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You Rolled Out Your Remote Workplace in Record Time. Now Let's Talk Governance

April 30,2020 Collaboration and Productivity
By Steve Bynghall

When it comes to the digital workplace, governance and expediency are not always the best of friends. Governance essentially takes a longer-term view, establishing controls, processes and rules that makes the digital workplace sustainable going forward. Expediency tends to yield to the short-term view, cutting corners to drive forwards an immediate need, with the mid- to longer-term view filed under “worry about it later.”

Of course, with the COVID-19 crisis, expediency has been the primary concern of most digital workplace teams with urgent needs to provide business continuity. Many digital workplace professionals have had to rush to support vastly scaled-up remote working, potentially rolling out new collaboration tools, accelerating the launch of Microsoft Teams, Zoom and so on.

By all accounts it sounds like most digital workplace teams have done pretty well and probably after a few hiccups here and there, people are now getting into their rhythm, working remotely and getting on with using the new tools at their disposal.

Now Is the Time to Consider Governance

If you have successfully achieved some state of business continuity, then you have done very well. Now it is time to start thinking about governance and introducing it as soon as possible.

For example, many organizations will have rolled out Microsoft Teams and bypassed some of the essential governance steps that help you to manage the platform and ensure it doesn’t corrode into a messy sprawl that employees find increasingly frustrating to use.

Leave a Microsoft Teams platform in place in its current state and a few months down the line you may have significant issues with a proliferation of spaces, leading to:

  • Many duplicated and unused sites, making management of the platform harder.
  • Higher risk of misuse of a Teams space.
  • Poor findability where users cannot find the right space.
  • People using Teams in a sub-optimal way, for example where another tool would be better.
  • Users feeling overwhelmed with too many spaces and channels.
  • A lack of information about the sites on the platform that make it harder for the central team to manage.

Of course, similar problems can apply to any collaboration tool that has been rolled out.

Related Article: The Time to Reel in Ad-Hoc Collaboration Is Now

Introducing Retrospective Governance

The word governance makes some digital workplace teams nervous. It still has negative connotations. By establishing some rules and processes on their site owner community or their users, they feel like an overprotective parent who is breaking up a teenage party. They also worry they will introduce a barrier to adoption or add to the workload they are creating for themselves. There may also be a natural reluctance to introduce another change that may feel like it impedes current ways of working, which are already strained because of the lockdown.

All these concerns are legitimate. Typically at Spark Trajectory when we discuss governance with our clients we try and emphasize:

  • Governance is a balance and needs to be right for you — it’s not about being too bureaucratic or creating work for work’s sake.
  • Governance can be viewed through an improvement lens: this is about putting rules in place to make your platform and the related user experience more successful, not less successful.
  • Involving users and their feedback in how you introduce governance can help compliance and also get that balance right.
  • Although we would usually advocate for a comprehensive approach, some governance is usually better than no governance.
  • This is about the medium- to long-term view. Most investments in digital workplace tools are made with that longer-term view in mind.

Particularly if you are introducing retrospective governance into your digital workplace when everybody is working from home, using site owner and user feedback to shape your approach will have real value.

Related Article: Digital Governance vs. Office 365 Governance: Which Do You Need?

What Are the Priority Areas for Governance?

If you've just rolled out Microsoft Teams or similar, there will be some particular priority areas of governance to focus on. These include:

  1. Getting a comprehensive list of spaces that have been established including names, owners, the purpose of the site and so on. You need this information to be able to put processes in place to avoid site sprawl and to maintain a central register of sites going forward.
  2. Get some control or oversight of the site provisioning process. Site provisioning is at the center of effective governance here. You either need to be able to put in some kind of approval process or be able to gather information to provide some kind of retrospective review, to avoid site duplication, high-risk sites or unused sites.
  3. Establish a site or space review process. Have some kind of regular site or space review process where either the site owner reviews whether the site needs to be kept, improved or deleted, either a few weeks or months after creation. You will also need an additional review process where the central team has identified a site is a duplicate or high risk. You may need to apply these reviews to sites already created.
  4. Review the central administration controls. On a platform like Microsoft Teams you can actually do quite a bit of central configuration to establish governance. These may need to be reviewed if you rolled out an application quickly, and can be looked at with the benefit of hindsight to identify any issues that have arisen.
  5. Work out site roles and responsibilities. Having clarity over what a site owner is expected to do to manage their site is critical in managing a platform going forward.

Related Article: Governance Still Matters in a Digital Workplace

Governance Makes Things Easier, Not Harder

Digital workplaces have probably matured more in the past few weeks than in the past few years. With adoption and roll out done at such a frenetic pace, governance needs to be applied. It may feel slightly counterintuitive to move forward with governance measures at a time like this, but it comes down to making your platform easier to use, not harder, both during and after the pandemic.

About the Author

Steve Bynghall is a freelance consultant and writer based in the UK. He focuses on intranets, collaboration, social business, KM and the digital workplace.

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