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Lisa Welchman Explains The Role of Your Digital Team

When I think of the word “governance”, right off the bat for me, the concept brings to mind some keywords like micromanagement, controlling, bureaucracy, supervision, top-down control, or even unleashing the potential. However in reality, governance may turn into something liberating when it is implemented correctly and effectively. To find out how to make that happen, I reached out to the leading expert on digital governance, Lisa Welchman and asked her a couple of questions:

How would you characterize the role of Digital Governance in Digital Transformation?

Welchman: Digital transformation for me means being strategic and comprehensive about understanding the values that the Internet and Web can bring to your business—in both mundane and disruptive ways. From this perspective, digital governance is an enabler in the digital transformation process. As a discipline, governance defines how an organization will utilize the Web and Internet, who will make decisions, and how will you integrate new digital functionality with existing legacy processes and business practices. This integration effort is a big job and, those who approach it seriously through a governing lens will be able to reap real business advantage —not just have a nice-looking website and well-maintained social media channels.

Given your decades of experience in this area, in your opinion, is there a brand or brands you feel are excelling with Digital Governance?

Welchman: It’s hard to name names because, unlike a graphic redesign of a website, the effects of good digital governance practice are not just visual. One strong indicator is a seamless user experience across all digital channels (and offline channels). That unified experience usually means that the digital team is in alignment and working from a well-considered set of common goals and standards—which is the heartbeat of digital governance. In order for organizations to do that globally and across multiple business and product lines requires a serious commitment approach to digital governance and operations. That commitment means developing and maintaining the digital presence across channels over the long term, not just implementing digital project after project in a disjointed manner.  Dot-com businesses have an advantage here. These all digital businesses are not perfect from a governance perspective but they don’t have the same challenge of having to integrate old off-line practices with a new online one. However, though, they can have the reverse problems such as challenges around real-world fulfillment for an e-commerce business.

The Misconception of the Role of Digital Teams

This is not the first time that Lisa Welchman has appeared on CMS-Connected. In June 2016, we interviewed Digital Governance Advisor & Author Lisa Welchman to discuss content chaos and best practice digital governance solutions. During that conversation, she pointed out a common misconception when it comes to the role of digital teams: “The digital team is much larger than what people generally think. The misconception about the digital teams is that people think, the team only consists of a central group of people who get in trouble when something goes wrong online.” However, that team is considered the core digital team and they are responsible for setting the policies, standards, and strategies as well as setting up content management systems and any type of horizontal collaboration platforms.

Besides this core team, there is also another team, which Welchman calls the distributed digital team. These people may be the internal practitioners, content authors, digital budget planners, application developers, content marketers and so on. Even beyond the distributed team, Welchman says there is also your extended team which includes anyone outside of the organization that enables digital. It can be a vendor who is implementing your content management system or an interactive agency. The point is that the digital team may be extensive and that’s why organizations need digital governance so they can keep all the players aligned and in harmony.

Since the interview was filmed at Fenway Park, she used a baseball analogy to explain the digital governance in organizations with multiple brands. She said that typically, there are some grand rules that you have to follow if you are part of that entity but then, each team has their separate identity. In these kinds of more sophisticated governance scenarios, where you want to have some shared standards across the entire organization and some distributed diversity, you have to decide what is shared and what is different. According to Welchman, defining those is the key step before you start.

The Core Digital Team: Program Management & Product Management

Speaking of teams, Welchman believes that the foundational aspect of creating an effective governance framework depends on the function, placement, and range of your digital team. I stumbled upon one of her articles on the first element of that foundation; function. In her splendid article, she discusses that the responsibilities of the core team can be distilled into two functions: program management and product management.

“Ideally, an organization’s core digital program management function would be staffed by individuals who have a firm understanding of the capacity and capabilities of digital and who also have management expertise,” says Welchman. Even if it is called “digital” governance, its effectiveness boils down to how people are collaborative and act as a team. It is incredible how political and emotional those conversations may get when it comes to coming to an agreement on the priority level and the roles. What escalates this situation further is siloes. Speaking from an expansive experience in the field, Welchman believes that trying to create an integrated and effective online presence in an organization that is operationally siloed is a challenge indeed.

Even digital content teams are creating their own silos. What she sees is that there are two arms as far as content goes, one is looking at content as storytelling while another one is looking at the content as data. She thinks that organizations should pull those teams together to get them to understand that there should be an alliance between them and not a competition.

As she explains in these scenarios, it occurred to me that what makes me and many others interpret “digital governance” as bureaucracy is the hardship of creating connectivity across silos and departments, not the digital governance framework itself. This conversation also reminded me of our interview with Nuxeo’s CMO Chris McLaughlin as he stressed the importance of breaking down content silos: “Many organizations truly struggle to get a complete view of the information that they use to run their businesses on a daily basis. This is particularly true of unstructured information – or what we like to refer to as content. According to the most recent Gartner estimates, more than 80% of the information in the enterprise is unstructured and the amount of this information is growing at amazing rates. So, if this unstructured information, or content, is spread across any number of siloed systems, how can any organization properly manage its most valuable asset, its information?” He also noted that there has been an improvement in that regard across a number of different industries. “In banking and insurance, our customers are working to establish a 360-degree view of their customer information. In retail, manufacturing and consumer packaged goods, customers are seeking to better manage all of their brand assets, to avoid the spiraling costs of recreating assets that they already have and to speed distribution of these assets to a rapidly increasing network of digital consumers as well as retailers, distributors and other partner organizations. Finally, in Government, both federal and local agencies are looking to bridge siloes to provide better services to their constituents,” explained McLaughlin.

When it comes to the second function which is product management, Welchman suggests the core digital product management teams serve as a digital domain expert, a service provider, an integrator, and a business analyst—all at the same time so the organization’s entire digital system could work coherently on many different levels.

Another advantage of having an effective digital governance is to refrain from creating ROT (redundant, obsolete or trivial). Welchman warns that there is a full lifecycle around content. Ideally, organizations need to know when the content should be edited, when it should be removed, beyond that, when it is okay even to destroy that content inside the organization. However, in practice, many organizations are still dumping content out there. According to Welchman, when you have a good governance in place, you will automatically eliminate the risk of having ROT content.

My POV

The benefits of having effective digital governance in place are very conspicuous. The issue is the never-ending process. Organizations need digital governance not only to orchestrate their unstructured content but also, whether it’s GDPR, PIPEDA, ePrivacy Directive or AdChoices, digital businesses must keep their sites, apps, and ads in compliance with complex and ever-changing privacy laws and programs across the world. With the lack of access to information and without setting up a clear alignment on the goals, execution, deployment, and strategy across the entire organization, a claim on success in Digital Transformation remains, unfortunately, vague. Making that alignment is only possible through embracing the right digital governance.

Additionally, with the advent of technology and with the rise of artificial intelligence, there are so many cognitive platforms out there that provide organizations with centralized control of branding compliance, content and messaging across their entire digital presence, based on criteria they set. All digital businesses need to do is to define their digital teams as Welchman suggests and from there, find the most effective ways of creating a collaborative environment where all people act as a team.

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Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.