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Intranet Governance Series: The importance of your intranet’s goals and charter (Part 7)

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Simpplr Research

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March 5, 2019

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In the prior Intranet Governance Series post, we noted that 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. Not far behind, many intranet failures were attributed lacking a clear purpose. In this post, we’ll discuss the complexities of aligning your governance strategy to its purpose.

State of Intranet 2019 statistics

To dive deeper, the State of Intranet 2019 by Simpplr Research 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!

Simply put: this is recipe for disaster. Your intranet needs a clear charter and goals that everyone aligns with, understands, and follows. Without clear goals, it’s easy to understand why so many intranet initiatives fail and why they’re nearly impossible to manage.

The one thing every governance committee should do

The first thing you do as a governance committee is to crystallize the intranet’s purpose. The first step of your governance committee is to get key stakeholders from across the organization. At a minimum, you need representation from communications, IT, Office of CEO, executive sponsors (e.g., CEO), and HR. Read more about forming your governance committee 101.

Intranet objectives for your governance committee

Since this won’t be the first intranet for most organizations, the governance committee should strive to meet the following objectives:
• Have a clear articulation of the intranet’s purpose
• Have a clear distinction of what the intranet is and what it isn’t
• Gain collective agreement on the problem WE are solving. Everyone needs to buy in.
• Understand how the objectives will be measured
• Gain cross-functional commitment and accountability for ongoing success (more on this in future posts)

Ultimately, you want to walk out of the room convinced that your approach is different this time. You’ve done a better job getting everyone to agree. You’ve really thought out what you’re trying to achieve. And you have clear objectives that you’ll be able to market internally. We know that clearly defined objectives and goals help drive adoption and users are more apt to use the intranet when they know explicitly what its there for. Most organizations don’t even provide that much!

Common intranet pitfalls to avoid:

The intranet’s purpose really isn’t that purposeful

Many intranets have failed because they weren’t seen as purposeful. We’re talking about the types of intranets that get pigeonholed as the source of lunch menus and happy hour photos. These struggle to survive. Instead, first, define what it means to be purposeful. A simple and effective way to evaluate is asking yourself, “If this goes away, is the business adversely affected?” Every project needs to endure business stress, such as changing priorities, people coming and going, budget cuts, and so forth. The projects that fail to link to business value or goal do not stand the test of time.

“The Frankenstein Intranet”

Differing perspectives create the “Frankenstein Intranet.” It’s not uncommon for different stakeholders to view the intranet’s purpose differently. Take the following example:

The communications team views the intranet as a place to drive employee engagement. Ultimately, communications team members feel pressured to have employees read their content so they can justify the existence of the program. The IT team sees the intranet as a means to improve productivity. Its members want to use the intranet as a hub to connect all of the other productivity apps. Deep down, they feel pressured to justify the software investment, so they think a connected intranet can drive engagement in all software investments. HR typically is the face of improving company culture, but when it comes to intranets, the department just needs a place to store all of its policies and documents. And other groups, like compliance, often see the intranet as the only place where mandatory training and sign-off occur.

The truth is, no single group in the example above is wrong in its objectives. The problem is that all of a sudden, the intranet has created many disparate objectives. Before long, nobody is clear on the intranet’s purpose or goal. Objectives also begin to conflict. For example, it’s difficult to use your intranet as a highly curated, focused environment to focus on what is important to the company when others see it as a catch-all for access to all documentation and systems.

The defined purpose or goal is flawed

Among organizations that have defined their purpose, many still struggle. Googling “purpose of intranet” will yield an article with the following five “key purposes”:

  1. Deliver content
  2. Be a key communication tool
  3. Enable collaboration
  4. Support the culture and
  5. Create efficiencies through supporting business activities

This is bad advice for a few reasons. First, defining an intranet as a tool to deliver content, be a key communication tool, and enable collaboration will lead to a struggle because we already have tools that accomplish those goals, such as chat apps, emails, etc. The purpose or goal needs to be defined with a mutually exclusive value proposition. Second, this confuses tactics with outcomes. Delivering content and supporting the culture are not on the same plane. Third, the five points lack an outcome that ties to specific business values.

The goals use ambiguous language

A common trend is to tie the intranet’s charter to focus on employee engagement, culture, and connecting distributed workforces. While this is good because it attempts to tackle more pressing business issues, this approach is difficult to measure and make a business case around. Another challenge is using goals such as ‘increase employee engagement’ or ‘improve company culture’ because not only are they hard to measure, but they’re also hard to understand. Culture and engagement can mean different things to different people.

Here is a good example of a good purpose statement from a Simpplr customer:

“The intranet is part of a broader employee communications strategy where we will strive to (a) connect employees that don’t naturally interact and (b) better align employees on strategy, values, purpose, and focus for every employee to be on the same page. So [our] employees are less likely to leave and are more focused and excited about work.”

Note how they used unambiguous language and did a good job separating tactics and desired outcomes. Regardless of the approach, goals should also be clear on how success will be measured. In the example above, the company uses eNPS and voluntary turnover benchmarks to understand the success of their employee communications strategy.

Understand what impacts employee turnover

Finally, on the nebulous topic of culture and engagement, Simpplr Research analyzed Glassdoor™ data and surveyed employees from thousands of companies to better understand how employee communications impacts employee engagement, company culture, and ultimately affects employee turnover. The findings show that internally marketing the company’s higher purpose, establishing a strong sense of community, and aligning on strategic priorities and goals are all key drivers of employee engagement and retention. To learn more, you can download the research’s infographic here.

Subscribe to our Intranet Governance Series

Read through our governance blog series and learn how to set up your governance committee successfully to avoid intranet failure:

Part 1: Poor Governance is the Top Reason Intranets Fail
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 8: Executive engagement makes or breaks your intranet

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