digital services governance

Governance critical as digital services expand

Every day, more citizens contact government through a digital service. But this shift brings up a core challenge for many government organizations: website governance.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a playbook for website governance inside most government agencies. Instead, what you’ll often find is a branding and messaging guide from the marketing team and a list of processes and requirements for change management from the security and enterprise architecture team. But these guidelines can sometimes be narrow and siloed. Often, they don’t get revamped to keep up with changing digital trends, leaving employees with years-old, legacy documents that provide less value in an increasingly connected world.

Website governance is crucial to maintaining order as standards change and digital touchpoints expand. It helps agencies ensure a unified view of information and plays a key role in the future of digital citizen engagement.

It’s time for agencies to rethink their existing processes and engineer a more agile approach to meeting citizens’ needs. This might mean following the Digital Services Playbook for CIOs or working with 18F to build a project that takes an agile approach.

At the end of the day, establishing governance within any organization, inside or outside the public sector, is an involved process, but it isn’t about starting from scratch. To make governance a reality, agencies must consolidate, centralize and modernize, making the most of existing resources to become more efficient and citizen-friendly. Here are the top strategies agencies should follow when working toward a governance model.

Assemble the right team. Consider assigning one individual to be the owner of the agency’s governance playbook. Ideally, as an agency leader, this senior-level employee will have a strong understanding of what users need and should focus on getting digital resources organized in a way that helps all departments do their jobs more efficiently. Also consider appointing a governance team that represents the interests of each department, from website building and operations to creative. Good governance is a team effort.

Focus on reusing resources. Any governance model that will be leveraged across an organization requires ground rules or a framework for the people, processes and tools involved in making everything run smoothly. With the average organization producing a wide range of digital content, it’s important to implement a system that enforces organization and order. Otherwise, each department will be siloed, unaware of resources that might’ve already been created and could have saved valuable time and money. To that end, constant communication among departments is key, and having all company resources in a single place helps make that level of communication a reality.

Say goodbye to legacy systems. Many agencies are using legacy systems that have long needed updating. These systems make change very difficult, and adding a new website becomes a time-consuming and expensive process that often involves starting from scratch. When important site updates are difficult to complete, the reality is that they often don’t happen at all. The result? Loss of control, security risks, increased spend and an overall slower pace of innovation in government. While it may seem obvious, it’s worth stating: a technology policy is impossible to implement without the right technology in place. Knowing exactly what tools and people your agency needs to make its governance strategy a reality is essential.

The benefits of an effective governance framework go far beyond simplifying processes on the infrastructure level. When approached properly, governance can lay the groundwork for greater innovation, cross-agency collaboration and ultimately a well-executed approach to serving citizens’ changing digital needs.

About the Author

Dan Katz is technical director for the public sector at Acquia.

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