May 11, 1998

Organizing Administrative Teams for a Corporate Intranet

By Steven L. Telleen

Q: How do companies set up their Web teams with regard to the rest of the organization? An Internet team is often based out of marketing, but what about an intranet?

E. Huret

Advisor: Managing distributed systems provides interesting challenges not found in centralized environments. The basic challenge comes from trying to meet the need for coordination and efficiency without destroying the independence of decision-making and action that make enterprises strong and flexible. 

Organizations are largely defined by the way they manage communication. Although we do not often think of organizations in this way, most roles in an organization can be seen from the perspective of how they create, maintain, broker, and apply information. 

Although an organization may define additional roles for its intranet, every organization needs to fill these core roles:

  • Administrators
  • Publishers (sometimes called "content owners")
  • Editors (content managers)
  • Authors (content creators)
  • Webmasters
The names vary from company to company. For example, one organization calls the editor a "Gatekeeper." The role is essentially the same, however--a project manager for formal content. A brief description of each of the roles follows to help you identify the substance behind the various names. 

The intranet administrator is charged with the coordination and facilitation of the overall functioning of the intranet. This person focuses on the strategy, organization, and quality of the Intranet as an effective communication environment. Where the intranet administrator reports organizationally depends on the company. I have seen the role filled by the chief information officer, an employee reporting directly to the CIO, the vice president of quality, and the vice president of corporate communications. But regardless of where the intranet administrator reports organizationally, this position needs to be filled by a senior-level person. 

The publisher is responsible for committing the information his or her organization regularly provides to others, both inside and outside the corporation. Each major organizational or functional unit should have a publisher. This role defines the interfaces to all other organizations, and is clearly ultimately the responsibility of the functional head of the business unit. In practice, the person filling this role generally reports directly to the functional head of the organization or business unit. 

The editor performs the role of project manager for the creation and management of formal information related to a specific area or focus in the organization. Most large or complex organizations have several editors, one for each focus. The editor determines the specific information that needs development or attention, identifies and obtains the authoring (or programming) resources, manages the project through the development and review cycles, and formally publishes the sanctioned information for which he or she is responsible. These roles generally already exist within an organization under such titles as product manager, marketing manager, software development manager, and so forth. 

Authors create the basic intranet content. The content may be textual, graphical, or logical, as with software code. Generally, authors create content with a specific goal in mind. Once available, however, content is often redirected for other purposes; an intranet can amplify the ability to reuse and redirect content. Intranet authors need to keep this mutability in mind, and create content that meets the proximate requirement but remains as modular and flexible as possible. 

The Webmaster is responsible for maintaining the intranet's technical infrastructure and for providing the bridge between the technology and its use by non-technical specialists. The Webmaster should focus on helping domain specialists and their communities of interest to communicate and innovate on the intranet with as little direct dependence on the technical staff as possible. The Webmaster role has two major aspects: technical architecture and administration, and support and user services. Many corporations have multiple Webmasters filling these roles for one or more Web servers. 

Organizationally, these roles are supported by a Web council (or executive steering committee) of publishers, editorial councils, and a technical council of Webmasters. Cross-representation provides coordination among them. 

Date: 19980511
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