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Successful intranets move beyond IT and communications

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The discussion about whether IT or communication should own the intranet has been ranging on for as long as anyone can remember. If you want your intranet to be truly successful, you will need to look beyond the two usual departments to increase the value of your intranet.

With very few exceptions, the use of most intranets follows The Long Tail concept illustrated below. The Top 20 % represent the most visited pages, most read content or most used applications on your intranet.

Long Tail intranets

In the top 20% you'll typically find the most used pages and applications such as the phone book, org. chart, vacation scheduling and news. The long tail include lesser used, but still very important content such as specific process definitions, documents, and several critical business applications used by a limited number of specific users.

In most organisations, both IT and communications are increasingly unable to handle the top 20% as they are both understaffed and lack a proper mandate. Both are certainly understaffed and often under-trained and are thus unable to manage the long tail.

In May European intranet expert Jane McConnell wrote a comment on intranet ownership "mental models" where she described different models for intranet ownership, with IT and communication playing lead roles.

In organisations where the intranet is no longer a hobby, I suspect that the Finance and HR departments will begin to play an increasingly important role. Finance will become involved sooner or later if it concerns anything that is business critical and HR will take increasing notice when the intranet becomes a significant factor in whether the organisation is a great place to work.

Some organisations in our community of practice have designated HR as the formal owner of collaboration, e.g. project rooms, wikis and instant messaging. To them collaboration is increasingly becoming an integral part of their intranets. IT typically acts as system owner, e.g. for SharePoint, while communication sometimes, but not always, owns the news section of the intranet.

Have you managed to move beyond IT and communications? If so, what triggered the change?

If you’d like to learn from other organisations where the intranet is truly business critical, I’d encourage you to join our international intranet conference in Copenhagen on March 22 2011.

Janus Boye

Janus Boye
CEO and Head of Research

As founder and managing director at J. Boye, Janus has grown the business from an office at home in 2003 to an international operation today with members in Europe and North America.

Janus is a frequent speaker at industry events and chairs the renowned J. Boye Conferences held since 2005 in Denmark and since 2009 in Philadelphia, US. Among the organisations that have recently called upon Janus' expertise are  local government agencies, the UN in New York and companies such as Brother, Carlsberg and Red Bull.

jb@jboye.com

3 Responses to “Successful intranets move beyond IT and communications”

  1. Jane McConnell says:

    A sign of a mature intranet environment is where ownership of the intranet is a natural extension of the scope and accountability of the person or department in general.
    This applies to publishing responsibilities as well as to top level strategic ownership.
    I dream of the day when the intranet will no longer be handled as something different, something with its own governance to define, but simply business as usual.

  2. [...] Il tema è quello della distribuzione delle informazioni in intranet e anche secondo J. Boyle il “grosso” dell’attività avviene nella coda lunga. [...]

  3. Our Intranet is run by IT because they should. IT backs it up, restores, creates users, programs, fixes mistakes, and upgrades the servers. But, each department has a role for their sections. Like a branch, each department is independent so they can have total ownership and have a say in their offering. The streaming information area on the front page and department page updates all staff to those department postings and offerings. We have 23 departments that fuel our intranet. Placing it primarily in the hands of one department or a small few that have say over the internal communications of a whole company is a mistake. HR doesn’t know what Facilities is doing nor do they care. Finance doesn’t communicate its changes to the collections department; and training doesn’t consort for permission to post class listings. Each department has a job to do, and from the top down open communication must take place, but if taught, each department will know what to do. If leveraged they will be allowed to make success for the organization. Micro and Macro managing of a company intranet leads to problems. Free communication is key to growth and harmony in the corporate ecosystem. Control will get you so far then it fails. An intranet is an integral part of that cohesiveness.

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