Selling digital policies into your organization

You know that your organization needs a digital policy program in order to support tangible, business objectives. But getting your stakeholders to buy into digital policies can feel a lot like getting toddlers to eat spinach.

Kristina Podnar
June 6, 2019

You know that your organization needs a digital policy program in order to support tangible, business objectives. But getting your stakeholders to buy into digital policies can feel a lot like getting toddlers to eat spinach. And, rightfully so, if you come at them with requests for resources without a clear business case, speak in policy jargon like website accessibility or multi-cloud tenancy, or present a list of to-do’s without clear justification. In fact, the word policy alone is enough to make most individuals put their fingers in their ears.

But you are smart, and you are going to get digital policies sold into your organization in the right way. And if you are involved in managing your organization’s digital channels - websites, social media, mobile applications, or all of them - I have some good news.

  • Leadership will come over to your side and support the creation of a policy program when you demonstrate how it directly underpins the objectives of your VP, CEO, CMO and others.
  • Your digital colleagues will gladly implement digital policies into practice when you start making their everyday lives easier.
  • Third, you will get vendors and external partners on board with your policies by aligning them with the procurement or partnership agreement.

Sounds good, right? The best news is that getting digital policies sold into your organization is straightforward. It does, however, require some homework and finesse on your part.

Speak your leadership’s language

The best way to get management to buy into digital policies is to come at them with a business justification. Make sure that you shed the policy speak, talk to your stakeholders in their own terms, and tell a good story. Not some policy speak, or anecdotes about what competitors are doing. Real, bottom-line business talk. Things like your organization’s ability to grow revenue at higher profit margins if policies enable a structured process to sell online products into new markets. Or lowering customer acquisition costs by having a seamless online signup process for new services. Or having structured online data that allows you to track customer retention for up-sells and referral generation.

Of course, these things will require a single content management system, accessibility, redundancy and backups, an enterprise taxonomy and consistent metadata, as well as great search engine optimization (SEO), amongst others. But your leaders don’t care about that back-end digital policy and operations stuff. They want to understand what all of those things pulled together will buy the business. After all, they are (or will be) giving you resources and, just like any of us when we shop, they want to understand that there is value in what they are getting and that it is the right place to spend their limited funds. So, demonstrate to your leadership the reasons that they should choose to invest and support your digital policies over other priorities that are coming to them for consideration.

Enable and support colleagues

Remember what it was like getting Science homework in 8th grade when you already had a pile of English, Math and History work to do as well? That is what your colleagues feel like when you approach them with a list of digital policies that they need to follow. Their plates are full with everyday work, trying to keep systems running, refreshing website content, or launching the latest marketing campaign. The last thing they want, or need, is more things to do, especially if they are in no way rewarded for doing them. Instead, approach your colleagues with the mentality of support and enablement.

Are content creators in different business units struggling to apply metadata consistently to their content, causing SEO issues for the broader organization? Rather than send an email to the business units with a  four-page policy PDF policy attached, get everyone together for a lunch session, discuss the policy and demonstrate how much better the end user experience will be with consistent SEO. Show how much easier it will be for business units to track previously published content, so that there is no overlap in new content creation. With a clear why and how, users are more likely to be receptive and to adopt policies you are creating.

And consider discussing how you can automate some of those metadata tags so that users need only approve or edit tags, instead of select them during creation. Demonstrating intent to make your colleagues’ lives easier will result in good will towards you and your digital policy initiative.

And don’t stop there! How about some public acknowledgement for those who are doing a great job in SEO policy application? Focus on highlighting how well your colleagues are doing and how you can serve them to do an even better job. Pretty soon you will find yourself welcome, versus feared, as the person asking for policy adoption.

Involve vendors and third parties

Inviting vendors, digital agencies, or partners into your organization’s digital operations without sharing digital policies is like inviting a chef into your kitchen to cook. If the chef doesn’t understand what recipes you are looking to make for the evening, then you are likely to end up in a kitchen hijacking, where the food has nothing to do you with your tastes. And, sometimes, vendors can take high offense to being told what policies to adopt, much like a fine French chef being handed a set of recipes. To ensure that your policies are adopted and the digital project you are working on is not sabotaged, you need to get your vendors and partners on board from the start.

Start bringing vendors and partners on board by laying out your policy objectives with procurement or those in charge of vendor relationships. Explain and train your contracts specialist or partner relationship manager on how digital policies help the organization. Make it clear that identifying these requirements to external entities ahead of time will make everyone’s life easier, as you will have clearly established expectations and, where you do not have policies specified, vendors and partners are welcome to lend their methodology and ideas to the mix.

Look to be an enabler to these organizations. Even though you are paying or have a peer-to-peer relationship with vendors and third parties, you should treat them a bit like your colleagues. Contractually setting expectations is a must, but clearly articulating your expectations, providing training, and making yourself available to answer questions around digital policy will make the biggest difference between your organization receiving wonderful, policy-compliant digital products and services, and simply getting whatever arrives based on interpretation.

The bottom line

Digital policies are all about change management and getting your stakeholders to buy in, whether they be leaders, colleagues or vendors. By shedding complicated policy speak, positioning policies as enablers to digital workers, and ensuring that everyone in your digital ecosystem understands what to do, you will get buy-in and support for your policy program. And, at the end of the day, that will make your job easier, and make your policies seem a lot less like spinach for dinner.

Photo by Markus Spiske

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