Web Governance: Are You Building a Bridge to Nowhere?
by Lance Merker on May 20, 2014
Today, every higher education institution has some form of web governance. But is your institution doing it right? And what does it have to do with a web content management system (CMS)?
The key is that your web governance and CMS processes should be tightly linked, as both are working toward the same goal—better web content and better management of that content. Mark Greenfield, Director of the Office of Web Services at the University at Buffalo, recently gave a keynote presentation at the OmniUpdate User Training Conference, where he said, "Implementing a CMS without web governance is like building a bridge to nowhere." Where does your bridge go? Let's look a bit closer at web governance and how a CMS can help.
Wikipedia defines website governance as "an organization's structure of staff and the technical systems, policies and procedures to maintain and manage a website."
Greenfield further defined it as "deciding who gets to decide (assigning roles and responsibilities, then holding those people accountable)." In higher education, he states that a college or university's web governance practice is affected by their:
- Scope and size (Carnegie Classifications)
- Decision-making (democratic, consensus, garbage can)
- Culture (collegial, adhocracy, hierarchy, market)
- Organizational structure (functional, matrix)
- Governance process (centralized, decentralized, federated)
Unfortunately, web decisions are often made based on who has the power, not on the desired institutional dynamics or with the input of experts and students. Greenfield points out that academic and administration departments often think of the website as a collection of microsites for their unique needs, rather than as part of a larger ecosystem for web visitors. Despite expert advice and student feedback, they may have the power to get their way. As a result, usability suffers, ROI is hard to measure, and inefficiencies result in wasted time, money, and resources. It may get so bad that an institution's reputation is at risk.
According to Greenfield, true web governance should achieve the following:
- Establish authority and accountability
- Define participant roles
- Involve senior leadership
- Involve line management
- Not be a one-off (one-time) process
And a successful web governance team will:
- Understand the campus dynamics
- Find an executive sponsor
- Focus on technical and process efficiency
- Become evangelists for the website
- Continuously evaluate the website and the process for improvements
And finally, an effective web governance plan must provide:
- Direction on how to use and allocate resources to accomplish long-term goals
- Guidance on how to effectively and efficiently manage the daily web operations
- Measurable action items and evaluation criteria for making continuous improvements
Often, the biggest difficulty comes in evaluation. Having a process for continuous improvement without evaluation is useless. There are a number of ways to evaluate an institution's website effectiveness, so pick something (or a few things) that will work for your institution. The bottom-line: watch and understand the agreed upon Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). And, keep in mind that analytics alone will only tell you what people are doing but not why. Why is just as important.
In summation, a valid web governance framework for higher education should have all the components described above. Once this framework is established, the workflow tools of your CMS can be used to keep things on the rails and help follow through in a systematic way. A CMS will ensure that the right people review and approve content, that the content does not go stale or become outdated, and that the daily and long-term operational goals are achieved and measured against the desired standard. A CMS will help to enforce your web governance decisions and help you to build a bridge to where you want your website to take your institution.
Want to learn more about establishing a college and university web governance plan and how a CMS might help? Join us on Thursday, May 22, 2014, at 11 AM PDT for a free 30-minute webcast with Diane Kuehn, President & CEO of VisionPoint Marketing, who will guide you through the process and uncover why governance is so critical to the long-term success of your website. Register now!