In the intranet world you’ll hear a lot about governance and how it’s important. Governance can be defined as the policies, processes, structures, roles and rules which allow your social intranet to function effectively and optimally.
Governance doesn’t sound very sexy but it’s critical. Behind a really great intranet there’s always robust governance in place. Governance is made up of several different components, and it’s essential to get these in place in the background so your social intranet can get on with delivering value.
Establishing and maintaining robust governance has its challenges, but it’s achievable. It also doesn’t have to be heavy handed, just appropriate for your organization – and often a light touch approach can work best.
How you organize governance will depend very much on what sector you’re in (regulated industries may need more rules), your organization size and structure, the size of your central team and the level of interest from your stakeholders. But wherever you work, all social intranets have some common core elements.
Here’s our view of 13 essential components and intranet governance best practices:
Best Practice #1: Senior Sponsorship and Ownership
Somebody in authority needs to own and champion the intranet. This will ensure the intranet is given attention and focus by management, has budget allocated and is taken seriously.
Ideally a champion should be at the C-suite level. Some larger organizations also have cross-functional steering committees with appropriate senior representation usually from IT, Communications, HR and other functions. There might also be representatives from the business.
Best Practice #2: A Person Responsible for Business Operations
An intranet normally needs some sort of manager. Depending on the size of your organization, you may not need a full-time person. However you do need somebody who can help coordinate the platform, and who has responsibility for the smooth day-to-day running of the intranet from a non-technical perspective (perhaps you’re that person within your organization!)
Best Practice #3: A Social Media Policy
Having a policy on appropriate use of your social intranet reduces risk and provides clarity of use to employees. Even if few employees read it, it’s an essential point of reference on the rare occasions something goes wrong.
Best Practice #4: Process for Site Requisitioning
You need a process for new communities, groups and microsites to be created. Usually this means having a central team approving requests to avoid duplicating sites and ensuring relevance. This process can be very simple and driven by a form, but having a simple step before creating sites helps to maintain the integrity and consistency of your environment.
Best Practice #5: Process for Site Archiving
Similarly, you need a process for site archiving to remove groups and sites when they reach their ‘end of life’. This ensures the intranet continues to be user-friendly with items easily findable. Without the archiving of sites, out-of-date groups and communities soon proliferate, making the intranet less valuable and harder to manage.
Best Practice #6: Content Management Processes to Include Reviews and Archiving
Content management is a huge area, too wide to cover here, but you need processes in place which ensure content remains relevant and that any approvals needed for content to be published are obtained. Automated reminders asking authors to review content on a regular basis can help keep content up to date.
Best Practice #7: Publishing Standards
A successful intranet has high quality, consistent content that’s relevant, geared towards the needs of its audience and written to be viewed online. To help this to happen, you’ll need publishing standards that set out the expected quality of writing, tone of voice, page layout, use of images and other related areas. Giving these standards to content authors will help drive consistency and quality.
Best Practice #8: Branding Guidelines
Brand guidelines for the intranet ensure the site is compliant with your organization’s brand. All too often brand guidelines are only applied at the highest level (such as the homepage) or lag behind external digital channels such as the corporate website. Ideally intranet brand guidelines should be reflected in page and site templates. Guidelines should be available for site managers so their individual sites remain compliant.
Best Practice #9: Security and Information Management
Companies will have a security and information policy that will impact your intranet. For example, there are certain types of information (such as client data) that can’t be posted on the intranet because all employees can view it, or because of the location of the servers. Make sure this key aspect of governance is covered.
Best Practice #10: Reporting Abuse and User Feedback
In our experience, misuse of a social intranet is extremely rare, but even so there must be a way to report abuse on a page or content. This helps support a light touch approach to social intranet use, which trusts employees to do the right thing and to use the intranet sensibly and professionally. The intranet should also allow users to give feedback for improvements.
Best Practice #11: Strategy and Purpose
An intranet should have a strategy and a clear purpose. Intranets have multiple uses and stakeholders with different views. A strategy gives direction and helps align the intranet to wider company goals. This helps everybody involved in running the intranet to stay on the same page, and also helps to prioritize changes and keep them relevant.
Best Practice #12: Role Descriptions for Site and Community Managers
Having easy-to-understand descriptions of what’s expected of site and community managers (and their related activities) gives clarity about these important roles and helps underpin intranet operations. Having descriptions written down also makes it more formal, which helps drive compliance. In practice, the quality of an intranet relies on its site and community managers, so encouraging good practices really makes a difference!
Best Practice #13: Training and Support Resources
Easy access to resources, potentially simple training, and other learning materials should be in place to reinforce all of the above points. Having dedicated sites on your intranet that give access to relevant material (including videos) provides important reference points for site managers and employees. Having face-to-face or online training sessions for new site and community managers and a general introduction about the intranet for all new employees is also a common approach that works for many organizations.
Intranet governance is mission critical!
If you can get some of the above components in place, it will help you to manage your intranet more effectively. It will also reduce risks, keep content fresh, establish consistency and maintain a great user experience. There’s a link between good governance and a great intranet, so it’s worth spending some time getting it right.