The Digital Services Governance Recommendations were recently released, supporting the US Federal Government’s Digital Government Strategy Milestone Action #4.2 to establish agency-wide governance structures for developing and delivering digital services.
Figure 1 – From: “Digital Services Governance Recommendations”
While extremely important from a policy and procedure perspective within an Agency’s information management and communications enterprise, these recommendations only very lightly reference perhaps the most important success enabler – the “Trusted Community” required for ultimate usefulness of the services delivered. By “ultimate usefulness”, I mean the collection of public, transparent properties around government information and digital services that include social trust and validation, social reach, expert respect, and comparative, standard measures of relative value. In other words, do the digital services meet expectations of the public, social media ecosystem (people AND machines)?
A rigid governance framework, controlling by rules, policies and roles the creation and dissemination of digital services may meet the expectations of direct end-users and most stakeholders – including the agency information stewards and security officers. All others who may share comments about the services, write about them, swap or review extracts, repackage, visualize or otherwise repurpose the output for use in entirely unanticipated, social ways – these “stakeholders” will not be governed, but may observe guidance generated by a “Trusted Community”. As recognized members of the trusted community, these stakeholders may ultimately define the right scope and detail of governance that all other users might observe, promoting and refining the usefulness of the government product as the social ecosystem expects.
So, as part of an agency-centric governance framework, it’s advised that a flexible governance model be created for stewarding a “Community of Trust” around the digital services. The first steps follow the approach outlined in the Recommendations:
Step 1: Gather a Core Team
In addition to the roles and responsibilities described, perhaps a set of characteristics and responsibilities can be developed for the “Trusted Community Steward/Advocate” – i.e. a person or team who (a) are entirely cognizant of and respected within the external social media communities, and (b) are trusted both within the agency and outside as practical, responsible, non-partisan communicators of useful information. The may seem like a standard Agency PR/Outreach team role – but often an agency or stakeholder subject matter expert with a public, active social persona works even better.
Step 2: Assess What You Have
In addition to existing, agency or stakeholder decision-making bodies and assets, it’s important to take a PR/Marketing view of the social ecosystem. How visible are the services across the social channels utilized by current or desired constituents of your agency? What’s the online reputation of your agency and perhaps the service(s)? Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) a facet of external communications/publishing lifecycles? Who are the public champions, instigators, value-adders for the digital services, or perhaps just influential “communicators” (i.e. with no stake in the game)? You’re essentially assessing your market and social presence, and identifying the actors (including your own agency employees) in the existing community of trust.
Step 3: Determine What You Want
The evolving Community of Trust will most readily absorb, support and provide feedback regarding “Core Principles” (Element B of the “six essential elements of a digital services governance structure”) shared by your Agency, and obviously play a large, though probably very unstructured part in Element D “Stakeholder Input and Participation”. Plan for this, and seek input from the social media community with respect to performance metrics – these should be geared around the outcome and growth of the trusted communities actions. How big and active is this community? What’s the influential reach of this community with respect to particular messaging or campaigns generated by the Agency? What’s the referral rate TO your digital services, FROM channels owned or operated by members of this community? (this requires governance with respect to content generation inclusive of “markers” or “tags”).
At this point, while your Agency proceeds with steps 4 (“Build/Validate the Governance Structure”) and 5 (“Share, Review, Upgrade”), the Community of Trust might as well just get going, and start adding value and usefulness to the existing conversations, existing data services – loosely though directionally-stewarded by your trusted advocate(s).
Why is this an “Enterprise Architecture” topic? Because it’s increasingly apparent that a Public Service “Enterprise” is not wholly contained within Agency facilities, firewalls and job titles – it’s also manifested in actual, perceived or representative forms outside the walls, on the social Internet. An Agency’s EA model and resulting investments both facilitate and are impacted by the “Social Enterprise”. At Oracle, we’re very active both within our Enterprise and outside, helping foster social architectures that enable truly useful public services, digital or otherwise.