The Keys to Governance

Having worked with content and information management systems for the better part of two decades, I’m often asked where an organization should dedicate their often limited resources in order to improve findability and overall user satisfaction.  Though there are several “right” answers to this question, one of the best and simplest is to address governance.

Governance tends to be one of the less exciting topics in the knowledge and information management spheres, hence why I think it is often overlooked, but it is nonetheless critical.  It tends to be a relatively low cost effort with high ROI and strong potential for positively impacting information findability and user satisfaction.

Governance can be applied to virtually any component of an information management system.  For instance, you can define governance for the functionality of the system, search mechanism, information architecture, taxonomy, or content.  These components (and others, of course) comprise the system itself.  Likewise, each of these components needs to evolve to better suit the needs of the users over time. The evolution and improvement of these components must be governed in order that the decisions made serve the largest number of end users and don’t disrupt the system operations.

Regardless of whether you’re defining governance to manage the design, creation, or iteration of an entire system or one of its components, an effective governance plan will include the following pieces:

  1. Business Case – This will include a justification for why governance is required, including how it will help the users and the organization.
  2. Roles and Responsibilities – This section will detail, simply, who is allowed to do what regarding the creation, editing, and deletion or archive of whatever information management components are being governed.
  3. Policies and Procedures – The policies and procedures you define should be linked to the aforementioned roles and responsibilities.  In other words, your policies and procedures define how decisions are made, changes are actualized, and rules are enforced.  Wherever possible, these policies and procedures should be built directly into the system.
  4. Communications, Education, and Marketing – Often overlooked, the communications, education, and marketing of governance and the components they cover are critical to the success of an information management initiative.  My experience is that individuals can seldom be cajoled into following governance rules, but if properly educated as to the value of what they’re being asked to do, they will generally comply.

Developing these components in a clear and simple governance plan that your business users can understand will provide your information systems with the ability to evolve in a sustainable manner.

Zach Wahl Zach Wahl Expert in knowledge and information management strategy, content strategy, and taxonomy design. Zach is passionate about forming and supporting high-functioning teams and facilitating results-focused outcomes with his clients. More from Zach Wahl »