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Intranet Governance to Support Good Design

A freshly born (or re-born) intranet provides the opportunity to set in place improved process efficiencies, and therefore, improved productivity. Assuming best practice design developed from a user-centric approach has been deployed, the intranet will serve an organisation for years to come, with only minor functional and infra-structural changes required. Few organisations set out to develop an enterprise weight intranet with a life expectancy of only three years (or less!).

The success of an intranet relies on acceptance and adoption of the processes that it supports, where the trust and ‘buy-in’ of both stakeholders and users rests on the ability of the intranet to deliver the best solution or pathway. When the solution is not readily accessible, or a process becomes more convoluted online than it is offline, the cause is one of two things; poor design or poor governance. Given the aforementioned assumption, most intranet pitfalls can be attributed to lack of clear governance, or lack of ownership for governance.

Regardless of the technology in use, the necessity for and approach to establishing governance is the same. What may vary from one organisation to another comes down to company culture, audience and size of the organisation (often comparable to the size of the intranet). In a nutshell, the governance document(s) is a guide for the successful management of the intranet ecosystem - the level of rigidity of these guidelines will differ between organisations, and will vary further still based on the types of content or available functions of the platform.

The purpose of governance is to ensure the ongoing functionality and usefulness of the intranet to the organisation. Without the set of guidelines and restrictions that governance provides, an intranet risks becoming nothing more than a collection of silo’d content that is difficult to navigate.

Some elements of intranet governance are applied through system permissions, while softer restrictions are reliant on awareness of and adherence to documented guidelines. Just like members of parliament, intranet authors are among the key team responsible for governance development and support. While authors may not have been directly involved or consulted during the development of the intranet, they should be engaged to assist with establishing topics of governance such as content tagging, content writing guidelines, accessibility standards and support. They must be engaged as owners of these areas of the governance document(s).

Regardless of platform, governance related to content publishing is one of the most important set of guidelines to establish and enforce. Naming, metadata (tagging), versioning and archiving of documents can all impact find-ability and relevance of content. Approval processes for proofing and publishing of content (including styling) can help to ensure a consistently clear and relevant level of communication.

Some sections of a governance document should be ‘easy’ to establish; topics such as a global style guide, strategy and vision, and policy for specific areas of the intranet should be bedded in during planning and development of the intranet, informed by best practice and organisational policy. Consistency begets understanding, which is why controls put in place for the presentation of content are so important for the ongoing success of the intranet - hence, the intranet style guide. An intranet style guide may exist as a separate document and is often led by existing organisational guidelines for use of logos, typography, colours and nuances of content elements such as imagery. It is not uncommon for an internal style guide to differ from external or customer-facing guidelines, and in many cases to be more flexible.

Many organisations with advanced or long-established intranets foster online-only processes that can be very powerful in encouraging adoption and ownership of the intranet. They offer tools and applications such as employee directory searching (org charts), peer recognition programs, project management and tracking, and career planning. Governance in relation to applications such as these is primarily focused on data quality, while the use of these applications (by end users) is largely restricted by system controls.

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