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Posts Tagged ‘organization’

If your government department or agency is anything like mine it’s a fairly decentralized place. Oh there’s an org chart that’s roughly pyramid shaped, giving the impression that there’s a neat and tidy hierarchy, but in reality, the various teams and units basically do their own thing. People are funny that way.

This makes the ideal of a centralized or stand-alone web unit something that’s really hard to achieve.

Enter the hub and spoke. Jeremiah Owyang writes persuasively of using hub and spoke models to establish organizational discipline for social media, but I would argue that this model can work for managing the traditional website too. All forms of digital in fact – whether mobile, web, data feeds, email, search, social… and whatever is coming down the pipe next.

Coordinated

So what is this hub and spoke? As I see it, the hub is where the digital effort is enabled, while the spokes are the business units that need to accomplish their objectives using digital media.

In the hub sits the underlying functions that allow for efficient and effective digital delivery — where I work this is where overall responsibility for IA/UX, strategy, editorial planning, publishing standards, content governance, measurement and evaluation would be housed, ready to be provided to various business units to draw on. But really, the mix will differ in different organizations.

In turn, the business units which comprise the spokes are the homes for in-depth subject matter expertise and direct responsibility for delivering specific services. Whether its a policy shop that wants to run a consultation, or a program area that’s launching a new round of funding, or any other of a multitude of situations, these teams draw on the hub’s resources to help them succeed online.

This model presupposes a strong hub that can actually bring resources to the table. And also an organizational willingness to act in a coordinated manner. From what I’ve seen this is rarer than you might imagine, often stemming from a lack of appreciation of the strategic value of digital. But hopefully the tide is turning.

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I read this article from Lisa Welchman a little while back, and it’s been rattling around my head ever since.

It makes the argument that running an organization’s web presence should not belong to IT or Marketing:

When communications teams and IT teams play tug of war over ownership of the site, they do so in a shallow manner with IT resources focusing on the web applications and communications resources focusing on design and static pages. Everything else falls into a gap. This view does not take into consideration what happens when design and the written word meet an application, as more sophisticated web sites like NYTimes.com, Amazon.com, or simple blogs that utilize dynamic content delivery so often do. Nor does it take into account how to get all that corporate knowledge onto the web in a way that will make sense to an “outsider.” This is where the mature web professional steps in.

A good web manager understands that a site is not a place where static pages and applications happen to intermingle. The mature web professional understands that running an organization’s website is about ensuring that the “public” is able to get the right information from the organization at the right time, and do business online in an intuitive way. Also important to understand is that the first rule for maintaining an effective web presence is that the organization must effectively get the information to the web in a quality manner. This is no small task for organizations that have huge quantities of content–thousands or even millions of webpages and other content assets—not forgetting the large number of applications, which must be produced in concert. Orchestrating these aspects of information management, business process management, human resources management, and technology development to create a high quality, risk-free web presence is neither an IT competency nor a marketing competency. It is a web competency.

While this piece outlines a scenario where IT and marketing departments are fighting a turf battle over who “owns” the web, I can imagine another one – where neither IT nor marketing want to deal with the “web problem.” In this situation, the web team might be sitting in either the marketing or IT shop, but it’s neglected, because senior managers on both sides have “more important” things to deal with. So the lonely little web team is left to its own devices, without adequate resources or staff with appropriate skills.

But regardless — I really like the idea of the web team standing on its own. While the web team blends both marketing and IT aspects, a good deal of what these teams do goes beyond the traditional focus of comms and tech shops.  These are disciplines that have grown out of the evolution of the Web — for example, analytics and  SEO, usability and UX, digital engagement and community management.

But there is a key caveat: the self-sufficient web team needs to exist as an equal partner to IT and Marketing/communications. There needs to be a senior manager for this team who is a peer of the heads of IT and Marketing. This is needed to ensure that the web team gets the resources and support it needs to deliver a quality web presence. Without a senior champion, it really doesn’t matter where the web team stands.

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