Intranet managers need to lead to transition to digital workplace

As intranet managers, we have never been as well informed. How we should run our sites, how to engage employees, influence senior managers, govern correctly, structure our information – the advice is accessible and plentiful, and the research compelling.

As useful and welcome as this insight is, it can be a bit overwhelming. The temptation is to stop for a while, let the intranet run, changes bed in. But that approach only lasts temporarily.  You’ve been to the conference. You read the white paper. Everyone else is miles ahead!  And the digital workplace is your next big concern.

Lost in this clamour is any real focus on the intranet manager role itself. I’ve worked on intranets and extranets since 1999, and in that time I’ve seen the intranet change from a stodgy information repository into a tool that’s fundamental to how an organisation communicates and transacts with its employees, and how they work with each other.  The manager’s role has adapted accordingly, with practitioners necessarily broadening their skills and knowledge. It’s now a something of a juggling act:

“The intranet manager role boasts a broad skill base and the intranet team an impressive set of competencies including governance, stakeholder management, content, technology, training, user experience (UX) and adoption.”

Elizabeth Marsh, ‘Becoming a digital workplace leader: the big shift from intranet management’

Any one of those topics could be a specialism in itself, so well done us for getting this far. But the next stage – the emphasis on the wider digital workplace, with the intranet an integral part of it –requires us to step up our game once again.

My sense is that many businesses are focused on ensuring the customer digital experience is up to snuff but are neglecting to bring their internal offering along at the same time.

If you aren’t prepared to put resources into modernising the digital experience for your employees, you’ll never realise the mooted benefits of a better digital offering to customers.  You’ll also make it more difficult to attract prospective employees.  Even where the component parts are in place internally in terms of technology and policies, if there isn’t a coherent approach to tie it together, progress will only ever be partial.

An opportunity lies for us in exposing this as a risk to the business, and it’s likely there are senior colleagues who will respond to that message. Some of them will also welcome guidance on effective ways to negotiate the changing digital environment.  They might be in communications, or HR, or IT, and you might have to seek them out, but if you do, you can lead the discussion, increase your visibility and position yourself as the digital workplace specialist.

I’ve blogged before on the need to position ourselves as experts in the business but now, if we want to influence the shape of the employee digital experience and thereby shape our future roles to our own liking, we need to show some leadership.

As with our sites, if we don’t assess how our roles need to change, there’s a risk of stagnation. It looks like we are the people with whom much of the responsibility for an effective digital workplace could rest. The opportunity is there, if we want to take it.  ‘Head of Digital Workplace’ doesn’t sound so bad.

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