If your company has a digital presence of any significant size or scope, you can probably benefit from digital governance. Digital governance helps to address the inefficiencies and brand equity-draining inconsistencies that often result from having many different divisions and functional groups creating properties for web, social, and mobile. Common problems that digital governance can help address include:
- Inconsistent branding and user experience across different properties that target the same customer. Impact: At best this is an inconvenience to users, and at worst it damages the brand, making it look like the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing while diluting brand impact.
- Different groups choosing different solutions for similar purposes (content management, payment processing, search, even "single sign on"). Impact: This can sub-optimize software and hardware costs and create the need for the organization to have competencies in overlapping technologies.
- Initiatives wasting resources by competing with each other within the enterprise. Impact: For example, different divisions outbidding each other for the company's name in search engine marketing on Google (it happens!).
These problems are often driven by the following types of conflicts:
Department vs. department. Several different departments want the top spot on the home page or want to control a certain domain name or want to email customers on the same day. Governance can help to adjudicate these differences.
Department vs. enterprise. Department A wants to use Drupal as its CMS (content management system). Department B wants to use SharePoint. Perhaps neither really cares what the other does, and each is perfectly happy "doing its own thing;" however, the enterprise's overall investment is sub-optimized by having to maintain these different infrastructures. Governance defines standards for the enterprise. Think of it like electrical sockets: Thank goodness someone has the job of determining a common standard for current and plug shape (at least in each country) so I don't need to install different outlets or buy weird adapters each time I buy a new appliance (like I do when I travel to Europe).
Department vs. user. Governance standards can both dictate that individual properties comply with certain specific branding or interface standards to maintain a high quality and consistent user experience across properties. If the search in one area of your product catalog works arbitrarily differently than the search in a different area of your product catalog, and each only see the products from its own "department," this is likely to create frustration for your users.
Essentially, digital governance can be summed up as company policy surrounding the creation, rollout, and management of digital properties that serves to minimize inefficiency and inconsistency.
What are the components of a basic governance framework?
A robust governance model describes a matrix of these three key areas of responsibility across a number of functional areas that will be governed. While the list can vary, often different individuals or teams will be assigned to the three key functions above across different domains such as:
What should be controlled centrally and what authority should be decentralized?
Since decentralized authority can lead to the inefficiencies and inconsistencies described earlier in this article, some level of centralized authority is the goal with most implementations of digital governance. Bear in mind, more governance is not necessarily better. Within each domain considered, each enterprise needs to consider the relative benefits and drawbacks of creating centralized governance around that area. Potential benefits can include improved asset leverage, improved customer/brand experience, and reduced legal exposure. Drawbacks can include slowing down individual initiatives in favor of more coordinated approaches and reducing entrepreneurialism within a company. The best approach to digital governance is a balanced approach that best fits your organization.
Three key tips for success in implementing and sustaining governance
Successful governance has rules that are defined, enforced, and supported:
Defining rules. Called laws in government, often called "standards" in corporate governance. These generally cover different categories of activities listed in the table above. For example, rules might govern which content management tools may be used, what types of content must be approved by the legal department, or how navigation on a page must function so that individual propreties work well for a user navigating between different corporate sites.
Enforcing rules. We all know that if there wasn't the occasional cop behind a tree, we'd speed like crazy and probably blow off a few stop signs or worse. Similarly, within corporate governance, someone has to have the speed gun and some way of creating "pain" for groups that want to test the seriousness of the "rules of the road." These can include checkpoints with IT that ensure compliance with technical standards before deploying new code to production, steps added to the budgeting process to ensure projects have planned for appropriate compliance, and a "user experience czar" who is responsible for regularly navigating corporate sites to keep an eye on compliance with design, branding, and navigation standards.
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