An organization-centric intranet is departmental-based. A staff-centric intranet is task-based. Organization-centric intranets fail. Task-centric intranets succeed. Here's why.When staff in a large organization were asked how they would like to see their intranet organized, they gave interesting replies. They preferred to see their own section or department structured from an organization-centric point of view. So, if they worked in HR, they wanted the HR section organized based on the HR organizational chart structure.
However, the staff who worked for HR did not want the other sections of the intranet organized from an organization-centric point of view. They much preferred that these other sections be task-based.
When staff went to these other sections they had tasks in mind (book a meeting room, find a logo, etc.). They didn't want to have to understand how that particular part of the organization was organized. They just wanted to complete a task as quickly as possible.
Here lies a key challenge of intranet management. There are many benefits from a traditional organizational perspective of having an organization-centric intranet. For starters, having a department represented in an intranet structure can be seen as a sign of status and importance. If a department has lots of pages and is linked from the intranet homepage, that is an indication of how important the department is to the organization.
Someone responsible for a departmental intranet can clearly and easily show their boss the results of what they have been working at. There are lots of pages with the department's name on it. It's easy to show you've been busy working hard. It's also easy to tick a box and say, yes, our department is represented on the intranet. We have met our objectives.
None of the above is good management. None of the above will help your intranet succeed. In fact, organization-centric intranets are a recipe for failure. The reason why is quite simple.
Let's say you have an organization of 1,000 people, and 50 of them work in Human Resources (HR). An organization-centric intranet will work great for those 50 people, but it will not work very well for the 950 people who need to book training, find job vacancies, and read up on pension options. I have seen organization-centric intranets where you have to click six levels down before you even see the word "training".
A task-centric intranet will work for everyone who comes to the intranet to complete tasks. It will prove challenging, though, to those who are responsible for creating the content and applications that are needed to complete these tasks.
An organizational structure for people and departments is essential to the success of the organization. But it can take on a life of its own, constantly trying to prove its own importance. The way you effectively organize the people in a department is not the same way you organize the content that these people create.
We rarely go to HR because we want to know how that department is organized, who works for who, etc. In fact, most staff have absolutely zero interest in HR. They just want to go on a good training course, find out about the latest internal job vacancies.
Staff don't really care about-nor have any interest in-who is responsible for managing these common tasks. Nor should they need to.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.