Top 5 Reasons Companies Fail at Tag Governance

Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes

Do you have a Tag Governance Policy in place? “No, but it’s something we’d like to do.”

Why is this the most common response I hear when speaking with organizations? Are the GDPR administrative fines (up to 5% of global revenue), issues with consistent data loss, and poor user experiences on digital properties not enough to inspire action?

Here we take you through the 5 most common reasons organizations fail in their efforts around Tag Governance and what you can do about each.

1 – Lack of management buy-in and prioritization

The Issue: The basis for failures starts here. Tag Governance and tag management processes are not a priority until there is a major issue resulting from not having them in place. Until a topic related to Tag Governance is identified as an executive KPI there is a lack of support to put anything in place.

GDPR at the start of 2018 is a great example. The majority of conversations to help organizations with compliant data collection for GDPR didn’t happen until April and May in advance of the May 25 date for the legislation going live. There were a handful of Fortune 500 organizations stating that they were taking a “wait and see” approach to GDPR compliance when it came to the marketing and advertising platforms on their digital properties.

This sort of executive response to legislation with administrative penalties up to 5% of global revenue highlights the lack of urgency to get these projects started along with the lack of support even when they do present an immediate threat to the business.

The Solution: Tag Governance must be raised as a solution to pre-defined organizational KPIs.  Proper management of tags and having a solid governance policy in place affects multiple parts of the organization. It’s important to emphasize Tag Governance as a sustainable solution for each.

A common KPI for all online businesses is site performance. There are often entire teams dedicated to monitoring and optimizing page load speeds and user experience for digital experiences. Traditionally tags have not been emphasized as a part of this process. With advances in technology and the sheer volume of platforms being loaded on sites, this can no longer be the case. It is important to evaluate all new tags and their effect on site performance when vetting vendors. Once live, monitoring to ensure no unexpected behavior happens is also critical. Tag Governance addresses both of these issues.

Beyond site performance, the current regulatory environment requires close control over the partners collecting data about users on your site. In Europe specifically, privacy is no longer a “nice to have” but rather a requirement with GDPR. These regulations are only going to get more stringent with the expected finalization of the new ePrivacy Regulations in 2019/2020. The creation and implementation of a Tag Governance Policy should be a foundational aspect to any privacy and compliance initiatives being undertaken by your organization.

Finally, with the emphasis on data driven marketing and investments in analytics and media, complete and accurate data collection is more important now than ever. Without a proper Tag Governance Policy and definition of data collection requirements you will have no way to proactively identify issues in the data collection architecture on your digital properties. No large-scale analytics effort is complete without an emphasis on a Tag Governance Process and Policy.

2 – Lack of central management and ownership

The Issue: The promise of Tag Management Systems when they hit the market in the early 2010s was the democratization of tag management. No longer would marketing and advertising teams have to submit tickets to IT for the implementation of new marketing technology. Now, they could implement platforms themselves within easy to use third-party interfaces to be more dynamic and improve time to deployment. While this promise has been fulfilled, the unexpected result is an ever expanding scope of teams and partners with roles in the tag management and deployment process.

It is common for organizations to have three to five different teams with access to their Tag Management System, each deploying tags for their own initiatives (analytics, media, personalization, testing, etc.) The result is a lack of central ownership and control, leading to chaos and no one knowing all the tags loading on their site at a given point in time.

Without central ownership Tag Governance is impossible. No standards are in place, no process can be followed to ensure policies are upheld, and your website becomes the wild west of marketing technologies.

The further decentralization of tag management presents a major barrier to Tag Governance efforts as well. Audits often result in surprises for everyone involved with the process. Tracking down ownership of each platform becomes an internal treasure hunt. This part of the process is a major tripping point without a central owner for Tag Governance.

The Solution: Tag Governance and management must have an owner. In larger organizations this should be a dedicated role, while in smaller organizations this may be part of an existing role. In a perfect world this role should be filled by a marketing technologist, with some experience and working knowledge in both the technical and marketing groups in the organization. Finding someone with this type of knowledge base can prove difficult. As a result ownership of tags is often granted either to someone in the IT team that interfaces with the marketing teams or a member of the marketing or analytics team that has a some technical experience in their career.

Once ownership is bestowed within the organization the implementation of a Tag Governance Process with input from all the current stakeholders for tag deployment (IT, marketing, media, agency partners) will help ensure the benefit of agility in tag deployment is still realized while the risk of chaos in the tag architecture is minimized.

