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Concerns about how to govern social media in the workplace are often cited as one of the main barriers for not doing it. And as organisations do start to experiment with social media inside the firewall, governance often amounts to bolting additional policies onto existing intranet governance. While this may help in the short term, in the longer term it can become unwieldy as new tools are added. And for organisations holding back from getting their hands dirty with social media, employees wanting to connect with colleagues may increasingly turn to external tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – potentially leading to an exodus away from the intranet.

How to develop governance around social media – mitigating the risks and fostering user trust – was the subject of a recent briefing paper for DWG members, written by our director of intranet strategy & governance, John Baptista. In it he looks at the rise of social media behind the firewall and sets out a model of governance for the next-generation intranet where:

“… governance could be structured around the main kinds of intranet activities, with a different set of policies, roles and technology for each of them. This model provides for:

  • governance for using information (such as policies and product information)
  • governance for doing things (such as booking travel, doing online training, using HR self-service)
  • governance for interacting and connecting (for networking, collaborating and sharing ideas and good practice).

The benefit of this approach is that governance will be much more aligned with the actual purpose and use of the intranet. The policies emerging from this model will also be wider reaching. Instead of regulating applications and content, they regulate key organisational activities, which are core to the functioning of the organisation. One advantage of this approach is that designing governance around organisational activities enables much more accurate management of risk because the policies, roles and technology reflect more directly the risks associated with the use of the intranet.”

This is governance at the next level, where the intranet has penetrated to a deeper level of usefulness and integration within the organisation, and is more than a few steps away for many intranet managers! To bridge the gap, the paper also looks at the stages of evolution of social media policy:

“There are three possible approaches to developing policy for social media:

  • Develop policies for each tool.
  • Develop policies for the different content categories and classifications.
  • Develop policies for each task.

These three approaches should not be seen as three independent methods for developing policy, but rather part of a continuum. The reality is that many organisations evolve through these three approaches.

Organisations are likely to want to move on from tool-based policies when they realise new forms of publishing are being used to create content that should be governed more tightly. Moving to content-based policies resolves this problem by changing the focus from the tools used to the type of content published on the intranet. Then, as the intranet expands to become the central hub for all business resources and organisational life, a new shift is likely to be needed. Policies based on content will not cover the complexity of the new activities on the intranet, and so more task-centric policies are required. This changes the focus from types of content (corporate, personal or social) to types of tasks that may be done across tools or types of content (for example, the task of collaboration is cross-platform and cross-content).”

At the research webinar, we discussed the findings and one interesting thread that came out was the fact that while the potential risks do need to be addressed, to some extent they’re as hyped as the terms “social media” and “Enterprise 2.0” themselves. As senior executives start to conjure pictures of a chaotic and unruly Facebook-esque world, it pays to remember that (a) it’s a myth that social tools exist in an unregulated environment (as a quick look at the T&Cs for some of these tools shows), and (b) the majority of employees know how to behave at work! As one member commented, in the same way that we know what is appropriate to wear to work, we also know what is appropriate behaviour, on- and off-line.

There are lots more interesting topics coming in DWG’s research programme this year, with the next report on enterprise intranets with MOSS 2007 by Martin White.

About the author

Nancy Goebel - DWG's Managing Director for Member & Benchmarking ServicesNancy Goebel is DWG’s Managing Director for Member Services. In addition to heading up service delivery, she is responsible for member engagement, retention and growth. Nancy also sits on DWG’s Board of Directors.

Prior to joining the Digital Workplace Group, Nancy was a accomplished executive at JPMorgan Chase where she built and led a global team in desigining and implementing an award-winning intranet. She also led digital enablement and business re-engineering initiatives.

Outside work, Nancy is a wine maker, fundraiser, meditator, wife and mother of two.

Connect with Nancy on Twitter: @nancyatdwg or on Google +.


  1. Christy Season

    This is a great article, and very timely. My manager and I were just discussing whether we needed an Intranet Policy to go along with existing company policies like electronic media, email, etc. I’d be interested to know how many companies have created policies around their intranet, and what types of content would be in them.

  2. Managing risk is often a part of discussions about social media in an enterprise environment. Some slogans of a Bankers Trust campaign in the 90’s come to my mind:
    > Risk surrounds everything worth having.
    > Risks hardly travel alone.
    And most important:
    > Doing nothing may be the biggest risk of all.
    So, don’t forget to do when discussing about social media. I like your approach to implement governance as tiny pieces according to each application or process. Not more governance than is really needed (hope that sounds like reasonable English).

  3. And there’re more and more software which use the intranet such as Cubetree, Rabbitsoft, Basecamp… and others. But there aren’t only drawbacks on it, you have only the word “policies” who comes out your mouth… But I see more communication, more links between people, and a better work.
    Take for example
    And dare to tell me that it couldn’t be a good thing to improve work

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