The concept of intranet governance may seem daunting at first, but understanding it is essential for effective implementation and functioning of a company-wide intranet. Fortunately, the topic is not as dry as it sounds, and in fact has people and their needs as its core and driving force. Discover what it means and intranet governance best practices to follow for your own intranet governance policy.

What is Intranet Governance?

Governance refers to policies and structures regarding decision-making. Without governance, a country or company will flounder and have trouble meeting its goals. The same is true of a business intranet. For intranet governance to be successful, it must embody several key components:

  1. Establish each key policy and decision about structure and objectives.
  2. Communicate these decisions in a clear and concise way.
  3. Decide who will implement intranet governance on an ongoing basis.

Staff and business needs change over time. While your intranet may be valuable when it launches, it needs to evolve with these changing needs.

Related reading: [Blog post] 4 Phases of a Successful Intranet Adoption Strategy

Governance behind the scenes should also be reflected in the intranet pages and the overall structure itself. From clean, clear site design to easily navigable page layouts, menus, guides and content, the goal of intranet governance is ultimately to benefit each user. Purpose and function should be clear, as should the ownership of the elements and content featured within the system. Parameters for what is acceptable (and what is not) during use should also be clear.

Well-designed intranets with proper governance seem to run themselves, like well-oiled machines. While self-regulation is one dimension of effective intranets, this is first set into motion with effective governance and kept on track with ongoing management. The intranet community is supported by a solid underlying structure that keeps everything in line with its stated goals and purposes.

1. Clarifying Roles and Duties

The main issue that businesses and intranet teams tend to face are related to a lack of clarity about goals, processes, roles and responsibilities. Without this solid foundation, intranet governance cannot be sustainable or effective.

Deciding who is in charge and clarifying their responsibilities and roles is crucial to the success of a business intranet. Start by deciding who will be the manager and designate duties to qualified, responsible and willing persons. While there isn’t usually just one person assigned to intranet governance, there is usually a manager and an administrator. However, overall, it’s often best for a team to be assigned to intranet governance.

2. Promoting Team Spirit and Workplace Harmony

A company intranet is ultimately a community effort, and letting all workers know that they have a voice can do wonders for promoting workplace engagement and company morale. That said, the onus of intranet governance and the majority of ongoing implementation and upkeep of the system should go to a designated, qualified team of individuals.

A centralised sense of responsibility helps to guarantee that the intranet will not become a rudder-less ship that gets off track from its goals and stated mission. Yes, creating and keeping an atmosphere of shared ownership is valuable, and a collaborative model and spirit can help to facilitate this; however, a ship still needs a captain and crew.

3. Selecting the Intranet Crew

Identifying ideal intranet administrators can start by noticing who is most active and engaged with the system already. These will likely be social people who take the time to chime in on discussions in a relevant, measured but engaging manner. An intranet governance team will likely be drawn from management and/or HR, but not necessarily.

Intranet governance team members and administrators should genuinely enjoy participation with the structure and already have a solid sense of its purpose, mission and goals as related to the organisation.

Giving each person who has a role a title can be a good start with clarifying responsibilities and ensuring that governance continues going forward. Some potential intranet governance team titles might include: author, publisher, intranet manager, communications manager, stakeholder and sponsor.

Each participant should be clear on their duties, tasks and responsibilities pertaining to specific intranet areas and content. These designations should be focused upon and always come back to benefits for the intranet pertaining to company needs, goals and priorities. Team members may delegate responsibilities as long as their specific tasks, roles and duties are fulfilled.

4. Elements of a Successful Intranet Strategy

Your intranet governance strategy should effectively address intranet scope, roles, procedures and how decisions will be implemented. The main decisions pertaining to intranet content management that must be addressed at its outset include:

Related reading: [Blog post] 7 Things Your Intranet Needs to Be Successful

5. Intranet Governance Challenges and Pitfalls

There are several potential challenges to look out for that can hinder effective intranet governance. Three specific hurdles tend to come up more often than any other. They are:

  • A Lack of Clarity of Purpose - Again, the goal of the intranet should be clearly defined and established as soon as the decision to have a company intranet is made. Whether the objective for the intranet is increased collaboration, higher workplace engagement, more effective training, better staff morale or any other goal or purpose, these should be clearly listed out and discussed among the intranet creators. A mission statement in writing can assist with making sure everyone is on the same page and there is clarity of purpose for the intranet from the outset.
  • Office Politics - Every workplace has an interplay of relationships and power dynamics within its structure. While some are fairly fixed, most are in flux and continually changing as different workers come and go or as some workers and management rise through the ranks. Shifting dynamics within the organisation can cause some staff members to use the intranet in skewed ways that support their cause, opinions, department and meet their needs. It is human nature to look after oneself and one’s own interests; however, this tendency can open the door for the company intranet to be used and abused and support power grabs, push an agenda or even spread gossip.
  • A Deficit of Data -  While a company intranet is meant to help facilitate the sharing of key data to make the business run more smoothly, ironically it doesn’t always succeed in this capacity. An intranet is the framework for the sharing of information throughout the company, and if there is a lack of it (or if only low-quality data that lacks relevance is shared), the intranet is destined to fail in its purpose for that organisation.

