Governance – what is it good for?  Absolutely everything!

Governance – what is it good for? Absolutely everything!

Often in our work with organizations , where we are helping to re-design a website or scrapping an old intranet and starting over or creating a mobile version of a site, or a desktop application, we’ll end up at some point saying, “that’s a governance issue”.  

So what do we mean?  Typically, governance refers to the people (roles), processes or procedures that enable organizations to manage some area well.  In our world, that area refers broadly to online assets which include many different types of assets, (applications, intranets, websites, mobile apps, etc.) and, invariably lots of content. 

Wikipedia defines governance as: “the act of governing. It relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists of either a separate process or part of decision-making or leadership processes.”

The definition goes on to state that: “In the case of a business or of a non-profit organization, governance relates to consistent management, cohesive policies, guidance, processes and decision-rights for a given area of responsibility. “

So what are the elements required for “good governance” of online assets? If we distill the numerous definitions out there to the core requirements for good governance, we’re left with leadership, decision-making power and cohesion. Cohesion among the various groups who play a role in online asset creation, maintenance, enhancement and sometimes retirement.  Naturally we can unpack each of these three core requirements further, but when we say “that’s a governance issue”, we’re referring to the fact that one or the other or sometimes all of the roles, processes and procedures governing our online assets aren’t what they need to be in order for _fill in the blank_ (content management, website maintenance, intranet priorities, mobile app strategy…) to work effectively and efficiently. 

Recognizing governance issues is fairly easy when we look for the root cause of why, at the content level we have ROT – redundant, out-dated, trivial content; at the maintenance level we don’t know who is responsible for getting rid of the ROT; at the priority level we start with the first problem we hear about but then leave that to fix problems that a higher level person in the organization asks us to fix; and at the strategy level we start to create new sections on our site, intranet, app that don’t “fit” or duplicate or create inconsistencies with other parts of our, again – fill in the blank with whatever online assets we’re talking about. 

Addressing the symptoms of ineffective governance can appear to be fairly easy, but when we commit to “fixing” governance, we need to look at how the organization is structured.  If there is a governance issue, it almost always means there are multiple symptoms and, just like improving our own physical health, we have to look at things holistically.  We can stop smoking, but if we continue to eat bacon, eggs and buttered toast every day without exercising, it’s just a matter of time before another issue crops up.

Cindy Beggs, MLS, is Partner and Director of Experience Research at Akendi, a firm dedicated to creating intentional experiences through end-to-end experience design. To learn more about Akendi or user experience design, visit www.Akendi.com.

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