Taking Ownership through Digital Governance
Ownership can take on many forms.
In the IT and business space, ownership is often expressed in total cost of ownership (TCO), as in how much a product or service will cost when factoring in the initial cost, maintenance, upgrades, training and other fees that surface over time.
Ownership can also represent how an entire department or a single executive views a certain service, property or even information. Setting up a digital governance framework puts a specific team "in charge" of digital assets and ensures that a level of quality is maintained, while avoiding any infighting over who is responsible for what.
Digital governance is essentially a system that establishes accountability, roles and a decision-making authority for an organization's digital footprint. This typically includes its Websites, mobile sites, social media channels and other Web-facing products and services.
As digitization continues to take hold of organizations, the importance of digital governance cannot be understated. It's a process that may upset the status quo, yet without a proper structure, unmanned digital assets will, at best, continue to be neglected, or, at worst, cause an organization to fade into obscurity.
A digital governance strategy provides a means of measuring accountability and offers a clear view into ownership. It provides a straightforward, black-and-white take on what can often be tinged with shades of gray: Responsibility. After all, no one enjoys botching a presentation or forgetting to update a business-critical module. But, as human beings, it seems our first instinct is to sidestep blame, or look for reasons other than our own shortcomings when things fall apart.
Taking ownership of our own misjudgments or simple forgetfulness takes a healthy amount of humility and some honest self-assessment. Yet sometimes you need to hold your own in the face of adversity.
I recently took a trip to Zion National Park in southern Utah. The park is breathtaking, with massive, narrow sandstone canyons colored in reds, oranges, pinks. There are dozens of trails, and one of the more popular trails is called The Narrows, which entails walking through Zion Canyon and traversing the Virgin River, a relatively shallow river prone to flash floods that is filled with slick boulders and river rocks. (It's not quite as treacherous as it sounds.)
Most hikers use walking sticks in The Narrows to keep from falling or twisting an ankle. Some of the camp grounds rent these wooden walking sticks, which can be fairly elaborate and require putting down a deposit. After my wife and I hiked a portion of The Narrows for a few hours in the 104-degree high-desert heat, we hopped on a shuttle that would bring us back to the park's entrance. As we settled into our seats, a boy about 10 or 11 said, half-panicked, "My walking stick!"
The shuttle was several miles from The Narrows when the boy realized he left the stick at the trail site. He told his mother that he lent the stick to another boy, and the boy didn't put the stick back with the others.
"We're going to lose our deposit," the mother said, clearly not happy. The father, a big guy with a slight Aussie accent, stood by, cringing.
"It's not my fault! He didn't put it back," the boy explained.
"No, it's never your fault, is it?" his mom said, not harsh, but seemingly more out of an obligation to say something that a mother should say for the benefit of her fellow travelers.
"Well, sometimes things are my fault. But sometimes they aren't," he said.
That was a remarkably honest self-assessment, delivered without defensiveness. It's the kind of ownership we all need to demonstrate, and the kind a good digital governance policy can give an organization.
As the shuttle pulled into the next trail site, the father said to the boy, "Come on, we'll get off here and take the next one back."
The father and son hustled off the shuttle, while the mother and her two younger children remained on board. She said they would meet them back at their campground.
I don't know if they found the missing walking stick. But if the cosmos rewards a good attitude, they deserved to find it.
Patrick K. Burke is senior editor of CIO Insight and Baseline.
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