To work, governance needs to be embedded. Sure there are a lot of other factors that come in to play and doing a good job of defining scope, communicating, and socializing your governance is important too. However, embedding your governance makes it easy for the folks who are stakeholders in your governance program to participate and it lets you know if they aren’t. So what does embedding mean? Basically, I’m talking about workflow and workflow management. I won’t get too deep into the technical aspects of things because there are a lot of ways to accomplish this objective. The intent here is to put forward a few ideas about what I think it takes to make governance work. This is foundational to managing the information within your organization that is valuable enough for you to place it under specific governance.
First, embedded governance needs to be part of an explicit workflow process enabled by technology. By this I mean you need to have thought about the process and information set you are trying to govern enough to clearly define it and you need to have a technology capable of supporting “embedding” it. I’m going to be less focused on the technology part in this article and more on what the process and technology should provide.
To start, you need a clear definition of the information required within the process. This is probably THE most important part of the process. People, positions, roles, processes and technology often change at a much more rapid pace in comparison to the data that is critical to the organization. Thinking about the data first gives you a solid foundation to work forward from to develop everything else. Working forward from the data makes it much easier to define the people, roles, and positions that need to be involved in the process in order to provide, evaluate, or process the data along the route.
Once you have defined the what (data) and the who (people/roles/positions), it is important to think about the how. Sequencing and path are critical elements of making the governance work efficiently. Having a mechanism that ensures that people come into the process at the right time ensures efficiency. It also reduces the frustration that is often felt by those involved in governance processes that allow participation in a loose fashion. Loose or uncontrolled processes practically ensure that most participants will have to review the information set on multiple occasions to get their work done. Wasting people’s time is not a good incentive to participate in the governance process you are developing and building in as many mechanisms as possible to ensure this doesn’t occur is good practice in establishing effective governance. In addition to the efficiency it brings, it will also raise data quality. People are simply more willing to participate and put forward effort in processes where there has been a clear effort made towards ensuring the best use of their time.
Also beneficial is thinking about the types of metrics that may be important to the process. Is the time it takes to move from step to step in the process important? If so, you should define those metrics appropriately for each step in the process. Data quality and completeness are two other areas that are critical to monitor during the course of the process. You can’t make good decisions without a level of completeness and quality of data commensurate with your purposes. Of course there are certainly other areas that should be measured along the way and I’d be very interested in getting your thoughts on what I’ve missed. I think the basic metrics to consider for governance should be centered on time, data quality and data completeness.
This information should be available to the person managing the process in order to understand where bottlenecks are occurring in the process, where questions or information requirements may be defined poorly, or where the process is bogging down because of improper order, etc. Essentially, you need to monitor your governance process over time to determine where there may be process design issues. This information should also be used in a real time fashion to manage the governance process and ensure that you are meeting important metrics put forward by the organization. For example, if you are governing a waiver process that shouldn’t exceed 30 days, it may be critical for you to have the ability to identify at what points you may need to intercede in order to meet that requirement. Having the ability to set alerts in the process to identify items that are not moving through the queue efficiently makes this a great deal easier by pushing these to you, rather than forcing engagement in the process to identify problems before they become issues. Avoiding the need to actively manage the process reduces the real cost of governance and allows governance participants to focus on their mission rather than the process.
Finally, don’t skimp on socializing and tweaking early in the process and throughout the duration. Whatever you use to embed your governance needs to be flexible enough to change over time to accommodate this type of update anyway. This brings up another point which is that whatever technology you use to embed this workflow must be flexible enough to permit ongoing tweaking of the process. Do not expect that if you just do a really good job on the requirements side you won’t have to change things. That is not how the world works and if whatever you are managing is important enough to have explicit governance, it is important enough to do right and keep right. Don’t let a lack of flexibility kill your effort to embed your governance.
What have been your experiences with using workflows to embed governance? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the approach in particular.
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