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Culture and Engagement

The Complex Role of a Modern Intranet Manager

In this article we explain what the core skills are for successful intranet managers, common gaps in experience and suggestions for rounding out an intranet manager's abilities.

6 minute read
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The role of Intranet Manager is more important than ever before. Traditional intranets required someone at the helm with a broad perspective and variety of skills. Newer social intranets, with their greater ability to influence company culture and productivity, have only added to the pile of needed skills.

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Why is the Intranet Manager role complex and strategic?

Most people think an intranet manager simply has to have web development skills. They see the job as a technical one, or perhaps that of an internal communications officer. Far too frequently it’s seen as a small job to be done off the side of someone’s desk or as just part of a larger job.

The truth is that an intranet sits at the intersection of multiple departments, purposes and concepts. Communications, technology, employee satisfaction, company culture, information design, productivity — all these areas come together in the intranet space. The successful intranet manager typically has a knack for change management as much as anything else.

Our recently published sample intranet manager job description provides a helpful starting point in defining the role of Intranet Manager.

Core skills for successfully building and managing a modern intranet

The list below paints a somewhat idealistic perspective. You don’t need a new Intranet Manager to be an expert in all of these fields. But you should look for basic knowledge or competence, or at least an inclination towards learning about all of these things quickly.

Core Intranet Manager skill areas:

  • Communication and community-building
    • Writing professionally
    • Crafting communications strategies
    • Presenting to large groups and executives
    • Moderating online discussions and communities
  • Collaboration and facilitation
    • Facilitating meetings (stakeholders, teams)
    • Guiding teams through problem-solving exercises
    • Applying principles of successful collaboration, both in-person and online
    • Aligning online collaboration around specific business processes
  • Project management
    • Basic familiarity with project planning and management
    • Coordinating people
    • Managing budgets
    • Communicating with varied stakeholders
    • Establishing mutual accountability amongst team members and stakeholders
  • Web technology
    • Awareness of basic components, such as HTML, CSS and Javascript
    • Comfort with modern web-based interfaces, including social sites
    • Preferred: Working knowledge of HTML and CSS
  • User experience design
    • Observational research
    • Card sorting and task testing
    • Fundamentals of visual design (readability, contrast, white space)
    • Interviewing & focus groups (for users and stakeholders)
  • Enterprise technology
    • Defining business and software requirements
    • Basic understanding of networks and data security (authentication, firewalls, etc.)
    • Preferred: Working knowledge of common system administrator tools and responsibilities
  • Organizational behaviour
    • Familiarity with the topic of organizational culture
    • Interest in business strategy and planning
    • Ability to see the forest AND the trees, so to speak

You can see from this list why the job is complex and strategic. Many of these skills can be developed over time and aren’t need on the first day of the job. But a truly successful modern intranet manager must be inclined towards many of these.

The article 13 qualities of a great Intranet Manager by Noodle offers a short, simple list that is similar. If you are indeed preparing for a new Intranet Manager role, you might enjoy this quick list of Tips for new Intranet Managers from The Running Librarian.

Finding the perfect intranet manager can be a bit like looking for a unicorn. Often, they will need to build their skill set over time to fit the role. Look for employees with a good basic skill set who are eager to learn.

How social intranets have changed the modern intranet manager role

There’s an important point to keep in mind when looking for a new Intranet Manager or preparing yourself of the role: Modern social intranets have increased the list of required skills.

A social intranet gives every employee a face and a voice online. This can have several important effects:

  • Streamlined online collaboration
  • Stronger connections between distributed employees
  • Stronger community across organizational and geographic boundaries
  • More open communication and a surfacing of honest employee voices
  • Amplification of company culture

These types of potential strategic impacts require an intranet manager with softer and more conceptual skills. The two biggest areas are 1) community management and collaboration, and 2) organizational development, both of which are listed above.

How to round out the intranet management skill set

There are steps you can take to help your intranet manager be successful and grow into the roll:

  • Start with a self-assessment: Working with your intranet manager, go through the list above and rate their perceived level of comfort with each of the listed areas. Once you’ve identified the weakest areas, start finding good sources of information and education. James Robertson, intranet consultant and speaker, has published three excellent books on Intranets to get you started: Essential Intranets, Designing Intranets, and What Every Intranet Team Should Know.
  • Consult an expert: Reputable intranet software consultants or vendors with strong professional service offerings can help coach and guide your intranet manager.
  • Provide ongoing learning opportunities: There is a strong community emerging around intranet management, and this presents an excellent opportunity for learning from others who share your challenges. Attend a conference, join a meetup group, or listen to a webinar. We recommend the Digital Workplace Group, Ragan Communications, and IABC for starters.