Do you remember when an intranet for a company consisted of HTML files that linked to internal documents and websites outside of an organization? In days past, intranets always started within the information technology (IT) departments of organizations. Why? Because IT departments were – by and large – the only people within an organization with the skills to create and support all of those HTML pages.
Luckily, times have changed. (But, if this sounds like the intranet you have now, please call us immediately…we can help!) This brief history of how the intranet has evolved over the last two decades will illustrate the importance of changing the future of intranet ownership.
Then: IT Decision-making and Ownership
After the HTML intranet phase, new tools, such as Microsoft SharePoint, IBM WebSphere, and Oracle Portal to name a few, entered the scene and could be put together to offer a better intranet. While many of these tools catered to IT, SharePoint differed slightly from the competition by offering a user interface that did not require as much IT involvement – allowing non-technical departments to do more on their own.
Because of this, IT departments saw the opportunity to shed themselves of the burden of maintaining an intranet, and users were happy because they could do the things they wanted to – for the most part – without requiring IT assistance. Plus, SharePoint was oftentimes included as part of an enterprise licensing agreement.
SharePoint took off. So much so that Microsoft reported about 80 percent of Fortune 500 businesses used SharePoint for their intranet in 2011.
Once a company had SharePoint, leadership wanted to maximize its value potential, so they turned it on and let the users have at it…and have at it they did. Chaos ensued. Databases filled with too much content, search results were clogged, and sites were abandoned, among other problems.
IT was stunned, users became frustrated, and Microsoft scrambled to fix problems with a new release.
In recent times, IT departments across the U.S. have adopted a more organized approach to creating an intranet manifested out of the disarray of the old SharePoint by building intranets from the ground up, creating governance plans and developing smart information architecture.
Still, new priorities around security, compliance, data storage, increased usage, enterprise resource planning (ERPs) and uptime again shifted the focus of intranet oversight from IT to other departments.
Then, the concept of Consumerization of IT began with the rise of mobile devices and consumer-focused websites. Organizations started to take notice, asking the hard question: “Should the intranet still belong wholly within IT?” (I secretly think that many IT organizations breathed a sigh of relief at being asked this question.) Yet, who leads the intranet, who funds it, and who is the final decision maker?
There were many departments’ interests now at play. Corporate communications saw the intranet as an opportunity to really leverage a tool to communicate directly to its audience. Business units wanted to improve productivity and improve time to market. Human resources sought to increase employee engagement and better culture. Marketing wanted to share brand messaging and brand standards. Corporate leadership wanted to maximize value and minimize risk.
Now: Cross-Functional Decision-Making and CEO Ownership
Since 2014, I have seen more and more interdisciplinary committees make intranet decisions. The Intranet communication channel – especially in a digital age where employees often have expectations of working anywhere at anytime – is one of the most important tools a company has. However, there is no single entity within an organization that wakes up every morning thinking about how their employees can be better informed, work more effectively, and collaborate more easily. All the aforementioned departments own pieces of that vision, but since intranets are invariably considered project-based works, department participants fade into something else once the “intranet project” is complete.
The solution? In 2016, make intranet ownership a top priority. Ensure multiple stakeholders from across the organization have a say, but with one owner and operator: The CEO.
For RBA clients, intranet success is found in creating interdisciplinary committees that report to the CEO. The senior most leader of your company must recognize the value of the intranet in reaching all of your employees through a single channel, soliciting employee feedback, creating culture, reinforcing brand, increasing productivity, and making your organization employee-friendly.
Intranet communication and collaboration is the lifeblood of any organization. Pay close attention to your intranet this year. While you’re at it, is it time to evolve your use of the term “intranet” to the broader practice known as “digital workplace”?
For more on this topic of intranet “ownership” and how to ensure your intranet is designed to achieve optimal results for your organization, download RBA’s e-book, “Six Reasons Your Intranet Project Will Fail, and Tips for Success.”