Are you an intranet Premier League star player?

A soccer ball on a field of grassAs the football season in the UK kicks off we once again begin to hear talk of team work, star players and #winning. Which new signings will flourish, which will flounder and which players will find a new lease of life in their team?

How does this relate to intranet managers? We might not be as well paid for our services, but I guess team dynamics are the same, whatever your role.

If you’re a football manager what are you looking for in your players and team? Teamwork, technical skills, stamina, flair, experience, speed, agility, charisma (you have to sell shirts to pay all those salaries). Is this any different to an intranet team?

Teamwork – a good intranet is a business wide, strategic asset. So you need to have lots of stakeholders onboard with what you and the team are doing. You need to play well with others, understand what they expect from you and be there when they need you to put in a full shift.

Technical skills – every intranet team needs technical skills covering the basics of web design, UX, hardware, communications, change management. The list is pretty long and I am not sure whether a team of generalist versus a team of specialists is better. Ultimately only a large organisation is going to be able and willing to have a large team. Most teams will be mixed with specialists and generalist for whom intranet activities are a part-time activity. Some teams, wisely in my view, outsource specific technical skills when required.

Stamina – so maybe physical stamina is not a key requirement, though all those meetings and chasing people can be tiring. So mental energy is required. Intranets often have little support, though executive support seems to be growing. Energy to keep selling what you are doing and keeping the team and stakeholders energised is vital.

Flair – every team needs a star player, someone who forces others to raise their game and even when things are going against you, they can pull out a great result. These people are rare but a good manager is always trying to help others grow, so you might find some of your team mates are stars waiting to shine in the right circumstances.

You can’t win anything with youth

Experience – ‘you can’t win anything with youth’ is the classic football quote, proven wrong of course. However, alongside technical skills a team need to have faced the reality of complex issues and proven themselves adept at delivering solutions. Probably a good team needs a diverse balance, youthful energy and new ideas, alongside wise experience.

Speed – more and more teams (development teams at least) are using agile or lean methodologies to develop their intranets. Ongoing iterative cycles which try to maximise velocity and output.

Agility – this sort of fits with speed, but in my experience a pragmatic approach to working helps and so a flexible, agile mindset helps. Both in terms of understanding stakeholders and working with them to get the best results, but also to negotiate the often complex internal workings of large organisations.

Charisma – does an intranet team need charisma? My experience of meeting intranet managers from across the globe is, those that seem to be doing the best work have that special something. They can capture the attention of senior stakeholders, engage diverse groups and pull them together to deliver great things. It’s slightly more than just enthusiasm, and for me is a great skill, as it’s infectious.

Differences – But what about the differences, after all intranet management is not a game of 2 halves. Diversity is one area the premier league and intranet teams differ, thankfully. I don’t have the figures, but I’d like to think gender diversity is more balanced than most roles in organisations. My experience of intranet managers is we are a fairly diverse bunch of people. We could always do better, I am sure, but I think you can only succeed in intranet management if you can embrace and engage the diversity which makes up any organisation, whether this be role, diversity, age, gender, culture etc.

Of course the big difference is pay. Not only in the actual amounts being paid out – we’d all love £100k a week. Rather in the relationship between contribution and result. The top players are paid millions because they bring in hundreds of millions in revenue. Each player is an investment for the club – “with this player we can win the league”. Often for intranet managers this is not the case (yet). This is reflected in the numerous job titles intranet managers have. Where intranet teams are located within companies and, whilst thankfully this is changing, many organisations still don’t seem to value the benefits a fully functioning intranet team can deliver.

You’ve got to do your talking out on the pitch

How can we change this situation? Well, to quote a football pundit ‘you’ve got to do your talking out on the pitch’. We need to keep voicing the value of intranets and digital workplaces inside and outside our organisations whilst ensuring that we are developing ourselves and teams to meet the challenges we face.


Soccer ball”  by faungg is licensed under CC

About Dan Leonard

Based in the Netherlands, I've been working on intranets and digital workplaces for over 12 years. Mainly in financial services for Learning & Development, HR and Corporate Communication functions. I am interested in the skills required by Intranet Managers and Digital Workplace Leaders now and in the future.

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