This question extends beyond an intranet of course and goes into the concept of a digital workplace (DWP), then with it – digital employee experience. It’s a bit of a minefield and can be contentious if not handled properly.
So, who should own the intranet? Well, it depends.
Mostly it depends on why you’re asking the question (as there’s a whole heap of context that is probably influencing the topic), the culture and type of business, as well as the individuals involved. But as I gave it some thought and got stuck into the different scenarios that would influence this decision, I kept returning to the same concept:
It depends, because it depends who the right fit for it is.
Where it could live: a summary
From my experience a DWP, or indeed DWP team, will usually live in one of the following places:
- IT (or Digital as a standalone concept)
- Communications (internal and/or external, including Marketing)
- Strategy (or Business Development or similar)
- Or, as a standalone
The variation usually comes depending on what focus the business has chosen for the site, the skillset of those involved, or which senior colleague has volunteered to be the one ultimately responsible for it. I have seen it work and fail among each of these departments; with too much departmental focus being placed on the tool (that should serve the entire business) being the biggest pitfall – but this is easily avoidable.
Being the owner of a DWP is a difficult and skilled job, so the right person must be in the role. Therefore, I believe a DWP could be owned by any department, as long as those who own it have certain qualities.
What qualities does a DWP manager need?
First, I want to stress that what I mean by an intranet or DWP manager relates to whoever takes responsibility for it, not necessarily a person with that as their job title.
I’ve created this Venn diagram to try to explain and summarise my thoughts, and although aspects cross from one quality to another, they broadly fit:
The manager would need to be or have:
- Knowledge – of the DWP, of the industry, of developments, of what will work best for the business
- Acumen – to guide the business in the right way, to work out how the DWP can be adapted or developed to fit the needs of the business and users, to identify solutions or ideas to present back to the business
- Understanding – of what the DWP can/could do, of which channels are the best fit for a particular activity, of what the business needs, of what alternatives are available, of what the industry is doing, of the different users/personas
- Flexibility – to adapt to the business needs, to adapt to changes in technology, to work with a lot of mixed opinions, to make and learn from mistakes, to take feedback on board
- Balanced – to make sure each department’s needs are being met, that the user is put first and all decisions are made based on them and their needs
The manager would need to have:
- Vision – for the DWP, of the overall goal(s) of the DWP and business, for the business, for potential solutions
- Ambition – to make the DWP perfect for an end user
- Advocacy – be an active promoter of the DWP and how it can and will help, to find business solutions, to take criticisms and turn them into development opportunities
- Commitment – to the users, to make the site essential, to continue to develop it, to make the DWP the core tool for the business
- Determination – to build it, to make the business realise how good it is/can be, to get people using it, to keep it fresh, to keep it being updated
The manager would need to be or have:
- Enthusiasm – no matter what state the DWP is in, to find then promote it as the best solution, constantly find ways to develop it
- Passion – to do the work, to make the DWP essential, to learn, to continue to develop it and themselves
- Care – for the end user, for the business, for the DWP
- Diplomacy – working across the business to get things done, getting things done the way you want them to be done, keeping content owners and users engaged, passing on feedback and analytics in a way that will help
Overarching all qualities is the ability to lead, supervise or manage those who are creating content or using the DWP. The individual needs to keep everyone engaged with the DWP and to make sure governance is adhered to. They have to listen to feedback that is then responded to or passed on as needed. They need to consider all the different users, ideally through the creation and maintenance of personas. They, essentially, just need to keep it going and developing.
How to identify if someone or some people have these skills
The Spark Trajectory skills matrix is an excellent tool to review skill levels and potential development opportunities. It’s available for free from their website.
What does this mean for the owning department?
Some of these qualities have connections with a specific department or two (e.g. appropriate channels = Internal Communication, understanding of the industry = IT, understanding users = HR), but overall, they are standalone abilities and qualities that anyone could possess. For this reason, I would argue that whoever is stepping into the ownership role must display these qualities, no matter the department. If there are gaps in some of the specifics, then a good team around them would help, but if a significant amount is missing then this is where the business is likely to experience problems.