Steering wheel

How to build and manage your intranet steering group

Mark Morrell lays out the benefit of a strict steering group scope, and explains how stakeholder meetings can be truly practical.

In this guest article, Mark Morrell explains how to get the best from your stakeholders and committee groups.

I have found the most successful intranet managers invest time building relationships with their stakeholders. If stakeholders are familiar with the intranet and they understand its importance, it will greatly improve its chances of success.

The relationships you have with stakeholders are the key to the success or failure of your intranet. You need to understand their part of the business; what keeps them awake at night worrying; what are their plans to succeed and to improve their business area or function.

Without good relationships with most, if not all, of your stakeholders, your role will be very difficult to carry out. In some cases, it may become impossible. This will affect you as well as your intranet and the effectiveness of people who use it.

The steering group

A group of senior managers can act together as stakeholders, ‘steering’ the development of your intranet, bringing together the knowledge, experience and understanding of each part of your organisation. They will have roles in key business areas and business functions that will influence your strategy, plans and governance framework. Typically, they will have the authority to make decisions and not have to refer to other senior executives before making them, perhaps up to a budgetary limit.

You need to agree clear terms of reference for the steering group, including its scope and authority. The scope should cover the areas in which it is authorised to consider and make decisions.
 It should be strategic, for example, covering areas such as prioritising actions and reviewing the impact of any organisation changes, business plan, etc. It should exclude day-to-day operational areas such as publishing template features, approving requests to publish, or answering questions on how to publish.

Representation should ideally consist of no fewer than five and no more than ten stakeholders to enable faster decision-making. Fewer will gain little benefit over having an owner (or owner and champion). Too many and it can risk become a talking shop with too many diverse opinions to consider. Avoid unnecessary delays; any substitutes they send must be empowered to act on their behalf.

Avoid every department, business unit and function insisting on representation on the steering group. It may be tough but you need to include only those parts of your organisation that have the biggest influence on, or are most affected by, your intranet strategy.

The meetings should be ideally face-to-face, perhaps held once a quarter covering key strategic subjects and decisions. You could choose to have monthly calls for updates on progress with the actions and decisions made at the quarterly meetings.

The meetings will not have time for the detailed background on every issue. You need to prepare them and yourself ahead of each face-to-face meeting and for any progress calls. The steering group should delegate the day-to-day business of managing your intranet to you as the intranet manager. By following the terms of reference for steering group meetings, it is possible to separate strategic areas from operational areas. The intranet manager is the critical link between these two areas within your governance hierarchy.

The phrase, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” perfectly describes how a steering group meeting should be run. You will need the right agenda. You present each point you need their decision on. Again, this can take a lot of time but getting the best decisions will save far more hours of effort in future.

Having senior people with the right authority means decisions are not delayed or ownership of them unclear. This avoids delays with you implementing the decisions made.

Your approach should be to invest as much time connecting with your stakeholders as aligning your strategy with their plans and policies to be successful and to have a great intranet.

[ Mark Morrell ]

Photo credit: Dave S

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Mark Morrell

Mark’s new governance book, ‘Digital success or digital disaster?‘ is out now, and available for immediate download.

“I draw on many years of first-hand experience as the BT Intranet manager and more recently, consulting with other 40 organisations, whether for an intranet or digital workplace, to develop the strategy and governance so it benefits everyone and the organisation.

“I have found the best intranets help people to be more productive and effective. A consistently good overall experience, supported by great governance, helps with quicker adoption, increased usage, greater value, and higher satisfaction with people. So wide and deep are my experiences that I have shared these in my book ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’.

“At BT, I successfully pioneered how to create an intranet strategy, aligned with other strategies, supported by a governance framework of publishing standards, roles and responsibilities. I combined this approach with checks on standards, performance measures to show satisfaction and increased usage by people, and measure the value and wider benefits to BT.

“I have found adapting this approach to meet other organisation’s needs has improved many intranets.”

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