Who Should Own the Digital Workplace?
The department that "owns" the intranet and digital workplace will inevitably have the biggest impact on how the technology serves employees. These tools often end up reflecting the specific focus of the department as a result.
Let’s review some traditional intranet owners and how their core activity influenced the functionality bias of the intranet.
The Many Owners of the Digital Workplace
Intranets and digital workplaces have always included a central communication function, which has led the Internal Communication (IC) function to at times be put in charge. With IC's frequent interactions across business functions, in an IC-led digital workplace you will see information from all parts of the organization delivered in the form of news.
The next most frequent owner is HR, due to its integral role in supporting internal employees. In cases of HR ownership, you will see a focus on seamlessly integrating the intranet and HR-specific functionalities, such as time off or training requests.
Because the intranet and the digital workplace are software-based tools, in some cases IT is tasked with management. Since the intranet is just one of the many applications IT manages (and not among the most demanding), their involvement tends to be rather limited. However, my guess is the recent surge of UI integrations between the intranet and other systems has caused an uptick in IT's interest in the intranet.
In my experience it is very rare for the intranet to be managed by a core business department, I guess mostly because these tools were created by other business functions.
Related Article: Is Intranet and Digital Workplace a Profession?
How Digital Workplaces Should Be Managed
I have a passion for management, and turn to historical examples for inspiration. Physical workplaces have a long history which can provide some good pointers on how to manage the digital workplace.
The picture above shows a technician maintaining a SpaceX rocket engine. Who do you think designed and manages this physical workplace?
- Is it the internal communication person who writes the employee newsletter?
- Is it the HR employee who hired and assists him in his carrier by SpaceX?
- Is it the purchasing and maintenance department that sourced and maintains the tools the employee uses for his work (some sort of an equivalent for the IT department)?
- Or is the shop floor manager who wants to make sure every activity is performed as efficiently and as safely as possible? And is this an activity they would be doing yearly, monthly or will it be the kind of work that they will focus on on a daily basis, continuously tweaking it and incorporating the latest available resources?
I don’t know much about SpaceX factories, but I would bet the last choice is the right one.
Let's translate this to the digital world. I believe when business managers are more involved in the design and management of the digital workplace, results from their employees will improve.
When the objective of the digital workplace becomes more than simply providing access to news, employee benefits and a plethora of applications and repositories, but rather to improve the execution of each key activity, the company will perform faster and better.
This can only happen when the management of the digital workplace is done right, by the right people, whose objectives are aligned with the main objectives of the company.
Having the right business acumen, being as close as possible to the company operations, understanding challenges and opportunities are key elements that will allow the digital workplace manager to develop the most effective digital workplace the company can have.
Related Article: Who Owns the Digital Workplace? You're Asking the Wrong Question
About the Author
Cristian Salanti is working as a Digital Employee Experience Architect at Zenify.net. He has been developing Intranets for the past 20 years. He is advocating for a more practical, managerial approach to Digital workplace design.