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TOC - Ch 1 - Ch  2 - Ch 3 - Ch 4 - Ch 5 - Ch 6 - Ch 7 - Ch 8 - Ch 9

Chapter 3: Who are the Players?

Intranet Organization: Steven L. Telleen, Ph.D. 


Organizations are largely defined by the way they manage communication. Although we do not often think of organizations in this way, most of the roles in an organization can be defined from the perspective of creating, maintaining, brokering and applying information. Some of the roles in today’s organizations are required to manage organized communication regardless of the technology. Others specifically address the strengths and weaknesses of the paper technology that provides the communication medium in most businesses today or in the recent past. Still others have evolved to support our first forays into managing electronic information, where the complicated technology has precluded the average member of the organization from participating directly. Regardless of the technology, organizations require roles that support processes for: 
  • Goal directed activity
  • Communication and coordination
  • Verified content
  • Information currency
  • Protection from liability
  • Protection from loss
These roles take many forms and are found from the executive suite to the secretarial support staff. 

As the medium of communication moves from paper to the Intranet, these organizational roles need to be examined and adjusted to match the strengths and weaknesses of the new technology. This chapter discusses the major roles that need to be examined or established to support the content on an Intranet. However, an Intranet is a multipurpose infrastructure that supports many types of communication for many purposes. Before moving on, a few words about the types of information found on an Intranet are in order. 

Three Sources of Information

At least three sources of content are found in organizations, and all three quickly emerge on enterprise Intranets: formal, project/group, and informal. 

The formal information is the officially sanctioned and commissioned information of the enterprise. It usually has been reviewed for accuracy, currency, confidentiality, liability and commitment. This is the information with which the formal management infrastructure is most concerned. These are the formal documents that organizations produce to convey the official, supported information about their products, services and processes. Many of these documents are the first to be considered for Intranet projects because of their official status and wide distribution. 

Project/Group information is intended for use within a specific group. It may be used to communicate and share ideas, coordinate activities or manage the development and approval of content that eventually will become formal. In the paper world, the documents that carry this information generally are not shared outside the project or group. They also are not the first to be considered for an Intranet application. However, the Project/Group information is where the Intranet has the most potential to transform work processes and improve both organizational and personal productivity. On the Intranet, Project/Group information generally is not listed in the enterprise-wide directories and may be protected by passwords or other restrictions if general access might create problems. 

Informal information occurs in organizations as notes, memoranda, white papers, individual presentations, and other creative work done by individuals. It begins to appear on the Intranet when authors and users discover how easy it is to publish within the Intranet infrastructure. Informal information is not necessarily the same thing as personal home pages. A personal folder or directory on an Intranet server can serve as a repository for the white papers, notes and concepts that may be shared selectively with others in the enterprise to further common interests, for the solicitation of comments or for some other reason. Instead of sending copies, the URL can be given to the interested parties, and the latest version can be read and tracked as it changes. Readers can send email feedback immediately by clicking on a "mailto" link in the document. This type of informal information can become a powerful stimulus for the collaborative development of new concepts and ideas. 

The roles discussed below are directed at managing the formal content of the Intranet. Some of the roles carry over easily into the project/departmental information, and their use in this context will be discussed in this and subsequent chapters. The informal information is, by definition, outside the formal organizational management structure. There are, however, points of contact with the formal management structure in terms of protection from liability and loss and being able to distinguish verified content from informal content. 

Intranet Management Roles

The formal information of an organization is supported by defined roles. In the traditional setting, where paper is the primary medium of conveyance, the formal information roles are tightly coupled with the functional roles of the organization. The advent of electronic media and computers have stimulated our understanding of the information components of many of these functional roles. This occurred because early digital media were complex and required "specialists" to manage the technology around the content. The lack of technical knowledge by the professionals in the functional areas forced most organizations to separate the information roles from the functional roles. This separation of roles helped us clarify and understand both the information roles and their relationship to the functional processes they supported. 

In many ways, this forced separation created a complex and somewhat unworkable environment. Having to create a special project for every functional innovation is not conducive to organizational responsiveness or flexibility. The technical specialists lack of working experience with the functional activities often resulted in applications with less than optimal user interfaces or even differing management assumptions and philosophies. The demand to move information management back into the functional areas and have functional specialists manage their own technology has been growing and products that support this trend account for most of the recent growth in the information technology industry. This was the appeal of client-server and remains the primary appeal of Intranets. 

