Those uncomfortable confessions which arise from developing intranet strategy


One of the foundations of developing a successful intranet strategy for your organisation is trying to be as objective as possible to derive the best possible future path. It’s a theme we’ve touched upon
in our blog and will be revisiting in our upcoming training day.

An intranet strategy built on your own assumptions and those of your stakeholders is dripping with risk, potentially setting you on the wrong path with an intranet direction that will reap little value.

Objectivity is achieved through an extensive, evidence-based diagnosis phase which takes a fundamental look at what your organisation needs and what your current intranet scenario delivers or fails to deliver.

Being objective is not just about getting some data in and knocking it into shape. Sometimes it’s also about being honest with yourself and coming to conclusions which can feel a little uncomfortable.

Let’s call these slightly uncomfortable conclusions, intranet confessions. These are those moments when you realise that what you do, the way you do it or something you’ve been aiming for isn’t necessarily the best path for your organisation.  There also might be a conflict of interest in what you want for your job or your career and what’s best for your organisation.

Inevitably developing intranet strategy can throw up these “confessions” because you are thinking through what you’ve done and what you will be doing.

It’s confession time

Both Chris Tubb and I have managed large intranets or collaboration platforms. Here’s are a few confessions from Chris and meI (randomised for the sake of plausible deniability):

  • Focusing far too much on a niche use case for a collaboration platform when I should have driven wider adoption and value
  • Over customising SharePoint in the name of “user experience” because I really liked drawing wireframes
  • Holding on to something of value which only my team knew how to do to help protect my team’s roles, when I should have driven more self-service from users
  • Ploughing on with a people directory for a subsidiary regardless of the wider group solution. Because: “knowledge management”.
  • Not keeping the platform moving while we waited for the new SharePoint solution, which never seemed to arrive
  • “User-centered design” meaning being sent into a group of stakeholders to get them to agree the design that had already been created
  • Not really focusing on metrics, because you know they’re not going to be good
  • Delivering ever more elaborate intranet internal communications channels because internal communications had the budget, not because anyone needed them.

 

Type of intranet confessions

There are different types of intranet confession.  Some are not about seeing the bigger picture, some arise from hanging out with your stakeholders, some are simply mistakes. Here’s a few common scenarios:

Horizon blindness

You’re too fixated on the goal of the new CMS or social functionality, that everything else just becomes not that important. That’s to the detriment of important stuff like governance, adoption, content, everything really.

The thumb twiddle

Often a by-product of horizon blindness, this is when active management to improve your intranet stops and you effectively tread water while waiting for something better (like the new CMS) to arrive. It also happens when intranet managers feel burnt out or want to leave.

My boss made me

There’s a strong steer from your stakeholders for your intranet direction even though their suggestions aren’t that great. Instead of being the voice of sanity you shut up and put up. Set the controls for the heart of the sun.

Self-preservation society

It’s time to make yourself indispensable, get involved in a fiddly bit of a digital process and keep that knowledge to yourself. Hey presto, instant value and hopefully a protective layer against the next round of redundancies.

CV builder

Basically this is when you and your team are taking actions which look good on your CV rather than are necessarily good for your organisation. Hmm…that’s a lot of recent updates to your LinkedIn profile.

I can’t hear you

I know the best way forward for the intranet! And because I do I’m going to ignore the feedback from users, stakeholders, consultants, everybody really. Action based on assumption is a dangerous game.

Bad decision

You simply made a bad decision. You got lost in the operational mess and day to day quagmire of running an intranet, and steered the wrong way. We’ve all done it, and we’ll probably do it again.

Confessions lead to good outcomes

Any intranet confessions which arise during strategy development sound a little uncomfortable, but actually they lead to better outcomes.  Being objective and honest with yourself is often the key to working out a better intranet direction. This in turn may lead to a slightly different, more high-profile and therefore valued role for intranet managers and teams.

Also remember there is no confession box. You don’t necessarily have to tell anybody and most stakeholders don’t focus on operations or what has happened in the past. Inevitably there will be also your own intranet successes you can mention too.  

However, if you do anything with your intranet confessions, let them infiltrate and influence your intranet strategy in order to deliver the absolute best way forward for the intranet and your organisation.

Chris says:

“We’ve all been there. When you decide to do something and there is a great outcome, you pat yourself on the back and credit yourself with intuition. But when you make a bad decision, or you are forced down a bad path by people or circumstances, it can haunt you. For the good of careers, users and intranets make sure that you create an atmosphere where decisions are made in the sunlight. You’re far less likely to be tempted to guide things for your own ends, or led down a blind alley. ”