Who Owns the Intranet?

In a world of Intranet turf battles, the easy answer is… well, uh… IT, HR, Corp Communication, Marketing, and so on, but in this social world isn’t it really the end user should own its destiny? I reference an article from 2001 "Our intranet doesn’t need an owner. It belongs to all of us — and to none of us. Fortunately, that freewheeling approach is picking up surprising support from managers, consultants, and intranet users." Amazing that 11 years later, we are still trying to move in that direction. Social Business would dictate that it isn’t owned by any department if the platform is governed and setup properly. The personalization and needs of all should be surfaced in a way that it serves the user. Join in the poll. I’ve created a poll to see who you think owns the Intranet. I’ll replace your results with this best guess.

When I started this job, I was told, "You are the solutions manager. You own the Intranet, the team sites, the profiles, and quickly I’d define that to include the enterprise intranet social strategy." Expectations were big in delivering a cohesive strategy to move this work forward. In subsequent weeks I’d work quickly to help flush out the ownership in the organization around who has a vested interest in the intranet. Who would be my steering committee, my stakeholders or working group. What a fascinating experience that was as the conversations quickly turned from questions about roadmaps into technology interests and divides. When I talk about portals I get some level of interest, but with trying to build a steering committee representing the organization made up of directors asking them to invest time in my endeavors was futile… at least in the beginning. After a few successful changes, and demonstrating that our team had the ability to transform what was happening, more and more interest has been coming out of the business and this sense of who has real ownership, has been a fascinating question.

I’ve been focused on gathering talent, passion, and abilities around engineering and infrastructure, development and design, and in understanding the needs of the business in building real solutions that meet the bottom line. Now as our team looks to build the roadmap, others across the business are interested in being involved… very involved, and not only want to steer, but want to own it too. They see that we have the capabilities to deliver and shouldn’t HR own the intranet? Shouldn’t corporate communications own the Intranet? Doesn’t everyone really have a vested interest? Definitely!

As I research the top search requests, I’m fascinated by the practical search requests of cafeteria menu, discounts, and holiday calendar. Often we focus so much on what tools, and resources we want to provide, that the reasons people even come to the intranet end up being those things that help someone organize their day. The intranet itself is a tool, not just a hub for gathering links. The more we can expose the things people are looking for, and provide feeds from other parts of the corporate web, and even external web, the job becomes about organizing data in a way that it can most easily be consumed, but then again it’s about personalization. You must not force feed them; you must provide a mechanism for them to consume.

Ownership is what anyone who is working on a project wants to feel. In this way, IT needs to feel like they own the platform, and the departments need to feel vested in their tools, solutions, and so on. So who owns the navigation? Well, I guess that depends on where the UI designers and expertise is. Simplicity is the key. Information must be parsed faster and faster these days, and people expect to consume more and more of it in less time. We want our own filters, aggregators, and the ability to quickly parse what we feel is important and we want our interfaces to learn our preferences. No more do we want some organization telling us what’s important, but despite the fact that the organization continues to provide that information, and require it be read, there is a happy medium.

Many would call this conundrum of ownership a governance issue. We must sit in committee to determine who has ownership of what, and we’ll produce some document that lays this all out. That’s one approach. Somehow we need to bring these vested groups and organization to find out where the expertise and the vested interest lie. You may have a battle on your hands, but a battle definitely that’s worth raging. It’s one that will help determine the success of the intranet and its properties and in ultimately working out the roadmap and governance for years to come. You’ll definitely have a budget, and an executive sponsor when you finish the meeting.

Let me warn you that Portal Governance is not about making every decision a decision by committee. These times of agility require that you have a process that drives agility through building transparency into your taskforce. Those boots on the ground must share their roadmap with the vested representation of the business in a working group. This working group or steering committee is assembled to direct the priorities of the organization. A working group like this should meet on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to review the next two to three months user stories that will be built against. An executive committee that represents all sides of the business would likely seek to review the overall progress of the intranet portal and its associated departmental properties and strategy on a once or twice yearly basis to gain insight into the broader roadmap.

The other approach I like to suggest is what I refer to as "chosen path." I’m going to be transparent and gather feedback from users and the business along the way, and we’re going to incorporate industry standards, build solutions and be transparent in our approach. If you don’t like what we are doing, get involved, and don’t just throw stones. It’s very easy to criticize what someone is doing, but it’s a lot more useful to provide constructive feedback that we can incorporate. In this agile and scrum approach, our users can really get involved in what we’re doing and with microblogging tools like yammer, I welcome the constructive criticism and voting up feedback that can make a difference to what we do. Give me the feedback. I can take it. Let’s incorporate your best ideas and vet out the not so great ones. I love the engagement.

Don’t forget to take the quick poll!





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