Kristina Podnar Digital Workplace Leader profile

Kristina Podnar found her calling by “pure accident” after discovering an almost complete lack of digital governance and policies in her early work life at a digital agency and then as a digital consultant.

“I quickly saw the bad things that could happen,” she said. “It seemed like there had to be a better way to go about managing digital and keep people from doing dumb things.”

Podnar has since built a career as an independent digital governance advisor working with enterprises, government and not-for-profit organizations to help them develop their own digital policy frameworks. “It’s the regulatory and legal mandates that organizations must follow, as well as best practices that create opportunity and competitive advantage for the business,” she said.

Governance in the Digital Workplace 

When looking at today’s digital workplaces, Podnar noted that many organizations lack governance and policy around the management of their technologies. She gave the example of an organization in the middle of an Office 365 migration with over 4,500 SharePoint sites and seven terabytes of SharePoint data. Lack of governance means the company doesn’t know if all of those sites are being used or maintained and whether or not there are any legal consequences attached to deleting those sites.

Most organizations are also struggling to understand and stay on top of which local, national and international mandates apply to their businesses. “Digital laws and regulations are still in their infancy and there is little consistency,” Podnar said. “We’re only going to see more and more legislation and regulation coming.” For instance, hard on the heels of the European Union’s impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come the EU’s ePrivacy Regulation.

“All this should be a wake-up call to companies to bring in digital policy services,” Podnar said. “It’s not simply legislation and regulation, it’s about keeping your house in order.”

Podnar will be speaking at CMSWire and Digital Workplace Group’s Digital Workplace Experience taking place June 18 to 20 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. She will give a workshop on June 18 titled “Digital Workplace Integrity and Productivity.”

We spoke with Podnar about the issues and roles organizations typically forget to include in their digital policies and why companies should consider hiring a digital policy director.

Most Intranets Are 'A One-Way Publishing Road' 

CMSWire: As companies try to come up with digital governance policies for their digital workplaces, what kind of issues do they tend to forget about?

Podnar: Most organizations forget that the digital workplace has customers just like the organization’s public-facing site. Just because they may not be buying a product or service, does not mean you should not pay attention to your employees’ and affiliates’ needs or right to a good online experience.

The most common thing organizations forget about is accessibility, the development of internal digital channels so that everyone, regardless of ability, can use the channel and access information and services. And certainly accessibility is a legal issue, but it is also an opportunity to get more productivity from staff. Especially consider the aging employee population who might not have visual or hearing impairments, but do face motor skill challenges. Making their digital workplace accessible can lead to significant productivity gains.

Organizations often also forget about branding or look and feel, search optimization and ROT — redundant, outdated, trivial information.

Consider what happens on most intranets today. It is a one-way publishing road — nothing is ever taken down or retired. That creates a burden on individuals searching for authoritative information, but it also places the organization at risk in case of a lawsuit as it is hard to account for what information you have or don’t have on hand and can produce within the court-required timeframe.

CMSWire: Can digital policies help encourage rather than repress innovation? 

Podnar: Contrary to popular belief, policies do not constrain creativity, but rather they stimulate innovation and creativity because they give you a clear sense of the outer limits of what you can do and the rest is an open canvas to be painted. 

Using accessibility as an example again, you have so many color choices to apply to your digital workplace. The only requirement from an accessibility perspective is that the colors have contrast for those who are colorblind. But you are in no way limited to boring shades or only certain colors. You can be as spirited, expressive, creative as you want to be. You just need to keep the contrast piece in mind. 

CMSWire: Why do some organizations find it so difficult to adopt a holistic approach to creating or updating their digital policies? How should such companies think about the role of a digital policy director?

Podnar: There are two reasons why organizations find it difficult to adopt and update digital policies:

  1. There is not a specific owner for the creation and update process.
  2. The benefits of policies have not been clearly demonstrated to the organization.

If policies are everyone’s job, then they are nobody’s job. That’s just a reality. Without clear accountability, nobody usually volunteers for policy development because they have a regular day job and policies aren’t thought of as fun. So this needs to be made part of someone’s actual job and he or she need to be given enough runway to create and support policy adoption in the organization.

The mistake organizations can make is just placing a random person into the role of policy director. Finding someone with a knack for digital who also understands the industry and is good at change management will translate into the highest change for digital workplace success. 

CMSWire: In your experience, is there one or more department or role that tends to get overlooked when a company looks to establish a digital policy?

Podnar: I am uncertain why, but it is rare to have organizations heavily involve HR in their cross-functional digital policy team. It seems odd that human-centric efforts don’t usually involve HR. But that is also the group that should be most adept at internal communications and change management. So involving that department is smart.

Finance is also often overlooked, and yet they are the department with budget authority and can help build a solid business case for establishing a digital policy program.

CMSWire: How should companies be preparing to comply with the EU’s GDPR?

Podnar: Most companies are paying attention to their external marketing and sales efforts when it comes to GDPR and are not paying attention to what that means for internal organization compliance.

Organizations should be establishing a GDPR policy that addresses employee rights, namely:

  • Right to be informed how personal data is collected and will be used;
  • Right of access and rectification of data that is inaccurate or incomplete (especially credit or criminal background check information);
  • Right to block or suppress processing of personal data (inclusive of where information is processed);
  • Right to data portability, which allows employees to obtain their data in electronic format and reuse their personal data (e.g., historical health benefit information to obtain insurance coverage with a new employer);
  • Right to be forgotten.

And obviously there should be a program that helps realize these rights, which requires not just training and process changes, but the adjustment of systems. So there is a good amount of work organizations need to undertake, but I think most are waiting to see how widely GDPR will be enforced before making such a significant investment.

CMSWire: Which historical period would you like to have lived in and why? What role would you have wanted to take and what attracts you to it?

Podnar: I would love to have lived in the Edo period in Japan as the Japanese people and their culture fascinate me. The society has a lot of policies and standards that govern Japanese life, and yet that same culture which can seem restrained is wildly innovative. Especially during the Edo period, there were so many Japanese cultural outputs and advances, such as haiku poetry, kabuki drama and puppet theater.

I would have loved to be an Onna-bugeisha female warrior during the Edo period. While women were marginalized, the Onna-bugeisha warriors engaged in battle and often fought alongside samurai. They were considered nobility and protected their families, households and villages. It seems like an exciting and demanding time in history and one which represents the balance of forces that is often spoken about in Japanese culture. 

Learn more about the Digital Workplace Experience here.