The evolution back toward unified functional and information roles brings with it the new and rather profound perspective gained during the separation. In the past, many organizations viewed information as a byproduct or output of their functional activity. Today many of these same organizations recognize that information is not an output at all, but the force that drives their systems and activities. This creates a new perspective on what constitutes the real value of many functional roles, the creation, management, communication and application of information. Be it Human Resources, Marketing or Engineering, the primary role of the functional manager in the past was not viewed in terms of managing information. To get the true benefit of an Intranet, this must change. These managers need to understand how information enables their functions and approach their roles from this perspective. 

Five distinct roles have been identified to support the formal Intranet content: the Web Administrator, the Webmaster, publishers, editors and authors. One of these roles is new, the others are modifications to and clarifications of roles that already exist in most enterprises. Other roles will be determined by organizations as they evolve their own style, culture and uses. Note that these roles are content focused and do not address the issues of supporting the underlying technical infrastructure. 

The Web Administrator, the new role, is responsible for facilitating cooperative opportunities among the various organizations in the enterprise and administering the enterprise content management infrastructure. This is not a technical role although some understanding of the technology is required. The Web Administrator is primarily a manager and facilitator. By contrast, the Webmaster is responsible for the technical infrastructure and tactical operation. The same person may serve in both roles, but to do so requires that she have both of the distinctly different skill sets and enough time to carry out both sets of responsibilities. 

The Web Administrator chairs the Enterprise Web Council (discussed later in this chapter) and could report to either the CIO or the Vice President of Strategy. Making a decision as to which it will be depends on the organizational environment and the specific people involved. Because an Intranet shifts power from technical specialists back to functional specialists, there is potential for political conflict and resistance to certain aspects of the implementation. Whichever senior executive is chosen, the Web Administrator role should be viewed as a direct report of that executive and have her active support. 

The Webmaster generally is an extension to or modification of existing systems administrator roles. In an Intranet, the Webmaster’s primary responsibility is installing new technologies, managing them and helping functional specialists to use them effectively. It is very important that the Webmaster have the perspective of providing tools that enable users to publish, access and customize information themselves rather than one of doing it all for them. As a result of this shifting perspective, many Webmasters are taking on more training responsibilities as part of their job function. 

Intranets in large organizations often have multiple webmasters, each frequently associated with a specific, often departmental, web server. Because the term "webmaster" is so well established, it probably is fruitless to propose a lessor designation, like Webduke, for these multiple positions. However, it is useful for larger enterprises to have a Web Grandmaster who is responsible for the formally supported enterprise-web servers and for coordinating the activities of the multiple departmental webmasters. This may include forming and chairing a Web Technical Committee composed of the webmasters. The Web Grandmaster’s responsibilities also include managing the enterprise email systems, the enterprise Domain Name Services, the internal, enterprise search and retrieval tools and indices, and tools that provide usage and analysis information. 

Traditionally, the webmaster also is responsible for answering, forwarding, and otherwise managing email addressed to "Webmaster." In large organizations or for external pages, providing professional and timely responses to the mail alone can be a significant, time-consuming job. Where this gets to be a problem, it is useful to split the Webmaster function into two, an administrative function that answers and follows-up the mail, and a technical function that provides the tools and technical support to the users. Some organizations distribute the load by directing the Webmaster mail to different individuals or groups based on the page from which the user originated the Webmaster mail.. 

Publishers determine what kinds of formal information will be created and maintained by their organization. Each line of business and major support area (Human Resources, Finance, Facilities, etc.) will have a publisher. These roles already exist in the functional areas of most organizations today. However, when we view information as a byproduct of functional activities, rather than a key driver, the role is less visible. 

Generally, the people who perform these roles today are managers in the organization, but the publisher role today may be diffused across more than one person. The responsibilities of the publisher really belong to the executive in charge of that organization; however the duties usually are delegated. This delegation is fine, but in the information age, the delegation should be explicit, and the person carrying it out should consult regularly with the executive. 

The publishers represent their organization on the Enterprise Web Council and may create and chair an Editorial Board within their own organization. The publishers own the processes and policies that both the enterprise and their organization require officially sanctioned information to follow. This includes policies on completeness and timeliness of the information. In larger organizations, the publisher may delegate the monitoring and implementation of policy conformance to editors, but the responsibility remains with the Publisher. 

Finally, the Publisher is responsible for keeping the portion of the Enterprise Map at their level and below current. The Enterprise Map is a tool that uses the Intranet to manage the Intranet content. This will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter on Logical Architectures. 

Editors are found in organizations that have multiple product lines or service areas. For example, Human Resources might have individual editors for Benefits, Compensation, Equal Opportunity and Staffing. In a line of business, the editor often is the primary marketing person for each product line. The editor determines what official information will be created for specific activities and manages the information creation and update process, including the formal review cycles. Note that in a development organization, the editor class would include development and project managers. 

