3 Things I Didn’t Know about Digital Governance

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  • Now that Managing Chaos is close to going to the printer, I’m getting a bit philosophical about the book-writing process. Yes, writing a book took longer than expected and involved long nights, coffee, rewriting and all of those other things first time book authors say. So, I won’t say those things. But I would like to point out three things I learned about digital governance that I didn’t quite know before I started writing the book.

    Digital teams are vast.

    When I started writing Managing Chaos, I already had a strong sense of what digital teams were. There were two dimensions I was considering. The first was the function of the team, which included both program and product management. The second dimension was the placement of the digital team (in Communications, Marketing, IT, wherever). But as I struggled to write Chapter 2, “Your Digital Team: Where They Are and What They Do,” I realized that this two-dimensional model was inadequate. After thinking about it a bit (almost a year) and considering different collaboration models, I realized that there was a third dimension: range. Once I understood that the digital team existed everywhere in the organization, the chapter started to come together. Now I know that considering the function, placement, and range of your digital team is a foundational aspect of creating an effective governance framework.


    Digital teams are also guilty of silo-ing.

    A top complaint from digital team members is that the rest of the organization operates in silos. Their implication is that digital stakeholders on the business or program side of an organization often only want to serve their own local interest when it comes to online development. This leaves the corporate digital team, whose job it is to cut across the organizational silos, in a tough spot. And trying to create an integrated and effective online presence in an organization that is operationally silo’d is a challenge indeed. However, when you get to know a number of different teams in different organizations, it becomes clear that digital teams often create their own silo—one that is frequently full of jargoned language like “UX” and “CMS” and “faceted taxonomy.” What’s more, they can often fall tone deaf to even the clearly stated needs that come from digital stakeholders throughout the organization. So, the substance of a digital governance framework has to manage both dynamics—the digital silos and the business silos.

    There are complex reasons to be progressive or conservative about digital adoption.

    Personally, I range between being a very early adopter of new technologies (for things I’m excited about) to being in the early majority of adopters. And a lot of digital team members are innovators and early adopters of technology as well. So when considering the constant digital team complaint of “my CEO/CMO/CIO just doesn’t get the importance of digital,” I had to consider that digital workers are often biased in believing that everyone should jump feet first into digital functionality. So while writing Chapter 3, “Digital Strategy: Aligning Expertise and Authority,” I had to explore how and when an organization might invest in digital. I discovered that there is likely an equation—and a complex one at that—that could come into play here. There are a number of factors like vertical market, geography, and ability to take risk that must be considered. I didn’t form or solve this equation in Managing Chaos but I did offer some insights that will help organizations determine where they might fall on a continuum of digital functionality adoption.

    I look forward to continued conversation about maturing digital governance practices in organizations. I think there are a number of factors associated with the impact of digital on the enterprise that have yet to be properly explored. And, after a break, I’m looking forward to considering the next book challenge.