Illustrated collage of website icons's Guide to Digital Governance: An Introduction and Starting at the 10,000ft View’s Guide to Digital Governance is intended to help get you started when developing a governance plan for your institution’s digital communications.


In this age of information, digital communications are perhaps the most vital form of outreach an organization has for presenting itself to the world. Today it is probably more likely that a person’s first experience or interaction with your organization will occur through the internet. It is then no wonder that most institutions feel they must have a website or they have to be on Facebook and Twitter. These are now the places where reputations are built and managed.

There are no shortages of services and materials for building a digital presence, whether it is on the web or a social network; however there is less focus on how these presences will be managed and maintained after they are built. This is the all-important and too-often neglected role of digital governance, otherwise known as the ownership, management, and sustainability plan for an organization’s various digital communications platforms.

Governance seems simple at a distance – it is the set of rules an organization will follow for its digital communications – but the devil is in the detail, and the details are precisely where the process of defining a governance plan becomes prickly. The details are also where many will become bogged down, lose momentum, and set the plans aside, never to be addressed again until a problem arises.

To help get you started developing a governance plan for your institution’s digital communications, I have put together a guide that outlines many of the questions you will want to answer in thinking through policies and guidelines in your governance plan.

The format is literally a series of questions you can answer that will help you begin to consider key issues in digital governance and how you want to handle them.

The guide is based largely on work I have done in higher education, but I have generalized here for broad use across industries.

The guide has sixteen sections that follow a specific order intended to help you start at a high-level of thinking about your digital communications, properties and assets, and then focus on greater and greater levels of detail.

The sections are as follows:

  1. Starting at the 10,000ft View – Define the digital ecosystem your governance planning will encompass.
  2. Properties and Platforms – Define all the sites, applications and tools that live in your digital ecosystem.
  3. Ownership – Consider who ultimately owns and is responsible for each site, application and tool.
  4. Intended Use – Establish the fundamental purpose for the use of each site, application and tool.
  5. Roles and Permissions – Define who should be able to do what in each system.
  6. Content – Understand how ownership and permissions should apply to content.
  7. Organization – Establish how the content in your digital properties should be organized and structured.
  8. URLs – Define how URL patterns should be structured in your websites.
  9. Design – Determine who owns and is responsible for the many aspects design plays in digital communications and properties.
  10. Personal Websites – Consider the relationship your organization should have with personal websites of members of your organization.
  11. Private Websites, Intranets and Portals – Determine the policies that should govern site which are not available to the public.
  12. Web-Based Applications – Consider use and ownership of web-based tools and applications.
  13. E-Commerce – Determine the role of e-commerce in your website.
  14. Broadcast Email – Establish guidelines for the use of broadcast email to constituents and customers.
  15. Social Media – Set standards for the establishment and use of social media tools within the organization.
  16. Digital Communications Governance – Keep the guidelines you create updated and relevant.

Starting at the 10,000ft View

When I first begin to think about digital governance for any organization, I like to back up as far as I can to see everything I should include in my planning, or what people sometimes call the 10,000ft view.

Digital communications can encompass many different things, from websites to social networks to broadcast email, so I suggest backing up to the point where you are looking at the various platforms that will be part of your planning.

Here is a list of some common platforms encompassed in a digital communications strategy:

  • Public Websites
  • Private Websites
  • Intranets & Portals
  • Web-Based Applications
  • E-Commerce
  • Social Networks
  • Digital Media
  • Broadcast Email
  • Digital Communications Governance* 

This list contains the common “properties” or platforms on which a digital communications strategy is built, or at the very least they are some basic categories for the grouping of such properties.

For instance, your organization may have a main website with many sub-sites or microsites. Others may be combined in your institution; for example, all of your web-based applications may be built within your Intranet site.

Make your own list align with the properties you need to include in your governance plan. These will be your top level categories.

* Few among us would likely think to include “Digital Communications Governance” on this list, but I do so precisely for that reason, and because I want to reinforce that Governance (its documents, people, and processes) is a living thing that needs to be maintained over time, just like the rest of the list.

It’s oddly self-referential to think about governance for Governance, but think of it like the part of the Constitution that describes how to amend the Constitution.

This is the first post in our new series, Palantir's Guide to Digital Governance. Check back on our blog every Monday for the next step in developing your digital governance plan.