The Gist

  • Defining WebOps. WebOps is a set of processes that involves developing, deploying, maintaining and scaling web applications, sharing similarities with DevOps.
  • Collaboration benefits. Enhanced collaboration among developers, IT teams, marketing and business through WebOps leads to faster problem resolution and improved alignment with business objectives.
  • Customer experience. WebOps focuses on providing customers with an exceptional web experience, driving the need for continual improvement and the evolution of web ecosystem experiences.

WebOps, or web operations, is a term used to describe a set of processes of developing, deploying, maintaining and scaling web applications. If you’ve heard of DevOps — the process of getting IT’s operations teams together with developers to make IT run more smoothly and be more responsive to the business — WebOps is very similar, said Deane Barker, global director of content management at Optimizely, a content management platform provider. 

Defining WebOps

“There’s probably no hard and fast definition to it,” he said. “If you ask 10 people, you'll get 11 answers on it. The easiest thing to say is it’s DevOps for the web. The web is kind of its own beast. There are some idiosyncrasies to the web that make it different from software you might release in a corporate environment, or to an app or some other product.”

Unlike inside-the-firewall applications that may not have customer-facing functionality, web applications live in a 24/7 world where they are being accessed by employees, partners, customers, suppliers — basically anyone at any time of day, all day, every day.

The Challenges of Updating and Maintaining Web Applications

Barker likens updating, managing and maintaining web applications to changing a moving car’s tires. This is because web applications tend to be updated incrementally with small changes or additions like new content at random times during the day, week or month. For big ecommerce sites, this is a continual process that takes place many tens, hundreds or thousands of times per day. 

Web apps also have to integrate and interface with content management systems and back-end business processes. On the IT side, web apps are typically designed to run on loosely coupled, distributed architectures based on microservices and AI-powered automation. What this means in lay terms is a lot of moving, disconnected but mutually dependent parts have to scale seamlessly on-demand for the app to function as intended.

All of this activity is being orchestrated behind the scenes by system admins, developers, IT operations teams, network admins, cybersecurity folks and anyone else responsible for keeping the digital lights on. And, to make things just a little more complicated, at the end of the day, all of these teams get and set their priorities based on what the business needs. This often leads to trade-offs between using the best technology to get the job done and getting things done quickly. The result is a buildup of technical debt that can hamper the ability to roll out beneficial changes in the future. 

Related Article: DXP vs. Web CMS: What's the Difference and What's Your Choice?

Benefits of WebOps: Improved Collaboration

Like DevOps, a benefit of WebOps is it fosters improved collaboration between developers, IT teams, marketing and the business. This enhanced camaraderie can lead to faster technical problem resolution (called mean-time-to-repair), better alignment of software development with business objectives and improved satisfaction across the board. 

“A whole lot of misunderstandings and frustration [can] be avoided by getting content people and marketing people in the same room with developers and [system] admins and saying, ‘This is how we have to come together to get it done,’” said Barker. 

Depending on an organization’s IT maturity level and current abilities in terms of technology and talent, implementing WebOps can require a significant investment of time, resources and additional expertise. It also requires a culture of continual improvement and experimentation.

Related Article: DXPs and CDPs: How to Measure and Improve Your Digital Customer Experience Metrics

CX Drives the Need for WebOps

“I define WebOps as really just trying to provide a customer with a better web experience,” said Forrester Principal Analyst Rani Salehi, who focuses on digital B2B experiences. “And it has some key advantages for creating really exceptional web ecosystem experiences.”

As digital channels have come to dominate even B2B sales and marketing, the importance of ensuring that all customers’ online experiences are satisfactory regardless of touchpoint, is the driving force behind the evolution of WebOps. WebOps today is more than just a set of IT tools and processes that keep an organization's digital properties functioning at a high level.

Learning Opportunities

B2B Marketing Transformation

Digital marketing teams over the years, they've been very siloed and specialized in different ways,” said Salehi. “And as technology has opened up, B2B has definitely acquired all the same type of tech. They want the personalization, they want the AI-driven behavior, they're still doing a lot of acquisition marketing. They're trying to be a partner to the sales organization ... so they're adopting a lot of those same types of behaviors.”

CMOs Calling the Shots

Even though it’s a very technical undertaking, WebOps often sits under the purview of a chief marketing officer (CMO) more often than it does a chief information officer (CIO), said Barker. But both people need to be deeply involved along with a cross-functional team that could include IT operations people, content marketers, creatives and anyone else who either has a stake in the outcome of the organization's digital efforts or the inputs that go into creating, managing and maintaining them.

“A really good WebOps process is really based around communication,” said Barker. “There has to be clean lines of communication between the people that are using the digital property, and the people that are developing it.”

To be successful, organizations should adopt a holistic approach that considers the entire lifecycle of the web application, the back-end processes it interacts with, the teams that support it, and the business outcomes and services it is intended to foster.

Complex vs. Complicated Systems

A good way to think about WebOps revolves around a semantic exercise, said Barker. Applications and the IT systems that support them are often described as either complex or complicated. Complicated systems, similar to a Swiss watch, consist of numerous components, each with well-understood functions and highly predictable movements. Complex systems, on the other hand, also have many parts, but their movements are unpredictable.  

Most of the applications that organizations rely on for their day-to-day operations — HR, CRM, ERP, productivity, etc. — fall into the complicated category: They are big, and they touch many parts of the organizations, but their behavior is predictable.

Web applications are complex systems. They tend to have many moving and interdependent parts but, because of the nature of the application architecture and what it is intended to do — continually respond to an ever-changing and unknowable number of requests from an unknowable number of users at all times of day and night — they cannot be rigidly connected and, therefore, predictable.  

Ultimately, the goal of WebOps is to take a complex system and turn it into, as much as possible, a complicated one.