Intranet and digital workplace teams use a number of cross-disciplinary skills and competencies in developing, managing and improving intranets and digital workplaces. But to the best of our knowledge nobody has attempted to map exactly what these are.
The Spark Trajectory Intranet and Digital Workplace skills matrix is an open source competency framework that describes the key skills required to successfully deliver and maintain intranets and digital workplaces. We created the matrix to attempt to map the landscape and to allow organizations to plot their course towards improving the only part of digital workplace systems that you can’t just go and upgrade — your people.
We have positioned intranet and digital workplace skills in the center of the matrix surrounded by the four key, influential disciplines that contribute to a usable, vibrant and valuable digital employee experience: content and communication; social and collaboration management; user experience design; and technology and IT management.
The intranet and digital workplace domain sits at the center — not because we believe it is pivotal or superior to the other domains, but because we view it as a collection of constantly evolving skills that connect the other domains and allow the successful delivery and maintenance of assets — not to a bare minimum but done well. The lines around the central domain are dashed, indicating they are porous. These skills can be carried out by anyone from the other domains as required.
The outer boundaries of the other four domains are open. The skills documented are by no means exhaustive. This is not one competency framework to rule them all. We strongly believe in working alongside other domains’ skills frameworks where already documented and regarding them as friends and allies. The matrix is our perspective when looked through the lens of digital workplace management.
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How to Use the Intranet and Digital Workplace Skills Matrix
The matrix is useful in a bunch of ways and from many perspectives. Let’s run through a few.
Mapping Your Career
As would only be ethical, when my business partner, Steve Bynghall, and I developed the matrix we tested it on ourselves. You can use the matrix to track your career. I started as a technical author, was inveigled into IT, with increasing pressure to conform to IT manager norms. I pinged off to becoming an information architect embedded in an internal communications team, before leaving the corporate world and becoming a consultant. My consulting has tended to be on very specific topics around strategy, governance and measurement, as well as user and stakeholder research techniques.
Bynghall’s career has taken a different path entirely. Starting from a background of library science and information management, he confesses to starting his career as a “records management dogsbody.” This morphed into a knowledge management role. This lead to more emphasis on collaboration, but with a large side helping of business analysis. Now, of course, he wears two hats as a digital workplace and intranet consultant and as a writer in the field.
Entrances and Exits
We can see here that people very rarely enter the intranet and digital workplace domain directly. It is much more likely that people get into roles from the other domains and shift over time into more specific roles. In talking to people about their careers we can also see exits as people traverse the model — perhaps starting as a content person but ending up in IT or user experience and deciding to move on from intranet and digital workplace into other things.
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Moving from a great height and grand perspective, let’s go a bit lower. Let’s imagine the matrix is like a chessboard. It is sometimes hard to plan what skills to invest our time in. We hope people will use the skills matrix for just this purpose. This could be widening one’s skill set by consciously moving into other domains, or by specializing in one domain by deepening specific skills. Perhaps you might choose to de-specialize, and consciously focus on dropping skills development in certain areas. In each of these cases, the skills matrix can be used to expand awareness and as a resource to understand what tasks, techniques and capabilities would be required in each skill and skill level.
Mapping Your Team's Skills
No single person can deliver an intranet or a wider suite of digital tools on their own. Every organization needs several people to cover these skills to deliver successfully. The key use we foresee is team mapping. By mapping out the skills of all the members of a team (or virtual team, or project team) it is easier for the team manager to understand who has what skills and where skills are either lacking or shallow.
This also allows a neat way to map boundaries and interfaces with other teams or agencies. You might cover a broad range of skills and tasks in the middle of the matrix, and hand off to internal communications and IT. You might have a long relationship with a user experience agency when you need intense UX work done, but notice a big gap in social and collaboration, which you have no resources or skills to cover it.
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Explain the Intranet–Digital Workplace Role to Peers
It’s also useful for other teams that perhaps don’t understand quite what we do. HR teams and senior managers sometimes have issues understanding job families when things aren’t completely straightforward and attempt to pigeonhole intranet people in say either IT or communications roles.
The skills matrix is useful in communicating the complexity and array of skills involved, in deciding pay grades or approving job descriptions, as well as helping L&D teams work out training offerings. You could even use it with an intranet software vendor to fill out the detail about who does what in a project.
A Skills Matrix Rooted in the Digital Workplace Community
We at Spark Trajectory wanted an asset we could use with our clients to describe their needs, describe a strategy and set a course towards it, but we wanted it to be credible and rooted in the community. Therefore we decided to create the skills matrix as an open source project. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, meaning if you are a practitioner working within an organization you can use it as you like — we made this for you. Whether your company has 200 people or 200,000 people, use it and adapt it. We are happy that you are finding it useful, just mention us when you do.
If you are a vendor, consultant or otherwise sell some form of service related to intranets or digital workplaces, use it to explain what organizations should be doing with skills — this is exactly what it is for. As you would with any reference, make sure you give us a credit. However, please don’t create or sell services using it or pass it off as your own work.
Most importantly, we want the community to contribute. Each skill has a web page with the current version, but linked to it is a Google Doc draft. If you disagree with us, or your expertise outweighs ours, please make edits on the Google Doc or leave comments there. Periodically we will revise the skills matrix in response to feedback we’ve received. You can find contribution guidelines on our website.
So go and assess your and your team’s skills. What improvement to what skill would make the greatest difference to your team?