Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Intranet manager: the most complex job in the world

It struck me again recently while I was reading the latest edition of Jane McConnell’s ‘digital workplace’ report. There are an amazing number of aspects to intranets or digital workplaces! Intranets and intranet projects are complex. Intranets touch the hart of organizations.

Intranet managers
This is also what you hear when you talk with people who are responsible for the intranet. Their role implies they have to master a broad range of skills, if they want to do their job successfully. So is intranet management one of the or the most complex jobs in the world?

Intranet disciplines
Let's see which skills a successful intranet manager has to have. I have conducted the following list. Intranet managers need to know:
  • The organization and processes: how does the organization work and what are the key business processes? This is also important because the intranet needs organization (governance) that fits with the overall organization of the company. An intranet manager must be able to define, set up and manage the intranet organization.
  • Organizational strategy: related to knowledge of organization and processes, knowledge of the organizational strategy is important. Where is the organization headed? An intranet manager must know this and position the intranet as an enabler for the strategic themes. Decision makers will see the intranet has value and creates value.
  • IT and technology: an intranet is built using (web) technology and often integrates with other IT systems. Knowledge of these technologies is essential to be able to talk with IT and select the right intranet platform. The intranet manager must also be able to translate the needs of the employees to a functional description that IT understands and can implement.
  • Trends: What trends can be seen in the way people, organizations and technology works? Keeping an eye on these trends and using them for the intranet is essential for an intranet manager. Else the ‘intranet’ will be built elsewhere by employees…
  • Sales: a good intranet sells itself, but not everybody is just as convinced about the value of the intranet as you are. Therefore an intranet manager should be able to sell the (envisioned) intranet and sell it to management and employees.
  • Service: an intranet can (partially) break down. Employees will complain about this. Their complaints should be listened to and solved. Related to this knowledge of secondary processes is essential. Employee self-service is a highly valued feature of intranets.
  • Writing for ‘online’: creating relevant content for employees is an art. An intranet manager must be able to create such content and help others do so as well.
  • Finance: an intranet costs money and generates value. An intranet manager must be able to write up a business case for the (envisioned) intranet to prove its value to decision makers and employees.
  • HR and legal policies: what may or may not be shared on the intranet differs per country and market. In some countries, for instance, an employee picture isn’t allowed to be share (without consent). An intranet manager must know these (local) rules and act on them.
  • Measurement: intranet managers must measure the intranet usage, and analyze and report the results.
  • Convincing: intranet managers need to be influencers. In many organizations they don’t have a position to impose what they want (even if that would be possible…). Other people skills like communicating and presenting fit in this category as well.
  • Community management and networks: managing intranet means understanding the communities and networks in the organization. How are decisions really made in the organization and how do you get communities and networks to work for you?
I probably missed a few skills. I loved to hear from you which other skills you think an intranet manager must have. More and more I’m convinced that intranet managers should be good translators. I think that’s the implicit skill in the list. Intranet managers must work in between organization and employees, IT and Communications, design and technology, etc.

One person?
Reading this list could lead to the question whether all this can be done by one person. Ideally speaking I think the intranet manager should have all these skills. In most cases it’s even necessary, because there is no extra budget for more intranet managers (with other skills). But even if these skills are spread out over more than one intranet manager I think it’s important that these managers have overlapping skills. In this way they will understand each other more deeply.

Which steps can you take to learn more of these skills? I don't think there’s a 1-2-3 recipe. But I can recommend the following 3 steps:
  1. Read and listen: read books and blogposts from intranet experts and talk with other intranet managers
  2. Study: there isn’t an intranet management study (should there be one?), but spread out over different studies there are classes and courses that you could take.
  3. Contact the primary process of your company: take you time to participate in the primary process of your organization. Ideally work in the primary process for some time.
I’m curious if you recognize all this. Do intranet managers see themselves in this way? Did I miss out important skills for intranet management? And which skills are the hardest to master?