3 – Poor guidance

The Issue: With different teams working with different vendors, each is often being advised about different requirements and priorities. Vendors don’t intend to be an obstacle to the process but at the end of the day each wants to expand the scope of how they can help clients. Often these good intentions lead to competing priorities and understandings across different groups within an organization. Each vendor will push the importance of the piece of the process that aligns with their key competencies and value proposition. The result is organizational teams each working on their own initiatives and no cohesive overall plan across the organization, leading to gaps and a failure of the overall Tag Governance effort.

The Solution: A central Tag Governance framework must be initially created to lay out all of the considerations for the central Policy and Process. This should be an outline of all the teams affected by and requirements for tag management. Some of the broad initiatives to consider are IT requirements and the technical review process of new tags, legal and compliance requirements with respect to applicable laws and regulations, marketing needs for different campaigns, as well as analytics requirements to measure user behavior.

The central requirement definition and outline should be handled independently to include the needs of each team while not overemphasizing a single team’s priorities. Once the requirements are outlined, it is then valuable to get input and feedback from each of the different business units and their partners. Think of this almost like a coloring book. If you want a specific picture drawn, the outline of the finished product must first be put in place. From there each of the teams and partners can do their part to color in their respective sections.

4 – Starting the process on the wrong foot

The Issue: Governance and compliance efforts often fail from the start due to poor definition of scope and a lack of organization for tasks that need to be completed. These projects are difficult primarily because they involve coordination across a number of teams, each with competing priorities.

First, you have IT, whose main priority is page performance and all site functionality working as expected. Marketing and media teams just want to collect as much data as possible to drive their campaigns and assess the ROI of different initiatives. Meanwhile analytics wants to better understand user behavior on the site and be able to run tests to improve conversions. Finally, we can’t forget legal needing all privacy regulations to be followed.

These priorities often compete with one another. To reduce risks to privacy and site performance, IT and legal would prefer a minimal amount of platforms loading on the site. At the same time, marketing wants to try out and use any platform possible to improve campaign effectiveness while analytics would like to personally know every user on the site to better understand customer behavior.

All of these competing preferences and priorities make it difficult to just get started. As a result, once the process kicks off organizations will go in circles with everyone trying to “win”. When this happens the Tag Governance effort is dead before it even has a chance to grow.

The Solution: Tag Governance can not be looked at as a zero-sum game by the stakeholders from different teams in the organization. Each group’s priorities and requirements must be taken into account at the outset and a creative solution can then be put in place where everyone wins.

This begins with the central ownership that we discussed earlier. There must be one person or team that is responsible for the outcome of the governance process and policy put in place. This person needs to take the priorities of the different teams into account and develop a framework within which each team can work. It requires clear communication and an openness to the perspectives of each group.

Once the Tag Governance Policy is defined and rolled out, the benefits for each stakeholder team must be clearly communicated to get buy-in from all to follow the process.

5 – Knowledge gap

The Issue: It’s an unrealistic expectation that members of the marketing team will understand the potential page performance impact of a new remarketing platform that they just purchased to implement on the site. Likewise, you can’t expect the development team to understand the utility and value said remarketing platform is going to have for marketing.

When each stakeholder in the tag management process considers the implementation of a new platform, each is looking at it through a completely different lense. These knowledge gaps result in competing priorities and wildly different proposed solutions when it comes creating a Tag Governance Policy and Process.

The Solution: The old adage “you don’t know what you don’t know” can’t be more true in this instance. It is imperative to gather the main stakeholders from each team and gather requirements from each at the start of the process to define a Tag Governance Policy. Beyond simply writing out these requirements it is important for the central owner of the process to understand the underlying ‘why’ of each. The reasons for each requirement can often be tied back to specific KPIs for each team and how they are judged. Communicating these requirements and why each is important facilitates the compromise necessary for everyone to support the Tag Governance Policy.

In addition to leveraging the knowledge of each group involved in the process, this issue is also commonly addressed by having central ownership of the process as previously discussed. Having one person to learn about the priorities of each stakeholder and then develop a solution to satisfy each is a key component to success.


Tag Governance is hard. The creation of a central Tag Governance Policy and Process involves coordination across many different groups in your organization. Creativity in developing a solution is going to be a requirement. In order to accomplish this you will need a central owner, communication across teams, a well defined framework to gather priorities, and organizational buy-in to just get started.

Look out for the common pitfalls covered above and heed the advice for each and you’ll end up with a successful Tag Governance Policy and happy stakeholders.

Have success or horror stories of your own? Drop them in the comments section below, I’d love to hear about your experiences as you’ve tried to implement Tag Governance within your organization.

Need help in the process? Look no further! We work with hundreds of global organizations and more than 25 Fortune 500 companies to roll out Tag Governance and Management Processes. We’d love to discuss the needs of your specific situation and help guide you through the process. Contact us here to get the conversation started.

Originally Published On August 29, 2018
August 29, 2018