There’s a lot of needless angst out there about social software governance.
I can understand the angst when you’re talking about public-facing social software deployments. There are very tricky questions about monitoring and moderation. Getting the answers wrong can lead to very public missteps.
Internal social software is a different story. The governance just ain’t that complicated. Successful internal deployments follow a principle I call the “Ownership Principle”.
Ownership Principle: IT owns the technology and content owners own the content.
Sounds obvious, right? IT should focus on central maintenance of the solution—making sure that the technology is running smoothly and supporting other business units and functions in their use of the system. All content decisions, however, should be left to the individuals and business units who are affected by that content. The Marketing Team drives decisions about marketing content, the HR team defines the process for posting HR content, and so on.
In practice, this means you should implement a kind of state/federal model of governance, in which IT and HR provide central infrastructure (technology, training, and support), and champions in the business drive content and collaboration around their local business needs.
At the central (“federal”) level, there are three main steps you can take to make sure you’ve covered the bases from a policy and process standpoint.
- Post rules and guidelines where all users can see them. (Many companies post these on the login screen.) Consult your Legal Department to come up with suitable language.
- Make sure that your Core Leadership Team (see above) contains representation from the different business units, so that you have clear lines of sight into the different content areas
- Train your HelpDesk on how to assign and manage permissions, so that they are able to assign the appropriate levels of administrative control to local champions.
Once you’ve put these central measures in place, you should leave the substantive governance questions up to the individual business units or use case champions (“states”):
- Who can post content? For some use cases (e.g., project team collaboration) you will want to encourage all team members to participate. For others (e.g., posting HR policies) the champions will want to restrict contribution to a select few. You should leave these decisions up to the local champions.
- Who can add users? Here again, the answer should be left up to local champions. Sales and Marketing should be decide who can add users to the Sales and Marketing Groups. Leaders of the Women’s Initiative should be allowed to decide whether the Women’s Initiative Group will be self-join or private. IT’s job is just to make sure that these local decisions are centrally supported by your Socialtext configuration.
- Who will monitor content? By now you can probably guess the answer: The local champions are responsible for their content. For some use cases (e.g., HR and Legal conversations) this may require strict supervision of the content. Other Groups (e.g., Marathon Runners) will see no such need.
One final piece of advice on governance: Relax. In our experience, governance concerns loom much larger in theory than in practice. This is not social media on the consumer web where users can post content anonymously. Because authors know that their content is attributed to them, their posts are respectful and appropriate.