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