Why you need Web Governance!
The purpose of Website Governance is to ensure appropriate structures are in place for managing a site in a controlled and orderly way.
The principal benefit of good Governance is that team members can remain focussed on their Goals instead of wasting time in political debates about what is or is not allowed.
Unfortunately, a good many websites (as well as many intranets and extranets) lack any such system. The inevitable result is a significant degradation in overall performance. Sites like this can be recognised in a number of ways:
- They Typically Exhibit Wide Disparities in Design
- They Display a Lack of Focus in Content
- They Use 'Bleeding-Edge' Technologies
The problem here is that no-one is appointed to oversee development at the highest of levels. To remedy this, some form of Website Management Team (WMT) is required.
Website Management Team (WMT)
A Website Management Team (WMT) is the senior authority in charge of a site. That is, it is responsible for both setting high level Goals and ensuring they are achieved. Members of a WMT typically include stakeholders from departments for whom the website constitutes an important asset, e.g. Marketing/Communications and large functional areas with a significant online presence. Their main responsibilities are:
- To set corporate web strategy.
- To agree site Goals.
- To monitoring overall performance.
As a general rule, a WMT has little operational involvement in the sites for which it is responsible. This is because such activities are best left to experts in the appropriate teams. However, it may wish to get involved where decisions of a political or strategic nature are required, e.g. homepage changes.
Governance Review Meeting
In order to exercise its responsibilities effectively, a WMT is advised to meet on a regular basis appropriate to the scale of its site. This could range from about once a month for a busy eCommerce website, to quarterly or semi-annually for a basic brochureware site. The purpose of these meetings is to review ongoing management and address any issues that have arisen in Development, Maintenance or Hosting. For example, a standard list of agenda items could include:
- General review
- Development review
- New Content
- Hosting review
- Resourcing review
- Governance review
1. General Website Review
A general review of site activity allows a WMT to monitor overall performance. For example, stakeholders may use a series of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by which they track the success of a site, e.g. traffic activity, revenue, etc.
2. Website Development Review
Within the terms of its responsibility for overseeing development, a WMT should be presented with an update on all items and kept appraised of any issues. It must also have the opportunity to review and signoff on major new changes before they go live, e.g. a new homepage.
3. New Content Proposals
A Website Development Review provides stakeholders with an opportunity to debate new proposals for site content. In fact, all ideas for additional information or applications must be approved by a WMT before work commences. This is to ensure content remains in support of site Goals and to prevent costly 'solo-runs'.
4. Website Hosting Review
Website hosting has many implications for a site, particularly the level of performance experienced by visitors. 'Website performance' encompasses measures for Availability, Reliability and Responsiveness. That is:
- Availability : Is the website available when customers want it?
- Responsiveness : Is it fast enough?
- Reliability : What is the mean-time between failures?
A review of this type allows a WMT to gauge how well the chosen solution is operating and whether it continues to be appropriate to their needs.
5. Website Resourcing Review
Not only must Website Goals be achievable, they must also be realistic. For example, it is no good demanding that feedback be responded to within 30 minutes if there is no-one available to do it! In this sense, a WMT must ensure sufficient resource is provided to carry out all activities.
6. Website Governance Review
Finally, a WMT is also responsible for overseeing the execution of the activities of Governance itself and policing issues as they arise. For example, a WMT must ensure all necessary structures, processes and procedures are in place to support site management. This includes hiring (and firing) staff, we well as acting as the 'court of final appeal' for operational disputes, e.g. allocation of resource.
In this sense, a WMT functions as a guarantor for all documentation, standards and procedures involved in site management. It can also request that all practices be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure they continue to reflect industry standards and business requirements.
Among all the documents that may be endorsed in this way, one in particular stands out - the Website Standard. A Website Standard is a document that details the approach of an organisation to the management of its own sites. The concept of a Website Standard will be explored in next month's article.
Eager to learn more? Read these articles & put manners on your Web Governance!
Looking for a little advice? No problem!
Drop me an email with your Governance question & I'll do my best to answer!
So far I have helped ... Sara with web team structures (Jan 2013) ... Daniel with analytics on a web team (Nov 2012) ... Kelly with intranet governance (Oct 2012)