Intranet strategy is not a form-filling exercise

A screenshot of searching for "intranet strategy" with autosuggest choices

Sorry to start a post on the cliché of what-Google-autosuggest says, but really, what is it with you people?  The wide-scale statistical analysis of what-we-all-presumably-think suggests that when we are looking for stuff to do with intranet strategy we are doing so in desperation. :-)

It is a worry is that the intranet world thinks that a strategy is a form you need to fill in to get the cool toys. Yes, you know, how annoying that the organisation doesn’t want you to just spend its money without having a long hard think about it.

Your intranet strategy is not a document to fill in the blanks.

It is not a form, it is a thought process about how you and the intranet can make the most opportunity of the near future and deliver maximum benefit, followed by your plan of action about how to do so. It reframes business problems, provides a diagnosis of the current state and positions how the intranet could solve them. In addition don’t confuse your intranet strategy with a project’s business case. The business case is where you work out whether you can deliver enough benefit to cover the costs of delivery for the next part of your strategy.

You may well need to fit your strategy into a standard business template round your way. Don’t even think of touching that document until you have defined your strategy, your way.  Then you will understand the problem and be able to then tell your chosen solution in the right language to the business strategy team and senior management.

Aligning with business strategy

You must understand and align with the business strategy and your business unit strategy. This is a given. If you don’t have a business strategy to work with (this happens more than you think), by all means deliver how you think best. However please don’t use the business strategy merely as a source for mining trite thought-terminating clichés. Yes, it probably does say something about “working together” that you will want to map over to the collaboration tools that you already have in mind.  You may even want to “reverse engineer” the current big corporate initiative in there somewhere as well, but at the bottom of all this you need to understand what your stakeholders’ strategy really is.

But, please, put on your Sunday best and go and speak directly to senior management. This will go beyond the generalities and you’ll find out what “working together” actually entails. And that might not be what the tech-in-your-pocket in fact does.

Aligning with stakeholders

It’s also important to get some kind of handle of the agendas of your various stakeholders and the key functions you need to rely on, both stated and not stated.  These don’t necessarily need to dictate your intranet strategy – you can rise above the politics after all — but there’s no point defining something  that will simply not work, for example if you know the risk department will never sign-off on going into the cloud, and your strategy is to go into the cloud. Similarly it is also important to factor in key decisions and events on the horizon. The HR department are moving to a full self-service model?  Hmmm, that could be interesting…

Getting the show on the road

OK so if you have a fair idea of what’s going on and can define your strategy and its all beautifully aligned, like some astrologer’s dream, you then  also need to work out a roadmap to get there. A strategy without a roadmap is like strawberries without cream, Laurel without Hardy… oh you get the picture.

You need a roadmap to show how you’re intending to get from A to B. It can be high-level, but it also makes the strategy real, feasible and credible. By giving people the next logical step you are much more likely to be able to push them into action. This is another reason why an intranet strategy can never be  a templated document because the roadmap needs to reference the individual things going on in your organisation.

A strategy for “you”

Here at Intranet Directions we are here for the benefit of the intranet manager and we view the idealised Masters of Business Administration view of the world with skepticism and sometimes outright derision when it comes to applying it to intranets in most organisations.  It is pointless to deny that you, as an intranet manager, have your own motivations and ambitions – you have your personal strategy if you will. But remember that your strategy and the intranet strategy are not quite the same thing, although they should be aligned.  Part of your strategy might be to be highly visible to senior management.  That’s not the intranet strategy, so don’t get them confused and be completely clear in your head about which is which.

Master strategists don’t reach for a template. Churchill, Sun Tzu and James T Kirk didn’t Google.

Steve Bynghall and Chris Tubb November 2013

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