Digital Governance

Governance is a difficult discussion in a company. For people who like creativity it tends to make their eyes glaze, meanwhile those driven by order and rules sit up and start planning. But governance is just about how you make decisions, and good decision making is essential in any organisation.  In many large companies their digital and social media presence began in a rather ad hoc way, starting in pockets of expertise around the company and only later were pulled together. Sometimes it’s only after a crisis that a real need for good digital governance emerges. Too much governance can restrict and slow an organisation’s decision making, and too little results in chaos. So what does good governance look like?

An Australian organisation aiming to help local governments have better governance created a list of characteristics of good governance. These characteristics also apply to decision making in organisations.

Good governance is;

  • accountable
  • transparent
  • lawful
  • responsive
  • equitable and inclusive
  • effective and efficient
  • participatory

Good digital governance will cover;

  • framework of roles and responsibilities, this is sometimes called a RACI matrix, and it sets out who is responsible for doing the work, who has the decision power, who needs to be consulted or informed. Defining roles for the processes around digital content will give team members some certainty about who does what.
  • digital strategy, define and document the strategic approach you’re making in digital and how it meets business goals.
  • digital policies, these should cover high level management direction such as use of the company logo online, setting up social media accounts, privacy policies.
  • digital standards, minimum acceptable standards, often applicable to the technology, could include defining the maximum acceptable downtime of a website for example.

It’s a lot of detailed focused work to set all of these items up, and they need a regular review – at least annually. It’s important that there is an annual review because digital world changes and what makes sense now won’t in a year.

Your digital presence is about representing your brand, but you also need to do so without creating unnecessary risk. Every project you undertake in a company needs to consider potential risk, here are some  of the brand building initiatives and the risk avoiding steps to be considered. Sometimes it’s the same activity.

Represent Brand Avoid Risk
Consistent branding; strong guidelines Monitoring for content that is incorrectly branded
Asset repository, so that brand is always well represented Monitor for misuse of brand name: phishing sites, false claims etc
Respond to comments and social media posts with brand’s tone of voice Response matrix (examples)
Policies on publication including privacy, content, tone of voice Monitor content published to your social media accounts or as comments on articles you publish
Trained staff working on sites and social media accounts Control access to accounts, name the people who are posting to maintain accountability
Strategic acquisition of domain names Monitor for launch of new top level domains

People like flexibility, and sometimes people have the idea that governance just means lots of rules, and it’s true, there will be rules – or standards or policies. But without governance every decision will be agonising and slow. On an operational level you will create inconsistency, legal risks, and confusion for your audience.

Good governance should be a starting point for your digital teams to do their work. It should put in place policies, standards and decision processes that give the digital experts the guidance they need to do their job well, in a way that builds your brand. It should include a review cycle, particularly digital governance since the platforms change frequently and there are legal changes that you will need to include. Build your governance framework to be flexible, it will then be a more resilient to changes. Think of a tree that bends in the wind, at the end of the storm the tree still stands.

Image:  Lone Tree Wind Sculpture   |   Nick Fullerton   |  CC BY 2.0

 

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