Your first question might be; what is digital governance anyway? I go into it in some detail in a prior post, but it’s worth a primer here. Likely you’re familiar with privacy by design and data governance, maybe even agile governance. These are the responsibility of different parts of the organisation, from marketing to IT and customer service. When it comes to digital governance however, this is a whole-of-organisation approach starting at the board of directors level and impacts the entirety of the business. It is how a digitally mature organisation governs itself, reduces risk and fosters a better workplace culture. It is as equal in importance to a fully digital company, such as SaaS or DaaS as it is to a company that is physical and becoming more digitally mature.
Another benefit to implementing digital governance for the organisation also help the senior management team and board of directors take a more active role in a digital transformation and encouraging digital maturity across the organistion.
The diagram below considers the primary parts of a digital governance framework. They must all fit together under the umbrella of governance, rather then piecemeal by department. which has been the most common approach. As digital tools and ways of working become the norm, governance will be critical. For Canadian and EU companies and in countries where privacy laws are becoming stricter and better defined, good digital governance can be critical for when data breaches happen and litigation follows.
Board of Directors: A good board is always looking at serious risks to the organisation. Few understand the risks and implications of a data breach. Today, as organisations become more digital there are additional risks board directors need to be aware of. These include diversity and inclusivity which has impacts in a digital workplace. Then there’s the increased use of Artificial Intelligence and inherent risks. Canadian property company Cadillac-Fairview discovered this the heard way when they used AI and face recognition technology on mall shoppers without their consent. It was a PR nightmare and litigation followed. Their board had no idea what was being done, but likely would not have understood the risks anyway. Then there’s fines from privacy laws.
Data: The increased use of data and storing it has many implications across departments in the organisation. Then there is the new approach to treating data as an asset, called Infonomics. IT departments struggle to keep costs down, but to deliver digital services rapidly and in ways they aren’t often familiar with. IT typically governs and manages data, but new demands are being put on IT and sometimes, departments use Cloud-based services and collect data IT isn’t even aware of. This brings organisational risk.
People: As hybrid models become the norm and some team members may be hired without ever physically meeting their manager, issues such as diversity in hiring or using AI to screen candidates (we know there is racial, gender and cultural bias issues with AI) can be an issue. HR departments need to work closely with IT today, from selecting software apps to choosing policies. Then there’s updating policies from social media to harassment and so on.
IT: The old days of the IT department being treated as a cost-centre and being a sort of blackhole and place for nerds is coming to an end. IT should be seen as a partner and roles like a CIO and CTO need to play a part in corporate strategy. This means agile governance and taking a more dynamic approach to servicing the organisation and in some cases, having revenue responsibilities.
Privacy: As laws change in Western countries to protect consumers and citizens, this places a new dynamic of governance on organisations. From privacy-by-design approaches to privacy impact assessments, these need to be included within a digital governance framework.
This is a framework that can help organisations small to large, corporate to public sector, consider how they’ll include governance for a digital age. It is certainly adaptable and will look different depending on the size, business and operating model of the organisation. It can hopefully spark a discussion in the board room.