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Intranet Governance Series: Poor Governance is the Top Reason Intranets Fail (Part 1)

Written by

Simpplr Research


January 3, 2019



Simpplr Research conducted an exhaustive research study on Why Intranets Fail in 2018. Among the various reasons noted, ‘Poor Intranet Governance’ was consistently cited as the primary driver of program failure. In fact, fifty-seven percent of survey respondents who’ve seen an intranet fail faulted unclear ownership and governance. This was higher than any technical or functional issue cited!

What exactly is intranet governance?

“Intranet governance” refers to a set of policies and an administrative structure that enables decision-making and planning processes. Governance allows your intranet to sustain ongoing meaningful internal communications.

The most common impediment that many teams face initially when deploying an intranet is unclear decision-making roles and processes. It is important to establish purpose, roles and responsibilities, and decision-making processes; without these, an intranet may still get off the ground, but it turns into a nightmare to govern and manage.

How to approach intranet governance

Maintaining an effective and successful intranet governance requires a conscious investment. It requires cross-functional coordination and leadership with a tightly agreed charter. This means that everyone involved needs to contribute to maintain, monitor, and produce the necessary effort. Roles and responsibilities matter. A lack of clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and processes is not sustainable. Finally, all teams need representation. Ultimately, the purpose of an intranet is to help you connect your distributed teams and your workforces across departments and locations. If various teams aren’t represented or if they aren’t pulling their weight, you end up alienating part of the workforce.

Intranet governance best practices

At a high level, successful intranet governance should have:

The proper governance mindset

Intranets naturally lose momentum. Proper intranet governance will require resources and ongoing commitment. In that vein, people need to understand this governance is about aligning on internal communications, strategy, and culture. It’s not simply to ensure people log into a portal.

An owner

A surprising number of intranets don’t have owners. It is best practice to have a core group (typically within the internal communications team) who curates company-wide content, oversees site managers, reviews analytics and metrics, and polices the intranet for inappropriate activities. While it is good to have multiple individuals with administrators access, one individual should ultimately be responsible.

A clear purpose

A recent Simpplr Research survey on the state of the intranet revealed some startling statistics: Among respondents working with active intranet programs, 57 percent of surveyed practitioners said they don’t have clearly articulated goals. Another 23 percent said they have a charter, but not everyone follows it! Many intranets have failed simply because organizations haven’t been clear on the intent. Organizations need to be painstakingly clear on what it is and is not for.

Meaningful executive engagement

Whether we like it or not executives need to give more than their blessing. They need to actively contribute or provide resources to communicate on their behalf. One, employees will all follow their example. Two, their news and updates matter most.

A governance team

Cross-functional business units and locations need to commit ongoing representation to ensure the intranet’s and communication strategy’s ongoing success. The group should meet regularly, have executive sponsorship, and oversight accountability.

Proper representation

The purpose of an intranet is to connect employees across the enterprise. This can’t be done excluding employees. The following functions are critical and should be included in your intranet governance committee: IT, Marketing, Internal Communications, Human Resources, the office of the CEO, and Legal and Compliance.

Federated ownership

In the old days, intranets could only be stood up by technical resources. This made intranets stale, clunky, and ugly. Now technology advances make configuration easy and updates can go at the speed of business. This means intranet ownership is decentralized and responsibility becomes shared among content owners and publishers. But it also increases the responsibility and accountability of various site owners.

Succession plans and a bench

As a technology vendor, Simpplr sees a lot of initiatives stall simply when a company has employee turnover. This isn’t only applicable to intranet administrators either. Federated ownership is challenged when you have staff turnover. Organizations need to preempt this risk by proactively establishing intranet ownership and governance succession plans and by having staff redundancy in all critical areas.

Clear roles, responsibilities, and ownership

The steering team, intranet administrators, technical resources, domain owners, and content contributors all need to know what is expected of them and more importantly need to be held accountable on an ongoing basis. Many intranets lose steam as momentum stalls from various stakeholders.

Clear publishing guidelines

In addition to defining who owns what, it’s important to establish criteria to drive consistency across a federated intranet. Intranets should have design criteria (examples include: user experience and navigation design, branding guidelines), rules on who can post what, and clear examples what belongs (and more importantly) doesn’t belong in the intranet.

Support and training

Intranet contributors, site owners, and content creators will all need adequate support and training to ensure technology doesn’t add friction to the intranet governance process. Similarly, users will also need to be supported but ideally, the user experience is so intuitive that these issues are rare.

Subscribe to our Intranet Governance Series

Since intranet governance best practices are so important, we’ve decided to dig deeper into the topic, interview many of our customers and intranet practitioners, and develop a more formalized point-of-view. Read through our governance blog series and learn how to set up your governance committee successfully to avoid intranet failure:

Part 2: Forming your governance committee 101
Part 3: So you now have an intranet governance team. What do you do?
Part 4: Managing a federated intranet with multiple managers and content contributors
Part 5: How your governance committee aligns with intranet content management responsibilities
Part 6: Roles and responsibilities for Internal Communications
Part 7: The importance of your intranet’s goals and charter
Part 8: Executive engagement makes or breaks your intranet

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