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Digital workplace leadership requires effective intranet management skills, but also much more. This article explains the differences and my new book is a guide for those with the drive and vision.

Becoming a digital workplace leader - Executive SummaryI love that so many of the conversations amongst groups of intranet folk start with: “So how did you get into intranet management?”

It’s a conversation of infinite variety because there’s no one route into our profession (I believe we even have a couple of zoologists among the DWG team!). And then the next twist is that so many intranet managers wrote their own job description, at least once.

With no set background or defined career route, we’ve forged our own career paths and profession. And the fact is that, right now, as the concept of the digital workplace gathers pace, there are new opportunities to carve out your own route and step up to lead in the digital world of work.

This is the exciting shift that I have explored in a new DWG research report: Becoming a Digital Workplace Leader: the big shift from intranet management. In it I take a look at the impact of the shifting digital world of work on the intranet management profession, explore new opportunities in the digital workplace and assess what it takes to seize those opportunities.

So what does it take to be Head of Digital Workplace? And how well are intranet managers positioned to make the leap?

Intranet managers already have a solid foundation in many of the skills needed in the expanded digital workplace role, such as:

  • managing stakeholders
  • implementing governance
  • representing the user
  • ensuring alignment with strategic objectives
  • and – crucially – a focus on the organization as a whole.

But they will also need to extend and evolve this skillset.

Differences between intranet and digital workplace management

“The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate.” That’s how the Wall Street Journal describes the difference between management and leadership.

It’s an important consideration for those wanting to make the leap from intranet to digital workplace: good management will still be required, but leadership – including creative problem solving, innovative thinking and a willingness to challenge the status quo – will be essential.

Intranet Manager Digital Workplace Manager
Focus on intranet and integrated systems. Broader focus across tools, people and, in some cases, physical workplace.
Focus on online employee experience within the browser (intranet and integrated or linked applications on desktop and mobile). Focus on online employee experience within and beyond the browser (across applications, devices and locations).
Management of intranet development or redesign projects with focus on content and design. Delivery of large-scale, complex technology programmes with focus on business processes; deeper knowledge of technical solutions.
Engaging stakeholders in the intranet vision and strategy.
  • Engaging a broader set of stakeholders.
  • Managing perception of loss of autonomy for some.
  • Advising senior executives on digital trends and opportunities.
  • Engaging and representing the user.
  • Championing user-centred design for the intranet.
A deeper understanding of new ways of working and application of user experience principles at the level of whole digital workplace.
  • Provide management of the intranet service.
  • Planning, organizing and coordinating intranet activities.
  • Provide leadership across owners of diverse systems as well as the digital workplace team.
  • Challenging the status quo.
  • Inspiring others.
Providing a “bridge” between business and IT needs and view of the intranet. Becoming a facilitator between IT and the business in order to work towards a more seamless experience of workplace technology.

I really believe that the time for intranet managers to seize the opportunities in the digital workplace is now. After all, if professionals in our industry don’t take the initiative then someone else in the organization, whether from HR or Facilities or IT, will.

At DWG we see strong continuity with the requirement for excellence amongst intranet managers and it’s a choice about whether to continue to excel in intranet roles or make the leap to the digital workplace.

Your role in The Digital Renaissance of Work

The new book which I co-authored with Paul Miller, CEO of the Digital Workplace Group, provides a rich foundation for understanding. Our book, The Digital Renaissance of Work: Delivering digital workplaces fit for the future (available on the Gower publishing website now and on Amazon starting October 28th), provides a rich conceptual underpinning to how digital technology is changing our society, as well as a guide for those interested in digital workplace leadership.

If you’re interested in taking the digital workplace fork in the road, I invite you to explore the book and I hope it proves imminently useful.

Related research

Becoming a Digital Workplace Leader

Becoming a digital workplace leader - Executive SummaryAwareness is growing of the need to address the fragmented employee experience of digital tools.

This represents an exciting, if challenging, opportunity for those in intranet and related professions to step up and lead in the digital world of work.

Free executive summary »

About the author

Elizabeth Marsh - DWG's Director of ResearchElizabeth Marsh leads the Digital Workplace Group’s member research and events. She is passionate about connecting members to peers or resources and exploring new research opportunities.

Elizabeth is co-author, with Paul Miller, of the new book “The Digital Renaissance of Work—Delivering digital workplaces fit for the future”.

Prior to joining DWG, Elizabeth held intranet management roles at T-Mobile and Reuters, with broad-ranging responsibilities including community management, internal communications and research.

When not busy in the digital workplace, Elizabeth is a keen writer and musician, playing flute in an amateur orchestra and performing with various local groups.

Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter at @digitalsanity or on Google +.

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