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Digital Success or digital disaster? Book review

Digital Success or digital disaster? Book review

A practical, systematic approach to intranet governance. Every intranet manager would find value in going through this with their team.

Digital Success or digital disaster?

Digital Success or digital disaster?

A readable approach to intranet governance

Digital Success or digital disaster? is a very welcome addition to the relatively small set of current books on intranets. The style is informal, as the title may suggest. The use of first person keeps it down to earth, and this works well when Morrell is covering otherwise esoteric topics such as principles of governance.

The scene is set with some good examples of what happens without intranet governance, showing a particular sympathy for poor user experience.

Despite the informal style, Morrell’s approach is systematic, carefully laying out a framework and then going into the detail of each one. There are numerous examples from (anonymised) companies to illustrate key points, though an ‘end to end’ governance example as an appendix would have been good too.

Intranet Strategy

Strategy is dealt with in one chapter. This may seem brief, but this is not a book on strategy and it is good to have this groundwork so that the governance points can be related to it.

Governance defined

Chapter 3 addresses head-on “What is governance”, and the author deserves credit for tackling this. There’s a surety in the unambiguous way that topics are explained that gives the reader confidence that the approach is well thought through.

Governance models and policies

Chapter 4 covers the architecture of what governance should include, with a useful comparison of governance models for publishing. Pros and cons are clearly set out, and for me this is one of the strongest sections of the book from an internal communications perspective.

The intranet manager role is dealt with in the context of steering groups, including several example job descriptions, something I’m often asked for but which can be hard to source.

Chapter 6 is a comprehensive treatment of what most would consider ‘Governance’ in the form of policies. Each area is covered with a rationale and specific examples. Any intranet team would benefit from working through these as a health check that everything is in place. It could even form the basis of a whole day working meeting and well worth the investment.

Intranet or digital workplace?

Although the title of the book suggests it covers the whole digital workplace, in practice the advice is very much grounded in intranets, particularly formally published content. Pragmatically this makes sense: there would have been too many options and caveats to cover all aspects of the digital workplace and still keep the book readable.

Hopes for the next edition

Not everything works in the book. For example the strategy chapter talks about some of Morrell’s consulting engagements, but they don’t give enough details for the reader to learn much from them so read like website case studies.

I would have liked more visuals as reference points to the concepts and checklists covered too. For example a big summary picture of ‘governance’ that helps pull the elements together, or an illustration of how the elements of a steering group interrelate.

I would also have liked a chapter on reinforcing governance: what do you do when people won’t comply or the principles start to unravel? To be fair, Mark does address this at various points throughout, but it would be handy to have this aggregated as a reference point once the initial governance work is launched and live.

In summary

Digital Success or digital disaster? Is a practical, systematic approach to intranet governance. Every intranet manager would find value in going through this with their team

The book is published by Kristian Norling’s Intranätverk in Gothernburg. It’s good to see international collaborations like this across the intranet community, and I hope to see more.


Disclosure: Mark Morrell has worked on several ClearBox Consulting projects as an associate. He has also bought me beer (though not in connection with this review).

Sam Marshall

I'm the director of ClearBox Consulting, advising on intranet and digital workplace strategy, SharePoint and online collaboration. I've specialised in intranets and knowledge Management for over 19 years, working with organisations such as Unilever, Astra Zeneca, Akzo Nobel, Sony, Rio Tinto and Diageo. I was responsible for Unilever’s Global Portal Implementation, overseeing the roll-out of over 700 online communities to 90,000 people and consolidating several thousand intranets into a single system.

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