The benefits of taking an adaptable rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to problem solving was a realization that came to Carolina Ramirez while growing up around people from different cultures. She’s found that this technique also works well for digital governance.

“Instead of applying digital governance as a rigid set of rules, listening to the local needs and helping to mitigate risks, while still achieving the end-result is key,” she said.

Ramirez is currently digital governance and capacity building lead at UNICEF, a United Nations agency focused on improving the welfare of children and advocating for children’s rights around the world. In her role, she oversees UNICEF’s program to help global staff better manage its decentralized digital presence and to leverage and protect its brand.

Learn to Navigate an Organization’s Culture

Working at UNICEF was an ambition since art school where Ramirez saw the organization as providing a way for her to “put my art to good use for a good cause.” Ramirez first joined UNICEF in 2003 to manage multilingual websites after spending three years at the UN working as a web and graphic designer. She moved into her current digital governance role in 2014.

“One key element I have learnt is to be respectful of the context in which my colleagues work and to show empathy and flexibility,” Ramirez said. “I have also learnt that organizations have their own culture which you need to learn to navigate, especially when introducing new concepts, priorities and practices.”

Ramirez is a speaker at CMSWire’s DX Summit taking place Nov. 12 to Nov. 14 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. She will present a session titled “The ‘People Factor’ of a Digital Transformation – the UNICEF Case” on Nov. 13. Ramirez will also be co-presenting a workshop titled “Disruptor or the Disrupted — What Will Your Organization Be?” with independent digital governance advisor Kristina Podnar on Nov. 12.

We spoke with Ramirez for her take on how to position digital governance within an organization, on digital transformation and on the importance of taking a more creative approach to demonstrating regulatory compliance.

Use Digital Governance to Help Establish a Single Global Organization

CMSWire: What do you see as some of the major challenges for organizations trying to manage multilingual digital experiences for different audiences? How might organizations start to work to overcome and resolve those challenges?

Ramirez: One set of challenges are around how to ensure that your stakeholders, partners and the general public all see one organization and not a collection of organizations each with their own version of the brand and the brand voice and each with a different infrastructure.

Digital technology has grown quite organically and nowadays it is so easy to open a social media account or create a website. People often take risks, are less cautious, and move quickly with digital which they wouldn’t do with a non-digital product like a printed publication where they might take the time to engage experts to work on the research, content, layout, photography and printing.

When I brief peers, I usually say that a digital presence is like an iceberg: there is much more involved than meets the eye, which is where the biggest risks lie. Once people understand that, they are more willing to become aligned with digital governance.

Digital governance has become a key element to communicate the concept of a single organization with a global presence. If you can centralize the tools and create policies and standards that your colleagues can follow, then they have the freedom to create content which is relevant to their local audiences. Because not one size fits all, it is important to create a system that responds to the realities of the organization not only at headquarters but also on the ground locally.

CMSWire: How do you see digital governance, communities of practices and capacity building helping organizations optimize their investments in technology and people?

Ramirez: I truly believe that it is key with any technology project to put people at the center. And I’m not only talking about the intended audience for your digital product but also the people who will be managing the tools that will create a digital presence. It is also vital to recognize that a single tool will never respond to 100 percent of the needs of an organization, so you need to account for what the tool cannot do or deliver.

If you create a program to bring everyone working on digital in your organization together, you can build a solid community which people see as a go-to-place for advice or to share something they are excited about. Through that community, you can also become aware of staff’s learning needs so that then you can provide the tools, knowledge and direction to create better digital products.

At UNICEF, we’ve been very successful in using Microsoft’s Yammer to enable people who are geographically remote to communicate and connect with their colleagues in other groups doing similar jobs elsewhere in the world.

CMSWire: What advice would you have for organizations who’ve yet to embrace these concepts but would like to do so?

Ramirez: A good starting point is to assess where an organization is in terms of their digital maturity, where are the pain points and the biggest risks? What is the structure and the culture of the organization? Where does digital fit in the overall strategy of the organization or business? How does upper management see digital? Do you have the expertise in-house to create a digital governance framework or do you need external help?

These questions can help organizations embark on a journey to build a program that is fit for purpose. It is also important to be aware that this process takes time. Creating a program around digital governance at UNICEF has been a journey and we are still in the early stages.

CMSWire: How would you describe the focus and goals for UNICEF’s digital transformation project as it stands today and for the future? What lessons learned and best practices would you share with other organizations?

Ramirez: When we were thinking about digital transformation as a large organization, there were three distinct areas for transformation — technology, content and people. Our tools, including our CMS, were aging. We were looking to put in place technology which would be easy to use by our staff, which would be highly scalable and support multilingual websites and different customer sets.

Learning Opportunities

One big lesson was you can’t do one single investment and that’s it. You have to keep expanding your use of technology as the products continue to evolve and to continue innovating. We also recognized at an organizational level that we needed to develop a brand-new digital team and to bring in digital governance.

CMSWire: Why is it important that organizations view compliance with regulations such as GDPR as enabling rather than constraining creativity?

Ramirez: Nowadays, it is crucial to earn the trust of those who believe in and support the work done by your organization or business. Regulations such as GDPR were created to protect individuals by giving them the right to their own data and to determine how that data should be used. GDPR forced many organizations to rethink how they relate to their clients or supporters.

While many people may have felt a bit annoyed by the large number of ‘consent emails’ that companies sent in light of GDPR around May this year, there were some very creative responses from certain companies. For those organizations that took the time to explain what they were doing, I believe that work increased customers’ level of trust with them.

CMSWire: What is an example of taking a more creative approach to regulatory compliance and why is that beneficial?

Ramirez: A good example of this is easyJet’s video on GDPR. The airline presented very clearly in a more light-hearted way exactly how it plans to use passenger data to provide you with a better customer experience. That’s marketing as well as building trust. The customer knows that they’re not being taken for granted when it comes to the importance of the data they’re sharing with organizations.

Trust is not a one-way communication, it’s a two-way conversation. It’s easier to continue trust when companies provide full transparency on how they plan to use your data and why they need your consent.

CMSWire: You graduated from Parsons School of Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and your artwork continues to feature in exhibitions. How does your work life inform your creative life as an artist and vice versa? What parallels do you see between a digital transformation project and creating a painting?

Ramirez: Working in digital governance can sometimes feels like herding cats. Not all days are easy, so art is a nice change from some of the daily challenges.

I think there’s room in any discipline for creativity and I have had a chance to build teams, systems and programs in my work life that feed my creative needs. My work life has also provided me with the discipline that is often needed in art.

When I paint or draw, I have an overall idea of what I want to create but the artwork then takes a life of its own. I need to let the work evolve and not stick too rigidly to my initial vision. I find my artwork to be at its most successful when I give it room to grow, when I realize that I don’t have all the answers and that I need to be patient.

With a digital transformation project, you have a vision but you also need to let it evolve and grow and not be oblivious to the realities around that vision. In this way, your digital transformation project can flourish and not soon end up as something filed away in a ‘virtual cabinet drawer.’

Learn more about the Digital Customer Experience (DX) Summit here.