Authors create the content. This role does not require more definition, because it tends to be well defined and independent of the communication medium. Once again, note that programmers and engineers also create content and as such are instances of the author class. When we get to the chapter on implementation, more time will be spent on how an Intranet affects this key role. 

Organizational Roles

The people who carry out the Intranet roles require organizational entities to provide communication and coordination support as they do their work. The three basic organizational entities are: the Web Council, Editorial Boards and the Web Technical Committee. 

The Web Council consists of the Publishers for all the organizations in the enterprise and is chaired by the Web Administrator. Some enterprises have further qualified the name as the Web Policy Council to provide an organizational reminder that the council is not concerned with the technical aspects of the Intranet. Personally, I prefer the more general term, because the Web Council serves more functions than setting policy. If the organizational executives have delegated the Publisher role to the right level people, slipping into a technical focus will not be a problem. If they have not, a warning should go up that the executives either do not understand the process or are not committed. 

The Web Council is responsible for setting policies, standards and high-level style guides. While this can be very time consuming in the beginning, it quickly settles into a background maintenance function. The Web Council also is responsible for monitoring the Enterprise Map for currency and adherence to standards. As stated above, the concept of the Enterprise Map will be presented in the next chapter on Logical Architectures. This, too, tends to become a rather trivial background function. 

The long term value of the Web Council is the communication and coordination function, the sharing of ideas, issues, applications and solutions. If the members come to the meetings looking to share innovative ways to make their information more valuable or accessible, looking to identify functionality that could make their organization more effective at creating and maintaining their own information, then the Web Council will stay vital. If instead the primary focus of the Web Council becomes policy and map maintenance, then it quickly will become a poorly attended, unimportant meeting. 

Two issues generally emerge in the Web Council. While the Web Council is not intended to be technical, they will uncover issues and opportunities that require technical support. For this reason, it is a good idea to include the Web Grandmaster as a member of the Web Council. If the role has been split into the technical and administrative functions as suggested above, both individuals should attend. This provides the Web Grandmaster with first-hand knowledge of the issues and opportunities, and provides a link to the Web Technical Committee. 

Second, if the organization has an external web-page, the Web Council will likely take a keen interest in it sooner rather than later, even though the organizing charter was focused on the Intranet. This is appropriate since it is very natural for the content on the external page to be created and managed via the Intranet. As the individual entities in the enterprise begin to understand the technology and accrue a rich set of material appropriate for external audiences, they become more interested in how their information is presented as part of the overall corporate image. Depending on the universality of interest, the external page issues can either become part of the Web Council agenda, or the Web Council can spawn a subcommittee for those interested. Just be aware that the Web Council will almost certainly expand its mission to cover the external web as well as the Intranet. 

An Editorial Board is set up at the discretion of the Publisher, based on need. In small specialized organizations, the Publisher also may perform the implementation duties of the Editor making an Editorial Board irrelevant. In larger, more generalized, organizations, the management of the official information is delegated to multiple individuals. Forming an Editorial Board is an efficient way for the Publisher to coordinate activities, organize information and impart and monitor policies and standards. 

Like the Web Council, the Editorial Board is not focused on technology. They are focused on creating and managing their formal content to be both effective and to meet the enterprise and organizational standards. For this reason, Editorial Board meetings tend to focus on lower level, pressing and immediate issues than the Web Council. 

Also like the Web Council, the Editorial Board is responsible for the Enterprise Map at their level and below. However, their job is more complex because they are responsible for linking the Enterprise Map to the content. Often, this can be a less obvious and more creative process than mapping the management responsibility chains above their level. For this reason the Editorial Board gets more involved in issues of creating and updating the logical presentation of the content relationships. 

The Web Technical Committee is made up of the Webmasters in the Enterprise. The Web Grandmaster chairs this committee. Their focus is technical. Depending on the history and culture of the enterprise, the Web Technical Committee may define the technical standards, or may be a forum where the technical standards, created in another forum, are imparted to those who must implement them. The Web Technical Committee also provides an opportunity for the Webmasters to share information on innovative approaches and tools that make their Authors, Editors, and Publishers more effective at creating and maintaining their own information. 

Having identified the basic organizational roles that support an effective Intranet, the next chapter looks at how the Intranet itself can be used to support the creation and maintenance of Intranet content in this environment. 

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Original Version: October, 1996
Last Updated: November, 1996
Copyright 1996 - Steven L. Telleen, Ph.D.

This material is based in part on work that the author wrote while an employee of the Amdahl Corporation. Those portions covered by the Amdahl Corporation Copyright are reprinted with the permission of the Amdahl

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