In my last article, I discussed how we came to a place where we need a new model for website governance that Web professionals could easily use for any size or type of enterprise, for any size or type of website. Today I present my new website governance model and introduce six concepts for the future of website governance.
Website governance issues are currently a vital topic of discussion. Enterprises are coming to terms with what seems like a never-ending array of business prospects on the Web, and new tools and technologies are presenting ever-increasing challenges and opportunities. Social media, content management systems, mobile technologies -- all play a part in how an organization might consider its own website governance issues.
The future of website governance will depend on how organizations face their challenges and leverage their opportunities. The following six points are, I believe, trends that most organizations must address as time goes on and as they come to terms with figuring out what they have on their websites and just exactly what they want their websites to accomplish. These issues are inter-related and even concatenated.
The Six Concepts for the Future of Website Governance
1. The right people in the right positions
Over time the right people will filter into the right positions within organizations. No more will organizations throw a body into a Web position simply because “he knows the code” or “she can handle the Web posting stuff.” (The political component may allow this, but an information ecology will squeeze it out, over time.) In many ways, the realities of the Web have outpaced professional development of individuals. Website governance issues have moved too fast for many organizations and people, but as more professionals and more organizations begin to address and understand what “website governance” includes, these organizations will begin to look for and find the right people to manage their website functional areas.
2. Technologies will continue to channel governance issues
Technologies will continue to channel and even force governance issues, definitions and models.
Circa 2005: “We need a blog!” “Why?” “Everyone has one!”
Circa 2009: “We need to Tweet!” “Why?” “Everyone’s doing it!”
Circa 2011: “We need to get in the cloud!” “Why?” “Everyone’s going to the cloud!”
Shiny Web objects are sexy, and distracting, but may or may not fit into the enterprise strategy. One of the unfortunate consequences of chasing technologies is that they may channel or even limit our strategies, rather than our strategies driving developments of the tools we need. Remember that publishing (now known as content development and content management to the new generation of Web professionals) is a decidedly human task. Content is by humans for humans, and the technologies we use should help us govern (that is, be good stewards of our enterprise’s information environment).
3. The website becomes the organization; the website is the organization
Social media is driving people’s experiences in directions unthought of even a few years ago. Now we are moving beyond “the website is the digital representation of the organization” and hurtling toward an experience of “the website is the organization” -- because human experience is what matters. People today demand immediate interaction with an organization, at their fingertips. Perception is reality, and how people perceive a presence is how they will perceive that organization (whether it’s through the website or app or forum or Web chat or combination of channel experiences such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. etc.). For many, the website will become the sole-source experience of an organization.
As individuals within organizations begin to realize this, they will search for governance models to adopt. When this happens, people managing the website presence will be driven to seek a model for governance that will work for them, now and in the future.
4. A functional model of website governance
A website governance model should be inclusive, scalable and adaptable.
- Inclusive: all elements an enterprise might need to govern their website presence should be included in the model.
- Scalable: the model should be scalable (“volume friendly”) so that any organization can use the model.
- Adaptable: an organization should be able to adapt a model to its specific needs.
Because website governance is everything that makes a Web presence possible and successful, I recommend that a website governance model follow a business reference model, which concentrates on the many functional areas of the core business of an enterprise. Functional areas of an organization can mean different things to different types of organizations, but they are, nevertheless, present and considered in the model. Functional areas are purpose-centric.
The position of Chief Web Officer is included to define strategy from the enterprise level and to guide strategy into the various functional areas. Strategy is also an upflow, indicated by the arrows from functional areas. Leaders of functional areas would need autonomy not only to manage their areas but also to work across areas for specific projects (Project Management, which supports all functional areas).
Some have argued that “yet another” C-level position is not needed, that Web professionals can hold their own ground. This seems to be an unrealistic outlook, considering the entirety and complexity of an organization’s information environment. Some body must hire and lead Web staff (beneficially applying the Pareto principle); engage in peer-to-peer conversations at the C-level; and be a strategist for the enterprise Web effort. Some body must be placed in this 360º position to manage down, interact cross-wise, and advise up. That body is the CWO.