Twice, I’ve been given responsibility for a large website on top of my intranet duties, and twice it’s ended in tears and resignation.
From a CMS, HTML, CSS, editing and publishing point of view, it’s easy to think of intranet management and website management as wholly similar. The technological / digital skills are the same, but the purposes, audiences, and use of the intranet and the website are very different.
Army of one
If you work in a smaller organisation, you might be the comms and marketing person, and the intranet and web person. You’ll know just how busy things get when you have stakeholders from across the organisation with very different needs and demands. A big web campaign, and you have to neglect the intranet. Employee survey time? You’ll have to put off the home page redesign for another month. When extending yourself, stretch within your fields – of communication, intranet management, employee engagement, community management, and data analysis. Don’t over-stretch yourself into out-of-field technology – don’t learn the external website’s esoteric CMS, or how to install software on top of SharePoint.
Lone intranet managers are respected for their broad skillset and can-do attitude, but might also become people’s default IT support desk and system administrator. No time to strategically align the intranet to the organisation’s changing priorities…
Throw responsibility for the company website at them, and they’ll be thrilled to fix all those niggling problems that have been so obvious for so many months – but they won’t have the time or focus to achieve the results stakeholders expect.
In larger organisations, there may be a broad digital team, a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for the digital workplace, or even an Innovation Team. The split between Internal Communications and Marketing may well be a lot softer than in some traditionally arranged organisations – meaning skills are respected more than job titles.
Still, even if skillsets are similar, the purposes and the strategies for the intranet and for the company website will be and must be very different (even if maintained on the very same platform).
All respect to the IT people who can service the full stack, update, back-up, patch and code (I can’t do any of that) but we’re not talking about maintaining a platform here; it’s about the communities, the departmental needs, the external partners, business objectives, and plain old people – people who need to get things done.
So even you work in a blended or extended digital team, and have the technical skills to do almost anything, your specialised focus is needed. I suggest that you cannot and should not attempt to manage both the intranet and the website in any long-term capacity for an organisation over 400 employees or so.
Many lone intranet managers don’t even have a published strategy in place, and can struggle to extract objectives from the business. There is plenty of work for a self-starter, so to take on the website as well would brutally decrease time and energy spent on the intranet. There’s also a risk that you’ll really be the ‘website administrator’ (rather than ‘manager’) – considered a technical pair of hands for the marketing team to send stuff to. Is that what you want to become? Someone who publishes stuff when sent it?
Digital skills are ever more valued – don’t sell yourself short by taking too much on. Focus on your interests and strengths.
Photo credit: Billie Grace Ward