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The Distributed Digital Team

A picture of the cover of the book Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design, by Lisa Welchman

The distributed digital team:

  • maintains the quality of a particular aspect of the digital presence
  • develops and maintains content, applications, or data to support the digital presence
  • provides input for the development of digital standards.

Once core standards and infrastructure systems are defined and implemented, a digital presence needs to be developed, supported, maintained, enhanced, and moderated. In large organizations, this is the responsibility of the distributed digital team. Using defined policy and standards as guidance, the distributed team extends and focuses the vision of the core team by implementing content and applications that map to specific business concerns.

In organizations with a relatively unsophisticated digital presence, the core team might oversee the maintenance and development of an aspect of the digital site like the main corporate website or top-level pages. However, in an ideal model, the bulk of production and development should happen outside of the core. That model might mean product lines for business, membership and publications for non-profit organizations, and admissions and registrar’s offices for universities. Why does this distribution make sense? It makes sense because, while the core team may know best how its new functionality and content might fit into the overall organizational digital ecosystem, they can’t be domain and knowledge experts regarding every aspect of the business. In organizations where digital governance is immature, distributing production among resources without a solid standards framework and the authority to enforce it will almost inevitably lead to a disintegrated user experience.

The scope of the day-to-day activities of the distributed team can be small or large. The responsibilities might include posting press releases on the public website or updating lunch menus on the intranet. Your distributed team could implement applications and deploy new websites. The key point is to put in place the authority for the standards definition. In most cases, the majority of that authority will lie within your core digital team, but other aspects of the organization that serve special audiences might allow a more specialized vocabulary for its user base. The important governance factor is not where the work is being executed, but rather where the authority for the standards that control the outcome resides.

From Lisa Welchman, “The Basics of Digital Governance” in Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design (New York: Rosenfield Media, 2015), 41-43.