Digital Workplaces, Interviews, Intranet 4.0

Intra.NET Reloaded Interview: Jane McConnell, Net Strategy JMC, on Organisation in the Digital Age


Jane McConnell
Digital Workplace Strategic Advisor, Net Strategy JMC


Jane McConnell
Digital Workplace Strategic Advisor, Net Strategy JMC

Prior to the Intra.NET Berlin, we.CONECT spoke with Jane McConnell, Digital Workplace Strategic Advisor at Net Strategy JMC.
Jane has been conducting annual research on the “Organization in the Digital Age” during the past 10 years. She also created IntraNetwork, a Paris-based work group of digital practitioners in global organizations and defined the Foundational Framework and corresponding Scorecard for diverse companies. Jane is sharing her expertise running private briefings, strategy workshops for management departments and speaking at conferences.

we.CONECT: Which trends and challenges will impact the digital workplace in the coming years?

Jane McConnell: I prefer to talk about the “organization in the digital age” rather than the “digital workplace”. This is because there are key dimensions that affect how people live and work today that are not traditionally considered part of the “digital workplace”. This term has become too technology-oriented in many cases. A few years ago, I defined a Foundational Framework with nine dimensions. This became an anchor for much of my research. It emphasizes the people side as much as the technology angle. There are several trends that will have significant impact on organizations in the very near future.

  • One is openness. The work practice called “working out loud” is starting in some organizations. It is a good first step to inclusiveness and shared purpose.
  • Another trend that is moving very fast is mobile access for the desk less workforce, bringing them into direct and individual interaction with other workers in other parts of the company.
  • A third movement I see, but one that will be much slower to have significant impact, is the growing understanding that leadership is not a question of hierarchy. Leadership, one of the nine dimensions in my foundational framework, is beginning to be recognized as a force that can emerge from any part of the organization. Community leaders (not managers) are a good example. They are gaining in power and influence and becoming key change agents inside organizations.
we.CONECT: What would you suggest to organizations to increase engagement?

Jane McConnell: If what the intranet or digital workplace offers is genuinely useful for people, there will be no problem with engagement. I see engagement as a “false issue”, and a concern about “low engagement” is a red flag that there is something wrong with the intranet/digital workplace.

we.CONECT: Who owns the intranet? How do you think governance should be approached?

Jane McConnell: The intranet is just one part of the digital workplace. Each part of the digital workplace needs to fit into a larger organizational framework with a multi-stakeholder guidance team in charge of coordination and arbitration when necessary. I believe very strongly in the principle of “freedom within a framework”. I wrote about this in an article published on MITSloan Management Review where I develop 4 key governance guidelines: Quoting from the article:

  1. Involve people at different levels with different roles early in decision-making. From the early planning stages, work across the organization, including with middle management and frontline leaders.
  2. Define fundamental principles for your program. Fundamental principles are the strategic, non-negotiable pillars upon which a digital initiative is based.
  3. Link responsibility to accountability. Ensure that people have decision-and policy-making scopes that correspond to their business responsibilities and are not usurped by global policies that go too deep.
  4. Promote the understanding that sharing information is more powerful than owning information. Traditionally, owning information was a sign of power. People’s reputations were tied to the information they owned, and sharing information meant losing power. This resulted in information silos and political games throughout organizations.
we.CONECT: What expectations do you have regarding the Intra.NET Reloaded Berlin? Which outcomes and benefits do you expect to gain from the exchange with participating companies?

Jane McConnell: I want to hear firsthand stories of successes and failures by people on the frontlines of digital initiatives. What is important for me is for people to understand that sharing failures is more powerful than sharing successes. People learn from each others’ experiences, and I hope to learn a lot from the conference participants.

we.CONECT: Which crucial topics or challenges would you like to discuss with the Intra.NET Reloaded Berlin community?

Jane McConnell:

  • How to retain our humanity in a world that is becoming increasingly digitized and automated.
  • How to ensure that conversation and dialogue are not distorted by filter bubbles, and that we are able to hear different viewpoints and diverse opinions and learn from them.
we.CONECT: Thank you very much for taking your time to participate in an interview.