- "It's how we set strategy"
- "It's how we make decisions"
- "It's how we manage operations"
- "It's how we do ... you know ... stuff"
Part of the issue is that for a long time governance was simply a convenient label for just about any operational or leadership problem on a site.
If you had interpersonal issues on your team, governance was all about roles and responsibilities.
If your challenge was establishing high level direction, for you governance concerned strategy and leadership.
Thus, governance has been defined not in any unified way, but as a woolly catch-all for the many disparate elements connected with running a digital service.
This type of fuzzy thinking is not new.
Remember how the term web design used to be bandied about?
Depending on whom you talked to it meant everything from graphic design to user experience to the process of design itself and more besides.
As we now know, design is not a single thing. Instead, it encompasses a wide set of activities, skills and other elements that together add up to a discipline called design.
The same is true of governance.
Governance is not a single activity
There is no solitary document, organisational structure or set of standards I can point to and say, "There - that is my governance".
Rather, it is a system - a system that unites the many distinct elements connected with online operations and allows them to be organised in a cohesive way.
In that vein, the definition I typically use is as follows:
Governance is a system that describes how to manage a digital product or service in a controlled and orderly way.
The principal benefit of governance is that it delivers operational certainty and stability.
Good governance means you don't have to worry about things like inadequate authority or too little manpower.
Rather, you have everything you need configured in the right way, so that you can just get on with things and focus your effort on pursuing online goals.
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About Shane Diffily
I am an experienced commentator on web operations. In 2015, I released the web's first online training course in website management and governance. Back in 2006 I published the Website Manager's Handbook, the original guide to online operations.