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Processes and Productivity

Seeking intranet buy-in? Try this approach instead

Buy-in can get an intranet project started, but it can't sustain an ongoing program. Consider focusing more on these terms and aiming for shared ownership.

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When it comes to launching a new intranet or building an intranet business case, many people start discussing how to get buy-in from various stakeholders.

Buy-in is great. But can you do better than just buy-in? Consider the following spectrum of involvement with your intranet project.

Intranet Involvement Spectrum

Spectrum of involvement

Term Definition Meaning & implications
Awareness Having simple knowledge about something By the time you launch an intranet you want every employee to have awareness about it. Awareness sits at the bottom end of the involvement spectrum and is neutral and passive.
Interest Wanting to know more or take part in something Interest is a great starting point and something you want to nurture with all of your intranet project communications. Interest may be enough to get a user  to log into a demo site and poke around, but likely won’t achieve much more.
Buy-in Basic agreement and commitment, often financial A poker player can buy in to a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, which is a financial commitment. If your intranet project is funded by multiple departments, buy-in is important. However, this term is very transactional. Getting funding for an intranet project may ensure you can build it, but doesn’t secure long term involvement.
Engagement The feeling of being involved in a particular activity This feeling is what helps open people’s minds to committing time and effort to something. The feeling of engagement is something you can build over time and sustain. You can also lose it.
Ownership Accepting responsibility for something and taking control of how it develops Ownership sits at the very top of the spectrum and results in the type of long term responsibility that keeps an intranet growing and improving over time. It can be argued that the fundamental goal of an intranet manager is to build and sustain shared ownership among intranet stakeholders.

The role of ownership in an online community

An intranet is basically an online community. It’s a virtual ecosystem that represents you, your colleagues, your collective knowledge, and your workplace culture. Just like any other community space, the quality of care and tending is determined by how at home people feel in the community.

Lasting intranet success requires constant improvement and attention to needed changes. Intranet management is not about one-off projects every three years, but an ongoing intranet program. (See related post: 14 Intranet Best Practices to Transition Your Intranet Project to an Intranet Program.)

Only by building a shared sense of ownership can you really ensure the long-term success of your intranet. Buy-in can get a project started, but it can’t sustain an ongoing program. Engagement helps people stay interested. But ownership instills a sense of responsibility: “I have a role to play here; I care about this.”

Emphasizing the word buy-in to explain intranet involvement may limit your strategic thinking and stakeholders’ perspectives. Consider focusing more on using the term “engagement” or the more generic term “involvement” and aiming for shared ownership. 

This post was originally written in 2013, and updated in 2021 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.