my world of work and user experiences

January 31, 2011

Why governance? Some thoughts

Filed under: Governance — frederique @ 22:57

Lately we have been discussing governance in our Colleagues Club (mostly with people like Jason Sindram, Willem Oosterhof, Mike Fortgens and Maarten van den Dungen). The funny thing is that we notice that many others see governance as bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy. Yes, the term does sound a bit pompous. But that does not mean that governance is useless.

Instead of diving into the exact definition of the term and the meaning of governance, let me just address a few issues I’ve recently encountered in my projects.  Most of these actually turned out quite well, because we do have governance in place. I’m working in intranets these days, so that is what I focus on.

  • “Aha, we can just upload those documents? Cool!”
    The HR department in one of the countries of our multinational still hasn’t put any of its information on the intranet, although the intranet has been available for more than five years. Today I had a meeting with the trainee they delegated to find out if they could actually upload documents into this intranet thingy and avoid all these phone calls from employees looking for information. Well, yes…. And not just upload them, but also update them when the information changes, which it will certainly do.
    Seasoned intranetters and intranet developers hardly believe it. But unfortunately, the intuitive interface and the available materials are not enough to help all users understand what’s the use of the intranet and how to get the most value out of it. Fortunately we do have a team that they can contact if they want to know more. And this team has a communication specialist, although apparently she hasn’t reached everybody yet.
  • “So how do I upload a document again?”
    Some users had found out that I could help them and responded by phoning me for any button click they hesitated about. Very sociable, but highly inefficient for me.
    Fortunately I could point them specifically to the live training sessions we organize, the quick reference cards and the rest of the Help Center. RTFM…
  • “No we cannot risk losing this information!”
    One of the team sites had grown far beyond the official size limit. At that size, we could not guarantee that a back-up of that site could be restored properly. And this site contained important documents and process information that the company has to safeguard for legal reasons.
    Fortunately, the Portal Management Team does regular housekeeping sessions to check for overweight sites. So they became aware of this and we secured the information before any accidents happened.
  • “My colleague has already set up a site for that?”
    The Europeans and the Americans in the multinational both came up with the idea to create a site for the standards for efficiency. Do these need to be separate? Or can they join forces or at least connect to each other?
    Fortunately, we have Content Life Cycle Management in place for team sites. The users cannot directly create a new teamsite, but they request one. The intranet team checks if the site would not be redundant with another site and if the requester has picked the right template before they create the site. Also, we regularly check for ‘dead sites’, where nothing has happened for ages and that just clutter up the intranet.
  • “But the big photo I put on the homepage looks great”
    I regularly see team site homepages torn apart by overlarge images or other content that literally pushes the limits of the page. Usually the creative site owner has designed the page on a large screen, without realizing that the innocent user with his 1024×768 screen gets terrible scrollbars and an unreadable page.
    Fortunately, we have a team that can intervene and tell – or even help – the site owner to fix this. And we have a help center and a best practices blog that give the site owner information and tips on how to do this.
  • “Can we get a team site that really facilitates our request process?”
    Many teams in the organisation have processes in place, for requests for example. And they need something to deal with those in a more efficient, reliable and systematic way than just sending some e-mails and picking up the phone.  Their needs were not catered for in the intranet as we originally set it up. But now we can give them a tool tailored for their process.
    Fortunately we have a Solutions team that can create solutions for collaboration, processing or information sharing problems for which a standard team site template is not enough. This team does not develop code that needs to be rolled-out to the server. But you can do a lot on the front end with SharePoint and some third party tools. We don’t just go ahead and start configuring, but we set up a simple project, based on a business case, and we start by analysing their needs and determining what features would meet those needs.
  • “Intranet not available? Waaaaa!!!”
    A few weeks ago, I could not use the intranet in our office building due to a technical failure. It was hopeless, I could not get any work done there. So I went to the other office complex – 30 minutes of cycling – where to my relief the intranet was available.
    Fortunately we do have a technical support team that fixes the intranet as soon as possible when it breaks.

With an intranet – or another site – it is not enough to build the system and then just toss it at the users and hope for the best. Why? Because we have set up the intranet to achieve some purpose – like increased productivity of our information workers . And it can only achieve and keep achieving that purpose if we manage it properly.

  • Intranet = ‘living system
    Our intranet is not a book that we write, send to the printers and then it is finished. The intranet is meant to evolve with the latest content, with our organization itself and with the latest insights. Otherwise we should just print the company handbook and have done with it. But this living system will not necessarily grow in the right direction, if we don’t water it, fertilize it and prune it where needed.
  • Intranet = open
    Modern intranets are not filled by a small editorial team. The intranet is more lively and certainly more useful if all users can contribute something somewhere and if many users can add lists, design pages and perform other decentralized site management tasks. This can get completely out of hand, if we don’t give some directions and lock down the really sensitive parts.
  • Intranet = indispensable
    We cannot risk our intranet getting completely out of hand, because it is indispensable for our company, as a collaboration platform for our knowledge workers, and a self-service tool and an information source for all employees. So we’d better make sure our intranet remains in peak condition, up-to-date, fully functional and meeting our latest needs.

So just set up some governance to make sure your intranet reaches its full potential and keeps making your and your users’ lives better…

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