In my day job, I work with schools to optimize their use of CRM technology. One of the key questions I ask my clients is how they will engage with the end-user experience, assess and approve requests to modify the system, and ensure that their institution is using their technology to its full potential. Far too often, the answer is, “We haven’t really thought about that.”

When we begin using new marketing tools, we’re generally focused on learning how various features work and what the system is capable of. But our technology is only as good as the processes that surround it, and we must guide and protect our tools and data with solid business practices. How do we ensure we aren’t getting in our own way in our use of enterprise marketing technology? We build a framework of governance that permeates everything.

Start with Your Stakeholders

To develop the policies and procedures that will serve as your foundation, begin by determining who needs to be in the room. I recommend that you create the appropriate committees to facilitate communication, collaboration, and ongoing training:

  • Frontline power users (representing the range of functional areas utilizing your technology) should meet weekly to discuss current challenges, raise up change requests, and be updated on revisions that have been implemented or are forthcoming.
  • Department heads should connect monthly to set priorities for the opportunities identified by your power users, assess how requests align with larger goals, determine the appropriate division of resources, and identify the broader impact that any changes will have.
  • Finally, divisional leadership should receive formal updates quarterly on how your technology is performing, whether there are opportunities that need a greater resource allocation, and the current priorities to optimize the system.

Equip Everyone

An organizational structure is essential, but from there, it needs to scale so that all users know how to execute on the plans you’ve created. Those at your institution who interface with your technology on any level need to be trained, supported, and heard. This manifests in a variety of ways:

  • Education: End-user training can’t just happen when you first implement or hire a new staff member; it needs to be embedded in your culture. Provide regular refreshers on your operations, and always reconnect with your team when things are modified. Ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of not just what is changing, but also how to engage with these changes.
  • Documentation: Document everything. All systemic processes need to be written down and accessible to those who need it. This means providing detailed instructions in some sort of shared drive or wiki, being as clear and detailed as possible. Not only will this serve as a valuable resource for those with whom you work, but it will create a solid foundation of business continuity.
  • Communication: It should go without saying, but for goodness sake, have open dialogue about how you use your marketing tools. Provide regular updates on decisions being made about your systems to ensure that “I didn’t know that had changed” isn’t a phrase used in your workplace. And on the other side, provide a space for all staff members to lift up their needs and ideas as well.

Prepare to Pivot

Finally, remember that the only constant is change, and you need to assess what works and what doesn’t. This means that your governance framework needs to include regular audits of your business processes and system. Create space to cast a critical eye on how work is done and how effectively it achieves the team’s objectives. Annually, host a larger conversation articulating what has changed over the past year, the biggest current challenges, and key priorities for the next year.

And know when to raise your hand and ask for help. If you find yourself at an impasse, reach out to your larger network of users at other schools. Identify if and when professional services are needed or whether a consultant may be best equipped to speak to your current situation. Leverage the external resources that exist in order to maximize what you have.

Conclusion

At its core, governance is a framework that allows for iterative, effective change. Your school has invested significant resources in the course of procuring your marketing technology, and that shouldn’t go to waste. When your school develops and adheres to a system that fosters dialogue and accountability, you’re creating an insurance policy against the need to correct bad business practices or poor system design down the road. No one wants to do unnecessary work, or face uncertainty regarding their tasks, or feel like they’re uninformed on how everything operates. So let your structure prevent these barriers from arising, then watch as your teams are able to work with the confidence and clarity that drives sustainable, meaningful progress.