Intranets naturally and frequently cover many bases in an organisation, both functionally and geographically. Not only can this be a challenge for overall intranet ownership , but it also raises questions about where the intranet team should ‘sit’ in the organisation. If one function dominates too much, then it can bias how the intranet evolves too, and not always helpfully.
In a study of 73 organisations that we partnered on last year, we were not surprised to see that 47% said their intranets are driven by internal communications. However, most had multi-disciplinary teams, particularly as the remit of the intranet broadened from being just about communications to covering collaboration, self-service, and social networks too.
Multi-disciplinary intranet teams
When working with companies, our starting point for discussing intranet resources is to talk about a core team and extended team. Often this is not about adding headcount, but about clarifying intranet responsibilities within existing job profiles or changing how people get their goals accomplished, such as publishing on a sub-site rather than creating an email bulletin.
The diagram below is based on the Digital Workplace Definition introduced in my December 2014 post. It helps to think about intranets in the context of a digital workplace, because often there are overlaps in the skill set – enterprise search being a typical example. On the whole it is desirable to have people with the right skills working across the digital workplace because this encourages coherence. However, the roles described in the rest of this article are intranet-specific.
Above, roles for an intranet team
- The callouts show typical roles needed for each area.
- Roles in the green boxes form part of the CoE. Those outside are part of the extended team.
- Blue boxes such as “Communicate & Engage” indicate services or ‘capabilities’ that intranets typically support – how an intranet helps people’s work.
- Green boxes such as “Strategy” are the management and delivery activities that enable these services to be executed effectively.
Intranet Centre of Expertise (CoE)
When roles span multiple functions, it can help to formalise it around a ‘Centre of Expertise’ (CoE). The idea of a CoE is that it offers a single contact point for running the intranet as a service for the organisation. It need not necessarily be a single team in the organisation-chart, but it should have a sense of identity as a cross-functional group that works together and has agreed processes for how to respond to requests from the rest of the organisation.
‘CoE’ isn’t a great term, but it is commonly used in IT circles. If your intranet has a brand, it may be less pretentious to just call it the “InSIte Team”, “The Hub Team” etc.
The intranet manager is responsible for the long-term success of the intranet. The Intranet Manager’s role includes:
- Execute the intranet strategy
- Take responsibility for the intranet’s overall success and delivery of the business case
- Drive employee adoption of the intranet
- Oversee communication about the intranet
- Work with intranet stakeholders to establish priorities for how the intranet evolves and update the intranet strategy
- Facilitate agreement on intranet governance and ensures it is followed
- Act as secretary to the intranet steering group and chair the site owner forum
- Use feedback and analytics data to monitor performance against performance indicators
- Ensure that the content is well maintained and is meeting user needs.
- Experience of intranet management or similar digital platforms
- Strategic planning
- Change management
- Stakeholder management
- Understanding of project management
- Understanding of internal communications
- Understanding of SharePoint as a business tool and a technology.
Whereas a Project Manager is responsible for delivering a suitable intranet platform, the Intranet Manager is responsible for delivering the business value on top of this platform (similar to a restaurant outfitter vs. a restaurant manager).
In many companies the Intranet Manager also has a communications content role because the purpose of the intranet is largely to support communication’s goals. However, as the intranet expands to support collaboration and employees services, the two roles can come under strain, as many responsibilities do not fit under the remit of a Communications department. Time frames are also largely incompatible, with the intranet manager required to take a long-term view, whereas IC often needs a rapid response triggered by external and internal events. We therefore usually recommend that this should be an independent role that can evolve. Communications should see themselves as a customer of the intranet service.
Other key roles
- Site and Content Owners
- Look after specific sections of the intranet, such as Employee Essentials pages. Content may be news or static content, such as ‘how to’ guides.
- Moderators / Community Managers
- Moderators look after the social interaction on an intranet. They may well combine with a site owner role, but the skillset is different as the goal is to cultivate contributions by everyone.
- Information Architect
- Sets the standards for how information is structured, the formal metadata and navigation within the intranet. Often combined with the UX role, but could also come from a data analysis background.
- Analytics specialist
- Produces reports and insights on the intranet performance. Interprets as well as reports usage statistics.
- Key to adoption is having someone in an internal consultancy role that can respond to business needs and show how to accomplish this on the intranet. Doubly important if we’re talking SharePoint or Office 365.
- Provides training materials and sometimes classroom education. Also helpful to be the ‘go to’ person when users are stuck.
- Change Manager
- Helps to manage and communicate changes that have visible impact such as new functionality.
- User Experience (UX)
- Guardian of usability and making the intranet pleasant to use.
- Intranet platform manager
- Lead responsibility for providing the IT side of the intranet service. Performance, uptime, security and upgrades, usually backed by a larger team.
Me, myself, and I
If you’re a solo intranet manager looking at the diagram above and thinking, “I don’t even get to work on the intranet full-time, let alone have this huge team around me”, don’t despair. One role isn’t necessarily one person – in many organisations the intranet manager will also cover information architecture, site ownership and moderation. However, it helps to keep the roles distinct when planning how to allocate them. I know several award-winning intranets run on a shoestring that manage to do great work by having the right mix of talents helping out part-time. But I do acknowledge that if you cover too many of the boxes above, you probably feel very thinly spread (and it may be time to show this chart to your boss).