David Gammel's Web Strategy Report, Volume 1, Issue 3

Thoughts On Strategy: Web Site Governance is Not the Answer

  • Web site governance is the process of implementing policies and standards for managing the content published on an organization’s web site.
  • Complex organizations tend to generate complex and unresponsive web site governance practices.
  • Here is the problem with web site governance:
    • Governance is about control, not success.
    • Governance is about limiting, not enabling.
    • Governance is about rules rather than innovation.
  • Some governance processes are required to manage any web site.
  • However, an overly governance-oriented mindset ensures mediocrity as your best possible outcome.
  • So what is the answer?
    • Your web team should be vested in helping your other units to succeed in their goals rather than comply with rules.
    • Your web staff should be valued as critical business advisors rather than denigrated as fussy bureaucrats.
    • Your web team should be positioned more as an in-house professional services firm than as a traffic cop.

Case Study: Managing a Memo

For this month’s case, I’ll share a web site governance experience I had when I led the web team for a large membership society. This organization had many committees and Boards, each of which had their own needs and desires for the organizations web site. This is the typical cat herding kind of management task.

One day I received a printed memo via snail mail from the chair of one of the boards, copied to the top executives on staff and a good part of the Board of Directors. The memo demanded a large button on the home page to feature content related to their activities.

So, I’m faced with a memo copied to half the leadership of the association demanding a specific change to the home page of the site, which we manage very carefully. My options in this scenario included:

  • Caving to the demand and just doing it;
  • Refusing outright (which would an uphill battle), or;
  • Figure out what prompted the memo and try to address that need.

You can guess which I did based on the first part of this newsletter. I called the Chair and we discussed what her Board does and what she hoped would be different for them by adding a button to the home page. This friendly discussion revealed that searches on key phrases in the local search engine did not turn up their content in the first page of results. I was able to replicate this problem immediately.

We had several tools with which to tune search results. I asked if they would be satisfied if I could improve the search results dramatically for their key phrases. They said they would, so I did, and they were.

An overly governance driven management process for the web site would have likely resulted in no button on the home page but it would not have delved into the actual need that this group had.

The Web is there to help the rest of the organization to succeed, not to fulfill content management policies. If you always keep that in mind you will create much more value than you do frustration.

High Geekery: Any sufficiently advanced technology…

I recently needed to use Internet Explorer in order to access some systems for one of my clients. This is not as much of a challenge as it used to be for someone based on a Mac now that Apple uses Intel chips in their hardware.

I am using Windows XP on VMWare Fusion, which allows windows applications to run as if they were native to the Apple operating system.

The following scenario made me think of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

I dragged a file from Apple’s Finder into a folder in Windows Explorer. The directory in Windows Explorer was actually on a remote server I had connected to via WebDAV in Windows Explorer. So this file went from my native Mac filesystem to a simulated Windows operating system which then transmitted it to a directory on Windows Server hundreds of miles away from me.

All via a single drag-and-drop of the file.

That description is definitely high geekery but, believe me, so many different things have to be solved for that kind of operation to be feasible that I was awed.

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