or direct the strategy for the organisation and digital workplace – meet regularly to set the strategic agenda. These should be people who directly influence the strategy or are greatly affected by its impact. The intranet manager with their information management hat on should be part of that group. Maybe a digital workplace sterring group is a better name than digital board?

      The good thing is – names aside – we’re thinking in the same way about this. 🙂


  3. Nice article Mark.
    In many companies, intranets can be dominated by Communications. And while there is no harm in that per se, we can get an over emphasis on news and communications activities as opposed to tools and tasks to help people find and share relevant information and ‘shock, horror’ to do their jobs.

    ‘Intranet’ is a dreadful word, I have never liked it. And putting it on your CV or LinkedIn profile rarely has any value these days IMHO. I wouldn’t mind being known as a ‘Digital Workplace Consultant’ though, certainly beats ‘Intranet Manager’ by a country mile!

  4. @Mark, Great article, thanks. I think in the next couple of years we will see changes to the intranet and the digital workplace which will require all professionals working on these ‘platforms’ to focus more on their career paths if they aren’t to be swept along in the changes. I agree communications is not the right place for intranet and digital workplaces to reside. So I expect to see some companies ‘bounce’ ownership around as management struggle to find the right home (and willing budget owner) for the digital workplace. Some companies will pass this back to IT and expect more from them and I hope a brave few, as we are seeing already, will embrace the future, see the value and create dedicated cross-functional networked teams to deliver a key component of the future work environment. Perhaps in these larger expanded teams there is room for the multitude of skills I see when speaking to fellow intranet managers.

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