If we are finally realizing the true potential of our intranets, then it's also time to take a close look at what the role of the Intranet Manager should also evolve to become, if it is to continue at all.

Intranets are Changing, So Should The Intranet Manager

The role of the intranet is changing dramatically. Everyone agrees that it's no longer some neat little website that is used to distribute today's news and a lot of forms. It has become a much needed business tool and is slowing evolving into a central workplace for many organizations (see Intranet Trends for 2010: How Far We Have and Haven't Come). 

As the intranet starts to include more social and collaborative capabilities, as well as tighter integration with business systems, the role of the Intranet Manager must be re-evaluated to support it better. Martin White, in his upcoming book "The Intranet Governance Handbook" says "There are probably few other positions which require such a breadth of knowledge, close working relationships throughout the organisation, and potentially a significant (albeit indirect) impact on business performance".

In fact, the role of the Intranet Manager should become much more strategic as the intranet evolves. It should grow into an executive management position as the interaction become much more about managing enterprise information than it does managing authors and publishing deadlines.

But not everyone agrees that there is a future for the Intranet Manager. In Jane McConnell's report "Intranet Trends for 2010", she elicits opinions on the role of the Intranet Manager from survey respondents. The responses are mixed. While some do agree the role should be come more strategic:

I think the role of the Intranet manager will evolve in the coming year and will become more strategic. As Intranets are now federating more and more sources and accesses to the information, from formal to informal information, the Intranet Manager needs to have a good knowledge of organizations, main business processes and main internal communication flows. To my mind, this "cross-view" should be owned to a department "internal Organization and Communication reporting directly to a CEO."

other see the role diminishing:

The role as intranet manager is probably going to fade away as the "online workplace" is becoming more commonplace." and "It will hopefully progressively disappear as intranet responsibilities become more and more integrated into "business as usual".

Fighting Senior Management

Information is a strategic asset for organizations, yet many don't seem to realize that. Not only is it critical to ensure the right information is available to the right people in the organization, it also can create a competitive advantage. 

The Intranet Manager can play a key role in supporting the proper governance of information. Says White,

Who could take the lead in an organisation in developing effective information governance strategies that optimise information use within the organisation and also enable it to share information with global stakeholders. There is surely an opportunity here for the intranet manager to step up to the high table and offer their services. Intranet managers are able to balance information, technology and governance issues in a way that currently no other professional group is able to do."

The role of Intranet Manager could evolve into something more strategic, if the organization recognized the importance of its information and how it's managed.

But it many also depend on what role the Intranet Manager plays today and where that person came from. As we found in Jane McConnell's Intranet Trends report intranets are in various stages of life. Many are still in initial stages where they are not used strategically and still face the challenge of buy-in from senior management. Until these organizations take their intranet to the next levels, you are more likely to see Intranet Manager stay in the same position, constantly fighting the same battles.

Usurped by Social Software?

I also think the role of the Intranet Manager is being challenged by social business software. As these platforms become predominant in organizations, there must be questions of the need for a separate intranet. Is it possible for the Intranet Manager to step into a role of managing a social software platform? Maybe.

Intranets have evolved from web content management and corporate communications though, and that's a different world than social software. If an Intranet Manager is to take the lead in working with these platforms, they may need to adjust their approaches and strategies. Some may not have the knowledge and capabilities to do that.

So Is There a Future for the Intranet Manager

I don't think the role is going anywhere quickly. As the Intranet evolves, the Intranet Manager evolves with it, preferably leading the charge, pushing for a more strategic role in the organization. Whether senior management will recognize the role as strategic enough to be included in the executive team remains to be seen.

For organizations who are in the process of implementing social business software, we may not see the Intranet Manager evolving to a more strategic level, unless they are brought into the strategy and implementation processes, pulling the two together into a single offering.