Web Governance is a system for managing an online presence in a controlled & orderly way. The principal benefit of good Web Governance is that it delivers operational certainty and stability.
That is, when you get governance right you can take it for granted that operations will (or should) always work, ie that the right people will follow the right processes to complete the right tasks in a timely manner.
For example, this might include scanning the website at regular intervals to find and fix broken links, mis-spellings, out-of-date content, etc.
Good governance allows you to stop worrying about administrative issues (eg who does what) and instead focus attention on pursuing online goals.
Web Governance 101
Any system of Web Governance is composed of 4 categories of Activity (each of which can be broken down into many distinct subtasks). These categories are:
These Activities (& their component subtasks) are non-negotiable. They must happen if you are to maintain a high quality website.
However, these Activities can only happen when the right Resources are in place to support them. Again there are 4 main categories of Resource. These are:
- People (incl. skills, staffing, roles & team structures)
Balancing Resource vs. Activity
The key question is how to strike the right balance between Resources & Activity.
That is, how much do you need to invest in Resource to ensure necessary Activities can be carried out?
Admittedly, it is hard to create a precise estimate.
For example, a highly-skilled team with a small budget can often deliver the same operational quality as a low-skilled team with a large budget.
Nevertheless, a useful way to approximate the level of investment is to measure the Scale of your online presence.
- Size: How much effort does it take to manage all the content & services you have online?
- Engagement: How much interaction do you get, eg do you attract a lot of traffic on your site, or a lot of commentary and feedback?
- Complexity: How intricate is the technology you use to deliver your online services, eg does it include eCommerce, etc?
The reason these 3 measures are chosen is because of the direct effect they have on your operational burden.
That is, as an online presence gets bigger (in size), busier (in engagement) and more intricate (in complexity), each of the 4 Activities of Web Governance becomes more detailed & occurs more frequently.
To cope with this burden, essential Resources like manpower, tools, budgeting & more must expand and be professionally organised.
Thus, you see there is a direct link between the parameters of Scale and how to invest in & organise Activities & Resources.
Let's see how this works... Mom-n-Pop vs. MegaCorp
Consider the Web Governance needs of Mom-n-Pop versus MegaCorp - two businesses at the opposite ends of the online spectrum.
- Mom-n-Pop's website is very simple. It's composed of a dozen or so pages of brochureware content (text and images with a few downloads). Because it is aimed at their local community, it is not so busy and is mainly used to publicise opening hours and special offers.
- In contrast, MegaCorp runs scores of sites localised to markets around the world. Each site contains thousands of pages of sophisticated, interactive content and attracts millions of visitors per week.
Even though these sites could not be more different, they both need to enact the same activities and invest in the same resources.
That is, each needs to provide leadership, undertake development, expedite maintenance & manage infrastructure - and provide the resources to do so.
But MegaCorp's online presence is huge and Mom-n-Pop's is tiny.
That means that although the activities and resources may the same - the granularity and sophistication by which they are deployed differs hugely.
- For Mom-n-Pop, the configuration of their governance resources may be as simple as asking their son to create and maintain the site using a few freeware tools, and giving him a hundred dollars a month to keep it going. Easy!
- In contrast, MegaCorp requires dozens of skilled people (designers, techies, writers, managers) organised into teams with clear responsibilities. In addition, they require expensive and specialist tools with a large budget to support operations.
This difference in granularity and sophistication is a factor of the difference in the 'Scale' of the two sites.
The usefulness of this concept is that when we know the Scale of a site, we can begin to make recommendations for configuring its Web Governance.
No matter what site we are talking about - if it is big, busy and complex - each of its Primary Governance Activities will be highly granular...
- Clear Leadership will be needed in terms of goals & KPIs with regular review.
- Many projects may be at different stages of Development at any time, at planning, design testing, etc.
- Daily Maintenance with a focus on detail will be needed, e.g. QA, responding to feedback, etc.
- Secure management of Infrastructure will be required to keep the show on the road.
As a consequence heavy investment in Pillar Resources will be needed...
- Lots of people with specialist skills, incl. design, code, technology, etc.
- Structured into complex teams with clear demaration
- Following documented procedures
- Using expensive tools
- Based on a big budget
Which brings us to the big question.
How should I configure this investment to make sure I have a system of Web Governance that works? That is...
- Exactly how do structure my web team?
- Exactly how many staff should I hire?
- Exactly what skills should I look for?
- Exactly how do I allocate roles & responsibilities
- Exactly what processes should I follow?
- Exactly what budget should I ask for?
Although every business is different and local considerations (company culture, history, politics) often dictate how governance happens, there are some common patterns that we can follow.
While these may never be implemented in an orthodox fashion, they do at least provide a template for starting a conversation about how to configure resources in your organisation.
In the next article we will begin to explore some examples - starting with typical configurations of People, including staff numbers, skills and team structure.
Footnote: Website Scale in reverse
We have seen how knowing the "Scale" of a site allows you to start planning how to much invest in Pillar Resources. That is ...
- A Large Scale Site
- = Lots of People + Specialist skills + Complex tools =
- Lots of Money!
But probably the most useful thing about the concept of Website Scale is that it also works in reverse.
If I know what budget I will be given, I can estimate of the maximum Scale of site I can create, i.e. how big and complex it can be.
And let's face it, this is what usually happens.
Most people are simply told what their annual web budget will be. You then have to make-do as best you can (i.e. decide how to spend it among staff wages, tools, etc.) in order to create as good a site as possible.
As such, if you are given a big budget - you can plan to hire a lot of highly skilled people & buy expensive tools, which means you'll be able to build a large sophisticated site.
In contrast, if you are given a small budget - no matter what your ambitions - you're better off setting your sights lower.
Read more practical advice....
About Shane Diffily
I am an experienced commentator on web operations. In 2015, I released the web's first online training course in website management and governance. Back in 2006 I published the Website Manager's Handbook, the original guide to online operations.