6. Intranet Governance Best Practices

While setting up a new intranet system or improving an existing one, there are a number of things to be aware of. Here are 12 top components and best practices to consider to help ensure effective intranet governance and functioning from the outset:

  1. A Clear Focus and Purpose - The goals, focus and purpose for the intranet should be clear at its inception. Having something to aim toward is foundational to a successful journey or project, and a company intranet is both; a project as well as a journey and work in progress. Businesses should set their course in line with the company mission statement and how the intranet will improve the workplace both socially and operationally.
  2. Appoint Roles, Duties, Tasks and Ongoing Responsibilities - Every intranet needs a manager, administrator, project managers, communications professionals, content creators, and other specialists for specific aspects of its operations. Assigning and designating roles and responsibilities to relevant, qualified and enthusiastic experts is key to ensuring a successful intranet governance operation and endeavour.
  3. Effective Procedures and Processes - Process is key to success of the intranet as well. Having proven, structured ways of making decisions and implementing changes can make day to day operations more streamlined, fluid and effective. A sample intranet governance document can help you get started when setting these out for the first time. These processes can then be adjusted, refined and added to as intranet use grows, unfolds and evolves.
  4. A Focus on Community Member Needs - Ultimately, an intranet is a social tool for helping its users to communicate and get on the same page in a range of ways. While its contribution to the efficacy of the business is primary, meeting individual and personal needs of workers is a major function of the company intranet. Steps should be taken at the outset and throughout implementation to ensure that a positive and satisfying virtual work environment is created and that worker needs are met.
  5. Clear User Guidelines - Communicating what is acceptable within the realm of intranet use as well as what is not is key to a successful intranet as well. The guidelines should be put clearly in written form in your intranet governance document and be agreed to by all staff members who will be using the intranet.
  6. Data Accessibility - The presence and access to key data is crucial for an intranet to fulfil its role and purpose. Data can be gleaned from research, usability testing, surveys, benchmarking, external analysis and stakeholder interviews. Data should be collected, analysed and presented optimally to relevant departments, including the intranet governance body.
  7. Intranet Content Parameters and Strategy - Content is king, both online and in social platforms. This includes company intranets. A premium should be placed upon sharing excellent content regularly across the various departments via the company intranet. Content can include industry news, trends and predictions as well as blog posts, interview transcripts, and relevant audio and video. The most important aspects of good content are true utility and that it adds value to the user experience. Your intranet content strategy should not be a static document, but one that is continually evolving based off insights from regularly measuring and understanding intranet performance.
  8. Assigning User Permissions - There will be levels to the intranet, and it likely won’t be appropriate for all users to have access to all content and areas across the boards. Assigning appropriate permissions related to job role, department, trustworthiness, read/write capacity and experience is another essential element of an effective and secure intranet system.
  9. Training for New Users - While at the outset of an intranet creation and launch all users will be learning about it together, this will change as the system matures and new staff members are onboarded. Because of this, a training program should be developed to assist new users in getting up to speed rapidly.
  10. Leave Room for Fun - While the primary function of an intranet is to support and improve business functioning and ultimately the company bottom line, it’s also a great way to allow workers to get a bit more personal and have some fun. The best intranets allow for users to socialise regarding non-work topics, share interests and enjoy humour on a regular basis. Chat rooms, contests and user forums can all increase worker engagement and lift morale.
  11. Invite Worker Feedback - Intranet users should be asked for their opinions and feedback about the system regularly. This is one of the best ways to take the temperature of the organisation’s response to and engagement with the company intranet. It can then be adjusted, improved and fine-tuned accordingly.
  12. Regular Governance Body Meetings - Creating a structure and assigning tasks and roles is a start, but it’s important that the intranet governance team stays on the same page. Holding regular meetings can help to facilitate this. While some think intranet governance refers to a set of documents, it is far richer and more nuanced than that. An intranet is digital in nature and driven by technology, but it is ultimately the people behind it that make it successful. Use these tips and guidelines for effective intranet governance and success within any business or organisation.

Next steps for intranet best practices

For more insights on best practices on not only intranet governance, but all components of a successful intranet, check out the Intranet Best Practices blog post.

If you're looking for a detailed guide on launching an effective intranet within your own organisation, we recommend you download 'How to Successfully Plan, Deploy and Launch an Intranet'.

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