Alignment and Direction: The keys to intranet success

A few months ago, we published a rather popular post on how you can ensure intranet project failure — 10 fine pieces of advice to follow if getting the sack is among your objectives. We noted two extreme behaviours: having either an autocratic dictator or a committee of the masses at the helm of your project seemed a sure fire way to break your new intranet before it starts.

There’s a thin line of success between these poles but finding it will be invaluable. So how do you do that?

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with an intranet team who were struggling. Like so many companies, their intranet had suffered from no clear ownership or definition of purpose for many years resulting in:

  • Multiple intranets like digital fiefdoms
  • Multiple designs with a thoroughly disjointed user experience
  • Countless examples of vanity publishing with departmental success measured by the number of pages in their intranet section (never, note, by the number of page views or behavioural outcomes from content)
  • A patchwork of technologies (a heterogeneous intranet) – not by design, but through accretion.
  • Poor user feedback

Sound familiar?

Business alignment through a suitably empowered, suitably connected digital board, is not your complete intranet panacea, but it will go a very long way to minimise or remove some of the symptoms described above.

In an excellent article, Jane McConnell has described two different digital board models. Board models such as this provide alignment and clarity of direction, so adopt (and adapt) one of these models for your business and provide the solid foundation you need for your intranet.

Alignment: All business stakeholders in agreement on core principles for your intranet

  1. The appropriate balance for your business between communication, collaboration and transaction
  2. Agreement on the tool set; the technology platform(s) and solution(s) you will employ
  3. An agreed understanding of your organisation’s business goals, and how the intranet and digital workplace should contribute to these being successfully achieved. If they don’t care already about the intranet, this alignment should make them care.

Direction: Ensure that your intranet has a long range plan and that everyone sticks to it

  1. Digital roadmap to ensure that your intranet meets for future business needs.
  2. Authority to say ‘no’ where needed to ensure compliance
  3. Clear ownership so work isn’t duplicated and decisions can be made
  4. Clarity on roles and responsibilities, so everyone knows who does what

The reality of alignment and direction is likely to result in compromise and restraint.  While working together toward a common goal its likely that many great ideas will need to be left un-actioned and the specific needs of individual teams or stakeholders will need to give way to the greater good.


Strong executive sponsorship and understanding is likely to help here, but be prepared for tough times and difficult discussions.  As the intranet manager it’s your role to make people care, to see the benefits of your intranet. How do you accomplish this? Like almost all aspects of intranet management, creating alignment with principles and setting your direction isn’t something you can agree at the outset and not look at again; it’s something which should be reviewed regularly, changing as your business focus does. But by putting strong alignment and clear direction at the heart of your intranet management, you’re in a strong position to make your intranet a success.

Have you and your intranet team done this? If so, let us know what works and what doesn’t.


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  1. Peter Richards

    Some excellent advise here Jonathan. One of the problems I always seem to face is with alignment. At times you succeed in achieving agreement from key stakeholders on things like platform, design, direction and technology and then along comes a new broom who wants to do things the way they did in a previous organisation. Or someone who has a need to be different from the rest. I find the best way to deal in these situations is to immediately get them involved in the steering & governance committee and once again negotiate an agreed direction. The skills of diplomacy and negotiation are just another important facet of a successful Intranet Manager.

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