A new view of Corporate Web Management or is it?

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I’ve been currently working on the Strategic Development Plan for the County Councils Web Channel over the last 6-8 weeks and I’m amazed by how much my own thinking has changed since I started thinking about how we move forward our web channel and web presence in the context of Big Society, Channel Migration (encouraging users to use lower cost channels such as the web over face to face), engagement, participation etc – plus the likely move towards a strategic commissioning model.

I do have a tendency to over-think things sometimes and I always value people challenging, correcting and sometimes punching me to see difference viewpoints or the missing pieces of the puzzle :o) – This is one of those areas.

Most web managers  and web professional should know that Socitm are working on a project to define a professional skills framework for people who work on public sector websites that includes:

  • programmers and coders
  • web developers (with technical skills)
  • web designers
  • content managers/editors
  • social networking experts
  • measurement/monitoring specialists
  • web marketers
  • web managers
  • customer service or IT heads with web responsibilities
  • e-communications professionals

My particular concern is around the Web Manager role as my previous post was exactly that (hence the task of writing the strategic development plan).

So if the scenario is that most public sector organisations are moving towards (some are already there of course) a Strategic Commissioning model, which also in theory will contribute to the Big Society agenda, then we actually need two types of Web Manager moving forward in my opinion:

1) A “Strategic” Web Commissioner – This would in effect be the person who wrote the strategy, understood and documented the organisational needs and specified at a high level the requirements by which a commissioning exercise could take place – they would also be responsible for monitoring the value and ensuring it delivered the outputs specified. This role would also need to set and outline the standards as part of the requirements

2) An “Operational” Web Delivery Manager – This would essentially be the person(s)  responsible for the delivery of the platform. In the scenario above this could be an external organisation or a partners ICT department.

The other roles within the skills framework above don’t seem to be impacted in the same way as all in my view with the exception of the Strategic Web Manager could be “commissioned” or more bluntly put “outsourced” – yes even content authors, although less likely!

The model is, in a simplistic way, very similar to how Web Managers operate now, they are usually outside of the delivery unit (ICT) and are often located in the business (Communications or Customer Services) and essentially commission internally developments and projects which meet a set of outcomes – well we hope they do?

However the main difference is that we will see a new relationship emerging and a logical development of the role into a more strategic context, one which in my view has to understand the commissioning process and inform and influence the direction of the channel.

To put it more simply, you are either specifying what it does, where it goes and what it looks like OR you are part of the delivery of it! Some of us will need to decide what side of that fence we want to sit, some of us of course won’t get a choice…

When it comes to Social Media, I think this adds a different dimension and will inject a much-needed strategic context for social outputs which currently  Web Managers are just grappling with. In my view this shift will provide an opportunity to get “social” into the wider organisation. This simply adds layers to collaboration, knowledge sharing, learning, communication, engagement, participation as we all already know.

To come back to the present day for a minute, I don’t see an immediate transition to this model, but I do suspect that over the next year we will start to see the Strategic Web Commissioner type role emerging and starting to inform and influence the commissioning of web services at a more senior level in councils than has previously happened.

Some people may say that this isn’t really a significant change, but something tells me that this is a big step change from how we work now and we need to work out what it means before someone else does.

As I said at the start, I’d value challenge, comments and an occasional virtual punch to either get me back on track or to make some observations that I simply haven’t considered or acknowledged here.

6 thoughts on “A new view of Corporate Web Management or is it?

  1. This is always going to be difficult.

    My role is ‘Web Designer’. What does that actually mean?

    I design and code the HTML/CSS of our website. Does that make me a web developer too? Or do those technologies not count?

    Where does developing stop and programming start?

    No UX (buzzword ahoy!) on the list either? Or is that the web designers job?

    The whole strategic thinking vs delivery thing does my head in. There needs to be good communication between the two… you’re right a lot of people won’t get a choice.

  2. Martin Howitt

    Hi Carl

    and what happens when it gets decided that we don’t need all these local government web sites at all and citizens can get their information direct from DirectGov?

    A commissioning model leads naturally to centralisation both of policy/requirements (through standardisation and groupthink) and of delivery (shared outsourced services). There’s no room on either side of the fence in my opinion.

    Martin

    • Good point, but i guess we need to influence the commissioning process and until directgov offer this as an option we have to consider something else.

      The other issue to consider is we could commissioning community groups to develop transactional services as part of the devolution of power and simply get them to surface these in ways which are accessible to their users.

      A big area and something that needs consideration and thought – exactly why we need a strategic commissioning role to understand:-

      – Community capability
      – Needs assessment
      – Available options and delivery models
      – Cost vs Quality

      I don’t have the answers but am sort of excited about the opportunities at the same time..

  3. We are all guilty of over complicating things. Why do people need websites? Because they are getting something they need. Information that can’t be found elsewhere, contact with others – or a product (at a knock-down price). In terms of our local authority websites, ultimately there has to be some level of quality control …and ownership, otherwise customers will simply go elsewhere or attempt to provide the service/info themselves (Big Society?). Necessity is the mother of invention… and all that. Everyone has to get something out of the deal though – or it will fail. We need to get back to basics.

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