Digital Governance - How are you managing risk while driving innovation?


If you had’ve told me a year ago that I’d become consumed with the concept of digital governance and developing frameworks to make digital governance manageable for enterprises, universities, and municipalities, I’m not sure I would have believed you.

But, a year later, and digital governance has grown into a significant focus for our team. We’re working with each other and our clients to develop processes and tools to make digital governance approachable and give it the place it deserves inside of an organization. And you know what? It’s exciting stuff with far-reaching implications so, if you’re wondering about what digital governance is and why you should care, this is for you.

Perhaps my recent dedication to digital governance is due to the fact that there is enormous opportunity in this area as organizations realize the risks associated with digital business and scramble to mitigate these. However, I’d like to think that my interest is more altruistic than that and that it’s also because by helping organizations implement digital governance processes, we can improve the user experience for all users. Digital governance is as much about ensuring compliance with applicable legislation as it is about ensuring that organizations strive to constantly improve the quality of digital experiences for their customers. Good governance provides the oversight and framework to help ensure consistency and quality across an organization’s digital footprint.

Much of our work in this area has been in the municipal sphere where we’ve focused on creating more than just systems for monitoring compliance to those which will drive real change toward more connected cities with better digital user experiences.

As we know, there are legal, economic and reputation risks associated with sharing information and doing business on the web. More than ever, we need to be mindful of things like: brand standards, removing barriers to persons with disabilities, bilingualism and language considerations, access to information, privacy policies, anti-spam legislation, security breaches and much more. As EY (a leader in business advisory services) indicates this can be challenging because “most organizations have yet to articulate a comprehensive, digital enterprise strategy or appoint a focused digital leader, such as a chief digital officer.”

EY also notes that “as digital becomes increasingly core to most businesses, several specific pressures are pushing digital governance up the corporate agenda”. They have identified three of them:

  1. New regulatory requirements demand action. Governments are racing to catch up with the speed at which the digital world is moving, leading to new and emerging laws on tax, privacy, data handling and more, with steep fines for failure to comply.
  1. Growing cybersecurity risks need to be addressed. Businesses today have to assume that attacks will occur at some point, and plan accordingly. Added to this, regulators in the US and elsewhere are putting pressure on firms to admit to such breaches publicly.
  1. Perceived digital weaknesses can do irreparable damage to brand reputation. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware that when they bring companies their business, they must also hand over their data. Firms that show themselves as untrustworthy data custodians will face a major loss of brand equity.

There is little evidence of set, benchmarked industry standards or best practices in web governance for public sector organizations. In fact, governments across the board seem to be struggling with digital governance. Perhaps the most compelling example of a government initiative to help address these unique challenges is the White House’s Digital Governance Strategy which sets forth clear guidelines for web governance based on these overarching strategic principles:

  • An “Information-Centric” approach – Moves us from managing “documents” to managing discrete pieces of open data and content which can be tagged, shared, secured, mashed up and presented in the way that is most useful for the consumer of that information.
  • A “Shared Platform” approach – Helps us work together, both within and across agencies, to reduce costs, streamline development, apply consistent standards, and ensure consistency in how we create and deliver information.
  • A “Customer-Centric” approach – Influences how we create, manage, and present data through websites, mobile applications, raw data sets, and other modes of delivery, and allows customers to shape, share and consume information, whenever and however they want it.
  • A platform of “Security and Privacy” – Ensures this innovation happens in a way that ensures the safe and secure delivery and use of digital services to protect information and privacy.

Of course, guiding principles like these are just the beginning and the White House also spelled out a detailed plan showing the practical implementation of these principles. Like the White House example, at bv02 we work with organizations to develop the guiding principles for their digital governance model and we provide recommendations for structuring their business to support digital ownership and accountability.

After this structure is in place, we develop the rules that an organization will follow, monitor and measure, and also, the approach for ongoing auditing and reporting (read enforcing) against these rules.

Perhaps the most rewarding part is bringing everything together in a digital platform that provides employees with the guidance and information they need to comply with all web requirements and standards and the organization with the tools to measure compliance and improve performance.  A digital platform allows for tagging, cross-linking, searching, filtering, etc. so that everything can be accessed from a single point. In this way, a digital governance model developed as a digital tool can really assist web publishers and content creators and help drive the business agenda regarding an organization’s web priorities and other best practices. The web platform becomes a one-stop-shop for finding all relevant legislation and corporate policies related to the web and understanding how they impact a particular department. All of the necessary training, tools and supports including video and links to important contacts are contained in the web platform as well.

Lately, we’ve been focusing on digital governance for universities and cities but all large businesses should be focused on digital governance to not only show due diligence in the case of a legislative breach but as a means for promoting real change. If you have questions about digital governance or you’re grappling with managing the risks associated with digital while still being able to drive innovation, we’d enjoy chatting with you. We can work together to set quality standards for your digital footprint and help ensure these are followed with flexible and scalable solutions. If you’re running an effective governance model, we’d love to hear about it.

It’s time we focused on this —  we can’t afford not to!


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