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Intranet governance 101 – intranet strategy

This is the big one; while I might have convinced intranet managers to put pen (or crayon) to paper, sketch out the conceptual vision for the intranet and lay down the roadmap for improvements, documenting the intranet strategy is harder.

StrategyThe intranet strategy shouldn’t be a gargantuan, complicated, document, even if it discusses some complex requirements. The intranet strategy can be presented as a number of points with supporting explanations and examples, it doesn’t have to be a dry, dull, business document. But it does have to meet a few criteria in order to be useful.

Firstly, a strategy isn’t a list of goals and tactics. Crafting the future of your intranet requires strategic thinking, and an understanding of where your company is going over the next few years. Everyone feels that business changes at the speed of thought these days, and organisations are always undergoing some kind of ‘change management’ process. A strategy needs to be able to weather all that stuff, for the next couple of years are certainly not going to be any smoother!

Strategies express ‘how’ to approach matters, with long-term overarching goals in focus. Strategies provide context and frameworks for decisions and tactical actions. Certainly the intranet should have objectives, and measurable deliverables / key performance indicators — but the strategy itself, the pure strategy, should focus on the overall direction of the intranet, not on the day-to-day running of the system.

In my opinion, the most important point is to ensure the intranet strategy reflects, supports and complements the business strategy. Intranet and Comms managers need to be close enough to the business (ear to the ground) and to the business leaders in order to fully understand the company as it is and as it will be in the future. The only way for the intranet to truly demonstrate its worth is if it makes reaching business goals easier, if it supports core (and peripheral) business activities.

In light of this crucial element, the intranet objectives should support the business objectives. I don’t mean they should be a like-for-like repetition, or a close shadow, I just mean that the intranet objectives should be seen to address the business objectives directly.

The business strategy and objectives are published and referred to, aren’t they? (Of course they are, how silly of me to ask.) And so the intranet strategy and objectives will be published too, along with all the governance guidance.

So what’s that? The intranet strategy must be informed by the overall business strategy, it must be supported by objectives and metrics and it must be published and referred to, in order to have any value or affect. OK, but what’s in it?

Contents of your strategy

This is why it’s such a challenge to craft a strategy that everyone around the business can get behind. Just what goes in it? Where do you start?

Start by reading your intranet vision. Then think about what the business would like to see more of, and less of.

Would you like to increase the speed to market of your products? Would you like to improve the quality (and firmness) of your decision making? So you then want to increase and improve collaboration and communication on the intranet, and reduce sending uncontrolled valuable documents around by email.

Would you like to improve the culture of the business, or help two previously separate companies merge to become truly one? Then you’ll want to provide faster, more relevant communications and help people break out of their silos and work with others; you’ll want to help people connect with others based on their skills and project experience, and open up collaboration opportunities.

Would you like to streamline business activities, cut paper and reduce the time to process requests? Then you’ll want to implement end-to-end online task completion and self-service on the intranet, focusing on usability and business impact.

Furthermore, how empowered do you wish people to feel and to be? Your strategy should lay out how you mean to ‘control’ or ‘enable’ people’s work online. Do you mean to centralise control within the intranet and comms team, or will you decentralise ownership and publishing across the business over the next 18 months? Do you want 90% of people managing their own Word documents, or do you want just 10% of people allowed to manage project documentation, leaving the rest to muddle through with shared drives and email?

Look at your governance model now, and lay out how you’ll support or change the model over time.

I could go on and on; I haven’t even touched on engaging senior manager and different departments to make sure the intranet strategy reflects needs from across the business. I haven’t discussed ‘walking it around’ to gain buy-in and support from leaders.

What’s the biggest challenge? Making your strategy matter; too many stakeholders will be happy for the intranet to just ‘chunter along’ with no investment of time, effort or money. I didn’t say it would be easy, I just said it would be the truth.

Like I said, this is a big one; but don’t let its importance destroy your momentum. Reference the vision, refer to the roadmap, and craft your first draft. It can always be improved, but you need it written, agreed and published now.

This little article is part of a series on intranet governance, and is meant to guide intranet managers to create improvements in how the intranet is managed, used and perceived.

  1. Intranet vision;
  2. Intranet roadmap;
  3. Intranet strategy;
  4. Executive sponsor;
  5. Steering Group / Intranet Council;
  6. Governance model;
  7. Governance that is communicated.

[Wedge]

Photo credit: RamberMediaImages

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About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.