Take a graduated approach to governance

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It’s not hard to describe great intranets: content is well-written and up-to-date, information can be found easily, news flows regularly, and staff are provided with tools that help them in their daily work. The challenge, of course, is working out how to achieve this!

There’s no doubt that governance is critical in ensuring that intranets meet their objectives. While you need to take a big-picture approach to governance, there should also be a pragmatic recognition that not everything can be perfect.

To be successful, intranet teams should take a graduated approach to governance that applies different standards and expectations depending on the importance of the content.

Take a graduated approach to #intranet governance, to focus limited resources on what counts
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Life is short, and resources are limited

As intranet managers, we naturally want our intranets to be perfect. We may even believe that this is what the business is expecting of us, and that any poor-quality pages represent a failure of the intranet team.

With this objective, intranet teams can head down the road of establishing the strongest standard of governance, and then attempting to apply it to every page of the intranet. This route, however, quickly leads to frustration and burnout.

The reality is that by attempting to ‘fix’ every page, intranet teams end up fixing none.

The challenge is that intranet teams don’t own much — if any — content. The business areas that own the content also don’t report to the intranet team, which means that teams only have indirect control over what happens across their site.

Finally, there’s only so many hours in a day for intranet teams to spend on governing the intranet, and it’s unproductive for teams to fight battles with content owners (see the list of banned words for intranet teams).

#Intranet teams must avoid fighting constant battles with content owners
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Everything is not equally important

The starting point for successful intranet governance is the recognition of two key truths:

Firstly, that intranet teams aren’t responsible for the whole intranet. Business areas areas own their sections of the intranet, they’re directly responsible for what’s published, and how good it is.

Secondly, not all content needs to be of equal quality. There is some information that is of vital importance: think HR policies, safety procedures and frontline support information.

Other content is of lesser importance, either because it’s used by a smaller number of users (such as internal business area content) or because the details are more important than the quality of the writing (think IT outage updates).

Some information may be held to entirely different standards, such as messages posted to collaboration and social tools, where meeting acceptable usage policies is the only consideration.

Bad content is not the fault – or responsibility – of #intranet teams
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Take a graduated approach

Recognising these realities, organisations should take a graduated approach to governance. This explicitly defines a ‘sliding scale’ of policies and rules, with tight management of key resources, progressively shifting to guidelines and support for publishing further from the centre.

By writing this graduated approach into governance models, teams can resolve battles with ‘rogue’ content areas, as well as more explicitly targeting resources to high value areas.

To make this a reality, consider these five steps:

  1. Adopt a mindset of improving the intranet, rather than ‘fixing problems’. This helps to frame useful decisions about where to allocate resources and time.
  2. Write only a handful of strict standards, and apply them to the ‘centre’ and ‘top’ of the intranet. Switch to guidelines and suggestions for the rest of the site.
  3. Empower content creators and owners, providing them with the knowledge and guidance to deliver great pages.
  4. Strengthen the intranet community, bringing everyone together in a way that encourages joint ownership and responsibility.
  5. Treat governance of collaboration separately, with a complementary set of looser rules and guidelines.

Intranet governance doesn’t have to be a battle, nor does it need to be overwhelming. Take a graduated approach to how the intranet team governs and supports the intranet, to generate positive outcomes for everyone.

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