How big is your web presence

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I’ve been doing a bit of research linked to my previous role as corporate web manager, on how many websites and separate domains the council uses to present and display information.

However this got me thinking to what a good number should really be for local government. I know Martha Lane Fox has suggested that central government should have one site, whilst I agree in principle I’m not convinced that this is actually practical for local government. I’m not referring to one for the whole sector I’m specifically referring to a single council’s web presence and this is not including social media domains.

So far I have found just over 65 separate websites which are either directly presenting council information or are presenting information in partnership with one of more partners.

It is this last scenario, more than one partner of course which is gradually increasing across the council as we move forward with a commissioning agenda, so how do others councils approach this aspect of web provision…do your partnership sites sit on your platform but have their own branding, do they sit within your branding?  I’m keen to find out what others are doing in this area.

I have actually looked at all of the sites and apart from a few sites they all pretty much offer a good level of interaction which can not be found in our current website.  The majority again pretty much contain the appropriate branding for the site and where applicable include the councils branding.

The big problem though is that they are all disconnected from the main council site. You can not currently search this sites and for some you can’t access via the AtoZ either.  This is a major fail and as previous web manager, well I won’t say how I feel about it.

So why do I think this is not practical. Well firstly we are not very good when it comes to partnerships to specify that all content be presented via the councils site. Most if not all partners wish to have their branding used equally and therefore the councils website often presents a barrier. To review this will take time and of course development resource to bring this sites internally.

But why would we, what is the value in creating a single site. Surely a framework of web delivery is more appropriate, a site which displays core council information and either embeds content and functionality from other sites or use a federated search solution across all domains to allow users to find and access all of the content and services.

There is a cost saving to reviewing the sites, but there is also a cost in moving and migrating the sites, so this would need to be considered on the basis of delivering value and not just for the sake of a “pure” website.

Now I’m not suggesting that this is the right or the wrong approach, I merely believe it isn’t practical for all councils.

I think local government web managers have a tricky job to balance the customer journey and pure single website vision with the increasing move toward commissioned services with a mixed economy of service delivery and service providers.

So how many sites does your council have and how are you managing the wider web presence.

A new view of Corporate Web Management – The Competencies

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In a previous post about the potential shift around the role of a Corporate Web Manager, I want to look at the type of competencies that this new role might be expected to perform in the (very near) future.

Just to recap I identified two different roles:

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.

So the following represents a first draft of what I feel would be required for the Strategic Web Commissioner Role, it is divided into 5 main areas, I have also not added the additional details of what each bullet point relates to at this stage either.

You will notice that very little relates directly to the web itself. I do however feel that there needs to be a recognition that such a role would need a very good understanding of the web and social web in order to be truly effective. However I think that these kinds of things would be picked up in a person specification, which supported the following competencies.

Anyway it is very much work in progress, so I’d welcome comments and feedback.

Leadership

  • Direction setting – why are we using the web, what benefits does it offer the organisation etc
  • Influencing/ persuading – evangelising the use of the web
  • Horizon scanning  – what technology or business trends do we need to be aware of, complexity of organisational environment etc.
  • Decision making – getting things done

Planning and Programme Management

  • Requirements analysis – what we are delivering a web site for and what functions should it offer
  • Process analysis – which processes require changing for transactional delivery
  • Solutions design – what is the solution architecture
  • Programme and project management
  • Change Management and Benefits Realisation

Engagement

  • Stakeholder analysis  – understanding the aims and objectives of your key stakeholders
  • Customer/Citizen engagement – how can the web meet local needs
  • Service engagement – how can the web delivery service improvement and cost reduction

Procurement

  • Procurement Strategy – ensuring supplier independence, understanding market capability and aligning with organisational strategy
  • Delivery Analysis – internal vs external vs partnership vs shared service
  • Procurement management
    • Sourcing
    • Contracts and contract management
    • Performance Management

Monitor and Manage

  • Overall service performance management
  • Service management analysis – including feedback and co-design of services
  • Value Analysis – are we getting value

I think this is a big shift away from current web manager roles, although bits of it will be done – I believe the biggest aspect fo this will be in understanding the ever-increasing complexity of the delivery model which Councils will be moving toward in order to create a seamless and coordinated interface into the transactions and information.

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.