I get email updates from an intranet group and recently they’ve added a jobs section. So I’ve been having a quick dip in to see what the jobs are like in the intranet world of today. This led me to do a little lunchtime research on intranet jobs on some of the web jobs sites such as Trovit and Monster. What I found was quite depressing.
Some of the skills and knowledge that these senior intranet positions required included coding, CSS, SQL and some acronyms that were beyond me including some arcane CMS systems. This reminded me of James Robertson’s excellent article ‘Intranet Managers must be Managers’. In the article James states what a good intranet manager should be doing and this is what he says an intranet manager shouldn’t be doing with which I fully agree –
- ‘Writing HTML or publishing web pages
- Reviewing or rewriting content
- Conducting development (coding) activities
- Designing site appearance or structure’
The message doesn’t seem to be getting through.
What they don’t mention
The two things I’ve rarely seen mentioned in these job adverts is anything at all around the user and content. Yet isn’t that what intranets are supposed to be all about? Connecting users with relevant content is surely all intranets should be doing. OK you might want to do it in such a way that keeps the major stakeholders happy but basically its as simple as that. And yet these job descriptions depressingly still stress the need for technical qualifications and IT experience which, in my opinion, is sowing the seeds of failure for those intranets even before they have gotten off the ground.
I hope I am not going to offend anyone but putting basically IT people in charge of an intranet is one reason why intranets have gotten such a bad reputation in many organisations. The success of any intranet will have far less to do with how wonderful the CMS is and how all the pretty plug-ins work than a fundamental understanding of how users interact with content and ensuring that systems are in place for maintaining content and content structures.
Putting IT people in charge of intranets is like asking the people who build the roads to run the traffic management systems. There would be chaos on the roads in no time as building roads requires a completely different set of skills, approaches and culture to those required to make our traffic flow effectively.
I think that this is a good analogy for intranets. The IT or infrastructural part of the intranet is important but it is not as important as user considerations, quality content and a good structure. Let’s Illustrate this.
Case 1 – An intranet is put together with the emphasis on the IT infrastructure. It has a wonderful shiny CMS, it’s fast and it has all the latest features. You can blog, there’s a wiki and all the latest ‘intranet 2.0′ social stuff. However, as the focus of activities has been the technical side of things, there has been little regard paid to the user who finds the intranet illogical. Also little thought has been given to structuring and managing content and the intranet is now starting to fill up with obsolete content, undermining users’ trust in the intranet as a whole.
Case 2 – Someone puts together a series of linked Word or PDF documents on a shared drive. The structure of the links is logical reflecting how users in that organization look for content. The content is good quality and a system for maintaining content is in place so no obsolete content can be accessed by the users.
Which of the above cases would really help users to do their jobs more effectively? To a certain extent I wonder if many organizations are throwing their money away on fancy IT stuff when something simpler might prove more effective for their users.
However I did come across one ad which gave some hope. They wanted an intranet manager but they stressed that content management and usability were basic requirements whereas only a general knowledge of HTML and CSS were required. This makes me think that there is at least one enlightened organization out there.
I haven’t put a link in this post for the job advert. I might want to apply myself!
(Apologies to James for paraphrasing his book title!)