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PHOTO: Agung Pratamah

If you are an intranet manager, chances are you either work in IT or Internal Communications. But where you sit in the organizational structure may not reveal much about what your job actually involves. It's easy to assume that operating an intranet is either strongly weighted towards administrating technology or just about content management. But what these stereotypes miss is less about generalizations and more about the fact that in today’s modern intranets, everyone has the potential to create content and integrate solutions on their own.

In fact, many traditional or centralized intranets risk being hollowed out as other business functions steal content away from them into competing systems. For example, enterprise social networks, like Yammer and Workplace by Facebook, can become the primary channels for internal communication. Employee self-service tools, like ServiceNow, can host how-to knowledge bases for all types of corporate functions, such as HR, finance and IT. But even these systems are in turn challenged by the rise of chat-based solutions, like Slack, Stride and Microsoft Teams, which want to become the primary interface for work.

Where does this leave the role of intranet manager? Fundamentally, despite new technologies, organizations are still social systems. And the role of intranets is to help orchestrate for the better how people work and relate to each other. The real change is the democratization of functionality that previously had been the sole domain of one department or software tool, which calls for new ways of thinking about the job.

3 Modern Intranet Manager Archetypes

I believe there are three basic archetypes for a modern intranet manager that can help you think about how to approach this changing internal digital landscape:

  1. The Curator
  2. The Product Owner
  3. The Leader

Related Article: How Stihl Australia Launched Its Award-Winning First Intranet

The Curator

The focus of the curator is on mapping reliable sources of information, amplifying key organizational communication (including employee-generated content), and packaging resources (people, places and things) together for different audiences. For a curator, content management systems, portals and enterprise search become tools for organizing and optimizing rather than controlling information flow. Curators are still content creators in their own right, but favor quality over quantity. They are careful to nurture a sense of relevance and trustworthiness with everything published under the banner of their intranet.

The Product Owner

Intranets have been plagued for years by a project mentality that focuses too much on the upfront effort of creating and launching a new intranet, but leaves nothing for business as usual operations following the launch. Instead, the Product Owner archetype has a continuous improvement mindset focused on creating an agile intranet that is co-developed with the business and users to meet their evolving needs. 

Product Owners work well where resources are constrained, as they favor configuration and lightweight development over significant redevelopment. The solutions a Product Owner builds may never be perfect, but they are comfortable working with an ambiguous or fluid enterprise architecture. However, Product Owners do risk becoming too distracted by technology integration when they could also deliver value through content, community management and knowledge mapping.

Related Article: Digital Workplace Ownership: It Takes a Village

The Leader

The Leader archetype has minimal control over enterprise technology, but works to leverage existing technology platforms, and assumes that responsibility will be distributed across the organization. They do this by establishing a clear vision, encouraging other internal influencers to model the right user behaviors, and broker partnerships that share responsibilities for managing intranet content and infrastructure. Leaders will pick an organizational imperative, such as the digital workplace or employee experience, and work to demonstrate how the intranet can be a critical enabler rather than arguing for an intranet for its own ends. The main danger for Leaders is that the available technologies the enterprise has endorsed may not always be fit for purpose.

The Modern Intranet Manager: A Juggling Act

Each archetype shares a common strategy of releasing control on the one hand, but engaging proactively where there they can to affect how the intranet can improve the workplace. In your organization, you might mix aspects of each archetype to achieve that objective: some days you might find yourself working as a Curator, others as a Product Owner, and when necessary, as the Leader. The bottom line is that being a modern intranet manager takes more than content management or a technology administrator.