Intranet Governance: Ownership, Management & Policy

Who should own the intranet? Communications? IT? HR? All of them? You may be shocked to learn that many companies don’t know the answer; in fact, many organizations can’t clearly answer with any confidence whom is the present intranet owner.

As is the case with most intranets it is simply impossible to achieve any long-lasting success without a clearly defined ownership and management structure. Far from being a buzz word or jargon, intranet governance provides clarity and rules namely the titles, roles and responsibilities of its owners, managers, stakeholders and contributors.

Sample governance model – large-sized financial services firm

(Source: Prescient Digital Media)


Simply put, governance defines an intranet’s ownership and management model and structure including the:

  • Management team
  • Roles & responsibilities of contributors
  • Decision making process
  • Policies & standards

Like the content of your website or intranet, planning and governance is technology agnostic; whether it’s SharePoint, IBM or another portal or content management system, the necessity for and the approach to governance is the same. Given its technology neutral status, governance is largely applicable to any technology platform.


Politics and the issues of control, ownership and standards go hand-in-hand with intranet management and perhaps these issues, more than any other, have driven the requirement for planning and defined governance models. Sadly, very few organizations actually have a well-defined governance model, and many of those have spent hundreds-of-thousands to millions of dollars on their website or intranet – amounting to extraordinary investments left to chance and execution on a whim.

According to the Intranet 2.0 Global Survey:

  • Only 47% of organizations have a defined governance model (32% have 6,000 employees or more; 11% have 30,000 employees or more);
  • Of the tools and platforms being used by survey participants, a whopping 47% are using SharePoint (MOSS 2007) in some shape or form.


Politics will kill your intranet. Without a well defined governance model (and should your intranet survive the naturally occurring politics of competing priorities amongst various stakeholders – communications, IT, human resources, various business units, etc.) then the value the intranet or portal delivers will be severely hampered.

“If you don’t have structure, you’re going to constantly run into politics,” said Terry Lister, Partner and Leader of IBM Canada’s Business Consulting Services. “Without a governance structure with standards, different silos try to do something in parallel (their own thing) and it costs more… and will lessen the user experience.”

Much of the problem lies in the immaturity of this nascent intranet technology. With the rational consolidation of intranet sites and services under a central site or portal, disparate departments and stakeholders such as corporate communications, human resources, IT and varying business units now must cooperate under a lone umbrella with a single intranet home page. Along with this ‘forced’ cooperation comes the predictable politics and competition for ownership of the intranet (and competition for valued home page real estate).

The problem lies with the traditional growth and evolution of the intranet. Initially, when intranets first came online in the early to mid-1990s, they were nothing more than a web brochure (a.k.a. ‘brochureware’) that sat on a small server under the desk of a Web developer who served as designer, writer and Webmaster.

Governance Model

I categorize intranet governance by four broad approaches or models:

  • Decentralized (no single owner; do-what-you-like)
  • Centralized a single owner or department controls it all; highly bureaucratic; common in small organizations)
  • Collaborative (shared ownership via committee)
  • Hybrid, centralized (single owner, with collaborative accountability, decentralized content ownership)

Collaborative Governance

The most common governance model in recent years, in medium to large-size organizations, has been the collaborative model. The collaborative model is most often focused on a cross-representative steering committee representing the major functional stakeholders:

  • Communications
  • Human Resources
  • Operations
  • Information Technology
  • Business units / departments

This model is most successful when the committee is championed by one or two key executives, often the CIO, the head of Communications, or HR. Instead of no owner, or one single owner, a collaborative team governs the intranet through the application of policies, standards and templates. This committee is typically responsible for the direction, vision, prioritization of projects, and future evolution.

About two-thirds of medium to large-size organizations have some form of collaborative governance and some form of intranet ‘steering committee’ or council. They typical committee has 6-10 individuals (mostly from IT, HR & communications) and is focused on:

  • Mandate and vision
  • Business objectives
  • Policies and standardization
  • Project prioritization
  • Trouble-shooting and conflict resolution

Hybrid, centralized Governance

The hybrid, centralized governance model is one that combines elements of all three previous models:

  • Centralized ownership
  • Centralized policy making and future development decision-making
  • Centralized technology and content management platforms
  • Decentralized content publishing and ownership
  • Decentralized application ownership / management

The hybrid model is very closely aligned to the collaborative model, with two significant exceptions: there is often a supporting steering committee, but it falls under a single intranet owner (or co-owners); and the role of IT is usually reduced from a collaborative owner to a committee member without ownership, but rather a support or enabler role for the business owner (often communications or HR). So while the collaborative model has a committee as the end intranet owner, the hybrid model puts the committee under an owner (though sometimes this business owner is in fact IT).


Additional Reading

Intranet GovernanceThe Politics of Intranet OwnershipCollaborative Intranet Governance (Intranet Politics Part II)Intranet management is plural

Why is the intranet so political?

For more information on our intranet services, including Intranet Planning and Governance, please contact us directly (Prescient Digital Media) or phone 416.926.8800.