Intranet managers: it’s time to get above ourselves

To get above yourself: to start to think that you are more important than you really are.

That’s Macmillan Dictionary’s definition.  It strikes me as a particularly British expression, combining just the right amount of disapproval, inverted snobbery and judgement, along with an ingrained sense that everyone should know. their. place.

I’ve been thinking about this phrase recently in the context of the intranet manager’s role.  Earlier in 2016 I completed a lengthy intranet project – two and a half years from start to finish – where the majority of barriers to its success were unfortunately self-inflicted by the business.

Some of these barriers were procedural, as labyrinthine project governance structures kicked in. Others came later that were political: the project had quite high visibility around the company, with a senior sponsor, so it shouldn’t have been surprising that some of the interventions had other agendas behind them.

Harder to accept, though, were the challenges that arose towards the end, questioning the project’s methodology and our understanding of what we were delivering. I had spent two years preparing to deliver the site.  The methodology was sound.  The team’s understanding was comprehensive.

We delivered the site successfully. But these challenges made me wonder about the status – and understanding – of the intranet manager role. In the project aftermath, nursing my indignation, I asked myself whether I would directly question the finance team’s accounting procedures, or provide HR with unsolicited advice on how to implement a performance management system. Yet my – and my team’s – expertise had been questioned in this way.

Some of this was a defensive reaction to the fact I had worked on the project for so long. Colleagues had legitimately been seeking assurance that we would deliver an effective end product. But there’s another reason we received some of the challenges we did, and it’s something that we need to address if we want the intranet manager role to be influential as the digital workplace emerges.

Are you being served?

The intranet manager role has traditionally been service-oriented.  It’s involved publishing web pages, responding to change requests, effective stewardship of structure and content, plus a consultative role when required. We have been a service provider.

That remains a necessary role to fulfill – but it sells our expertise short. Rather than being regarded as experts in our field, we are seen as ‘doers’. That doesn’t bode well if we want to advise the business on its progress towards the digital workplace, nor for our ability to shape our roles so they are fit for the future .

Time to be the expert

Are you ready, then, to describe yourself as the expert?

It’s hard to think of a role better positioned than the intranet manager to help steer the emerging digital workplace and make it the effective employee experience it needs to be.  As the idea of the digital workplace gains traction,  intranet managers will necessarily have to expand their remit to take in larger parts of the internal digital estate.

But if we want to shape that estate as we see fit, we’re going to have to be more visible within the business, and in particular, in parts of the business that the intranet manager has not typically found themselves before. It’s time to position ourselves as trusted advisers, not just service providers.

How to go about it? Simple stakeholder mapping is a good place to start.  Identify people around the business who should be receptive to talking about the future of digital services for employees.  Who is in charge of HR systems?  Who manages the financial applications? Who agrees the BYOD policy? Who can explain the IT development roadmap?  Once you’ve identified them, begin speaking to them.

In addition, seek out ways to talk about the future direction of the intranet, and what a wider digital workplace might look like. Ask to speak at team meetings; use the forums available to you to speak about what you do and what it does for the business.  Work with internal communications to identify ways to put your vision of the future of the intranet and digital workplace forward. Identify connections where you can between what you do and what others parts of the business are doing, and make sure it ties in with overall business objectives.

Raise your profile and begin to move away from being seen just as a service provider. Position yourself in the wider business as a subject matter expert on the digital workplace. This won’t happen overnight, but when the time comes for the business to talk seriously about the digital workplace, you’ll be an influential voice.

Intranet managers: it’s time to get above ourselves.


3 thoughts on “Intranet managers: it’s time to get above ourselves

  1. Great points Allan and I completely agree. I suspect HR do get unsolicited advice too though. It’s the price of doing something that everyone is affected by and thinks they understand. The upside is that when intranet managers get it right, they benefit a whole businesss at a ratio that few other roles can compare with.


    1. HR probably unfairly singled out here, Sam, it was by way of example. You’re right though, where it affects everyone there’s bound to be opinion offered whether you like it or not.


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