Your Digital Governance: How Bad Is It?

Lisa Welchman DG Blog

Illusration that shows a pink pig wearing lipstick.

you can put lipstick on a pig, the saying goes, but it’s still a pig

Rest assured—every organization has digital governance problems. Just because an organization might look good online doesn’t mean that it is getting a good return on its investment or operating in an effective, low-risk environment. I’ve seen plenty of “lipstick-on-pig” digital environments where a nice-looking website design was only thinly veiling an ineffective digital presence supported by no real digital strategy and an uncoordinated digital team—governance gone wild! I’ve also seen some “looks like it was built in 1997” websites where the site was getting real work done for the organization, and the supporting organization was only inches away from governing well. Looks can be deceiving.

How can you tell how well your organization is doing? Instead of looking at your (and your competitor’s) websites, social channels, and mobile apps to judge how well you are governing, you can understand where you are on the digital governance maturity curve.

An illustration showing the four stages of digital maturity along an ascending line starting with "launch", then the line dips and there is "chaos", then the line goes up again for the "basic management" and "responsive state" stages.

You’ll probably find that your organization is at different levels of maturity for different aspects of the framework (team structure, digital strategy, digital policy, and digital standards). That’s normal. Maybe you work in a heavily regulated industry, and you’re “mature” when it comes to digital policy, but you lack standards. Or maybe you have some policy and standards, but you have no real digital strategy. The point is for you to assign responsibility and accountability to the right set of resources so that the substance of your strategy, policies, and standards is on target, laying the foundation for your digital team to create real online value for the organization.

Once you’ve finished designing your framework, you will find that accountability and authority for strategy, policy, and standards will be distributed throughout your organization’s digital team. But do you know who your digital team is and what they do? Maybe not. So before you examine how to determine accountability for each of the digital governance components, take a look at how digital teams are structured. Just as websites grow organically and without much of a plan, so do digital teams. It’s important to take the time to establish and put into place a well-defined digital team before you begin your governance design efforts.

From Lisa Welchman, “The Basics of Digital Governance” in Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design (New York: Rosenfield Media, 2015), 24.