As intranets grow in complexity, the importance and challenges of setting up an intranet governance structure grows in line -- but the benefits will be seen in the long run.
When we build any information system, be it a highly specific line of business system, a high throughput transactional system, a document management system or the Intranet we should always consider all of the major elements -- People, Process and Technology. Although there may well be Intranets out there that have failed the organization due to really bad technology, they are probably few and far between compared to those that fail due to people or process issues.
An element of managing your intranet that overlaps the people and process sides of the triangle, is governance. Governance means many things to many people, but let's agree that we are basically talking about who is in charge, who can make decisions on what needs to be done, and on who can set policy and operational procedure.
Dealing with Complexity
As organization's intranets mature and become increasingly complex, moving from simple web publishing to social collaboration, decision support dashboards and major applications mashing up data from many systems and presenting them to users with an eye to the employee user experience, we can only agree that governance is only becoming more complicated and difficult!
However this is no reason to ignore the concept of intranet governance, or to simply pay it lip service because this seems like an easy avenue. I would argue that it is in fact the opposite.
As the Intranet ecosystem becomes more diverse, and we ask more from our intranets, a solid governance structure can actually help us to be nimble, agile and and ensure we have good day to day operational management. So hard work undertaken in getting executive support, setting up the governance structure and paying attention to the roles and responsibilities can actually pay back in spades when you need a quick decision on an important question.
I would contend that there is no single ideal governance structure, because all organizations are different and the one size fits all approach is not appropriate. However we can say that a simple framework with a couple of levels of management is potentially appropriate:
- Senior Management / Executive Sponsors Steering Committee -- "the strategic level"
- Intranet Management Group / Committee -- the "operational level"
- Intranet Working Group(s) -- the "tactical level"
The Strategic Level
The top level Steering Committee should include the executive sponsor(s) and be fully multi-disciplinary in nature, with stakeholders from the business unit where the intranet teams sits, from IT, and from other business units with a major role.