Most organisations understand that a good governance policy is essential for any technology deployment. So they create a governance plan. Done. Unfortunately that’s not the way it works. Governance is a complicated beast and many-a-plan has failed to be implemented because of lack of communication, over complication or producing an epic document that no one reads.
During her presentation at Enterprise Collaboration Innovation & Tech Fest, Knowledge Management expert Susan Hanley outlined three common mistakes people make with governance plans and shares her advice on how you can avoid making them.
1. People don’t know why they should follow your governance policy
What often happens with governance plans is that they’re produced (usually a lengthy document) along with an email to staff saying it’s there and they should refer to it for any guidance around your enterprise collaboration solution. This method of communication is what I call “toss it over the fence and hope that someone catches it”. Do this and it’s very unlikely that your governance document is going to be read, let alone followed.
Once your governance policy is finished, make sure you communicate why it is important. Simply stating that people should follow it is not going to cut it. Telling people that they have to follow these policies just because is not going to be as effective as telling them if you tag your document it will make it easier to find later on. Or by following this policy you are helping us avoid legal issues.
Think about your own governance policies and what positive effects will flow from following them. Are there some time consuming tasks that can be sped up by following the correct governance policy? Will complying with these policies improve business productivity? Will it help staff build better working relationships with their colleagues? Most people have a commitment to making the business work as well as to their colleagues but only if they understand why they are doing it.
2. You make it hard for people to be compliant
Complying with a governance policy is important, especially when there are legal ramifications. For example, one of the bigger issues especially in the US is that if you have a governance policy and you’re not following it, you have created a big litigation risk. So one of the real reasons to focus on governance is to avoid the risk of not meeting legal requirements or having to spend a lot of money in the eDiscovery process when you get sued.
But perhaps people don’t know about this risk (see number one above) or the process for complying contains so many steps and is so time consuming that people are not going to bother with it.
Automate as much as possible to take the hard work out of complying with your governance policy. Use templates so that good governance is built right in. Provide “just in time” training so that governance guidelines (such as naming conventions for documents) are available in context in the places where users create and upload documents. When possible, use tools and technologies to make it easier to ensure compliance.
3. Your governance policy is a beast of a document
We’re really good at writing 100+ page governance documents. Even if you believe it’s a masterpiece and you can think of nothing better than pouring a good glass of red and settling in for the night to read it, I don’t know many people who would agree. It’s a shame because your governance plan actually contains valuable information that people need to know.
No one reads long documents so don’t create a governance plan as a long, boring document. Think about creating small bits of consumable information that you can deliver just in time and just when people need the information. Single topic, focused web pages and quick guides are a great way to easily great small, visually appealing consumable bits of governance guidance.
If you really want to make it easy for people, deliver your governance content in the context of where people work. For the most part, people won’t pay much attention to governance (or training) until they need to know how to do something. Try to go for “just in time governance”: small chunks of governance information delivered at the moment you need it.
For example, if I’m creating a document, I’m probably concentrating on writing the document, not thinking about what file naming convention I should use. I’m only worried about this when it comes to saving my document. So ideally you want your quick guide about file naming conventions to surface when I’m about to save it. Like magic!
Although governance plans can be seen as just a necessity, the information in your plan is extremely valuable and can help make life easier, not harder, for your users. Make sure you’re communicating the value to your users, making it easy through automation tools and providing “just in time” governance and training.
About the Author
Susan Hanley is an Office 365 MVP and an expert in knowledge management. She was also a top rated speaker at Enterprise Collaboration Innovation & Tech Fest.
Sue’s client list includes many of the Fortune 500 along with some of the world’s leading academic, professional services, and not-for-profit organisations. Sue is an avid skier, so if you want to find her in the winter, it’s best to look on the ski slopes!
Image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/ and Stuart Miles