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Does your organization have a governance problem?

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Your website probably has an “About” section, and you likely share details about your programs through social media. But look closer, and you may see how your digital presence says a lot more than you intend about your organization. Like, how you aren’t aligned around a central strategy or not as agile as you aspire to be. 

Peppered throughout your digital presence are clues that point to internal challenges. Maybe your visitor clicks a link and comes to an error page or maybe they land on another site entirely. Worse yet, they get frustrated as they’re prompted to log in for the third time, or disappointed by irrelevant search results. On the surface, these issues are called “user experience” problems and can be addressed through a site redesign. But investing in a new site may not address the root cause – governance. 

Digital governance is an organizational framework that defines roles and responsibilities for setting digital priorities, funding for initiatives, and the measurement of results. In short, it’s how you make better decisions and create a better Mission Experience for your constituents. Without formal governance in place, your digital channels become disjointed and a poor reflection of your values. 

If you are wondering if you might have a digital governance problem in your organization, here are some clues.

  • Bad user experience – all those complaints about how confusing it is to navigate through the website or how difficult it is to register for an event on a mobile device are examples of a bad user experience. They also indicate a digital governance issue. Organizations with weak governance tend to have several stakeholder groups that “own” a part of the digital presence. In this scenario, individual business lines initiate digital projects to meet their program objectives. While their intent is to support the mission, decisions made about content, design and implementation may be out of step with what constituents need. Multiply this by several program areas over a period of years, and you begin to see how the organization’s digital presence can be as confusing as the Tokyo subway map. Digital governance clarifies roles and responsibilities and helps organizations make decisions that better serve constituents’ online needs.
  • Inability to measure impact – intuitively, you know you need a digital presence and there’s mounting internal pressure to invest in it, but do you fully understand why? If your organization doesn’t have a way to quantify the impact of digital programs on your mission’s goals, that’s a clear sign you have a governance problem. Traffic reports and vanity metrics about click-throughs or page views are meaningless if they don’t help you understand how the investment made a difference to your constituents or helped your organization grow. Formal digital governance enables stakeholders to define success and set key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine if digital programs are successful.
  • You can’t easily pivot – No one could have predicted how quickly we needed to shift to digital-only operations when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, but if your organization struggled to make decisions or mobilize resources to implement rapid change across your digital properties, you likely have governance issues. When there’s clarity around roles and responsibilities, organizations have better agility. They can respond more quickly to a crisis and their digital channels are readily used for communications and delivering critical programs to their constituents. Digital governance provides transparency and eliminates guess work so when priorities suddenly shift, the organization can move in lockstep.

If any of the above scenarios sound like your organization, you may want to take a deeper look at digital governance. Investigate surface-level pain points like confusing navigation to determine the root causes such as internal turf wars or misalignment around priorities. Establishing formal digital governance will alleviate organizational challenges that get in the way of serving your mission online, and that’s saying a lot. 

Do you think you have a digital governance issue? I’d be happy to discuss your specific challenges. Email me directly at

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