orderly, free for all

Website governance, at its core, is knowing everything will go right in a digital world where so many things can go wrong. The problem, of course, is figuring out what “right” actually means. 

Things Can Get Messy When You Scale

As companies grow and scale, they can easily reach a point of chaos (or an unmanaged state). In that state, their website structure is overwhelmingly complex: multiple CMS systems, teams building inconsistent websites, different production and management platforms, and an overall mess of disparate teams trying to create their ideal digital experience. 

In such cases, the IT department of a digital organization realizes the current state has reached a risky level of unknown complexity and cost. Their ability to service all their digital business needs is deteriorating and they need to implement a solution to stop the downward spiral.

With a proper system in place for governance, there’s no difference between managing three web properties, dozens or hundreds — the principles remain the same. But without website governance “rules of engagement,” the more a company scales, the greater the risk of a brand’s cohesiveness slipping away.

When this happens, the best hope for salvaging control lies in the hands of the IT digital team. But the solution isn’t IT managers tightening their grip on the company — that stifles innovation. Instead, companies should create a center of digital excellence that unifies teams and creates a business-driven system for bringing new ideas to the table. 

5 Steps to Successful Website Governance

A center of excellence must strike a balance between the two sides of governance: team structure (people, processes, policies) and operations (site procedures, security, consistent lifecycle delivery of the digital experience). Here are the five rules of engagement necessary for successful website governance: 

1. Identify and Build the Right Team

The right team acts as the heartbeat of website governance. Without the proper team, order cannot be properly architected and enforced. 

Strong governance teams represent digital business, IT and corporate-level interests, and include leaders that span creative, development, site building and operations. The corporate-level team member is likely the chief digital leader who knows how to translate positive digital experiences into site requirements and architectures to deliver the highest quality of service. 

Especially when you’re facing 20 global brands and hundreds of different teams, choosing team members who know how to collaborate and support a shared governance system that global teams can adopt is key to a strong foundation.

2. Establish a Repeatable Framework

A repeatable governance framework allows you to create a seamless digital experience from creation through operations. It sets the rules for how the above team plans, develops, delivers and operates in a way that contributes to the experience as a whole. 

The framework doesn’t need to be heavy, but it requires an in-depth assessment of people, processes and tools. IT digital technology managers can use the following questions to guide this framework:

  • Who are the members of my governance team across the lifecycle?
  • What is the current state of their situation and the challenges they’re facing?
  • Where do they want to take their company or organization’s digital content in the future? 

Websites play a growing role across companies and the demands for a seamless, chaos-free experience are high. A modern website must be global, personalized and able to handle the different digital applications that businesses publish and execute on. 

Think of this framework as a giant shared drive that holds your governance model for digital experience planning and development, ensuring everyone speaks the same language. Documenting a repeatable framework of content and site models, digital branding and IT digital operations policies is a great way to get started.

3. Develop a Digital Governance Model

Once you set up your framework, your next step is mapping the digital experience across your company.

The average company includes both corporate sites and brand sites that are managed locally. This is where things spiral quickly towards an inconsistent experience—especially when you bring multiple brands, countries and languages into the mix. To get back on track, establish what each of those sites have in common, both on the content level and at the site level.

The devil is always in the details. Consider whether your team uses the same content template, has the same approach to customer experience, and the same IT processes for backing up, restoring and copying sites globally. Do you have uniform content and site standards and service level agreements in place? Will you run into any corporate-level compliance or consistency issues? 

Updating and aligning every facet of your website stack creates a system of record that shows whether everything works correctly, and gives visibility across every single site. Digital governance teams gain visibility into the brand's digital experiences — how they operate and why — which increases consistency, compliance and overall trust.

4. Create and Manage the Digital Service Lifecycle

Part of the digital governance team's role is acting as the gatekeepers for planning, delivering and operating sites. They must create a digital DevOps-like process for accepting or rejecting new changes and requests in a more streamlined fashion, ensuring everyone knows the state of the websites every day. 

The team will likely assess and update the lifecycle model once or twice a year to ensure all processes are up-to-date.

5. Automate Governance in the Platform

To make the work of the governance team truly effective, manual maintenance should only be used when necessary. Unlike the governance team, the automation team is not centralized. Automation is a joint effort implemented across different digital platform teams. 

This requires a digital platform that can control the settings, access, privileges and content for every site and automate the delivery and operations of each component. Putting the right tools in place means different business consumers will be presented with global sites that connect back to a central system of record.

Website Governance Keeps Everyone on the Same Track

A center of excellence in place delivers advantages organization-wide. Digital marketing teams are tasked with getting their jobs done faster than ever before. When the website governance team does the work on the front end to create a standardized level of control, this eliminates chaos before, during and after the life of a digital experience. 

In short, with so many processes happening at once, building a center of excellence ensures the actions of one team won’t derail the work of another — and that everyone is working to create the most secure, on-brand, personalized digital experience possible.