Senior Managers: You Can’t Keep Ignoring the Web

    June 26, 2006

The Web deserves professional management because the Web is central to the future of the organization.

Most websites are not managed. They are, at best, administered. These administrators “put up” stuff on the website that they are told to put up. This approach quickly turns your website into a dumping ground. Many administrators know this but they have no real power or authority-it’s often their bosses who tell them to put up this unnecessary content.

Senior managers have been out of touch with the Web for two main reasons. Firstly, they have no previous experience in managing websites. Secondly, they didn’t see the Web as deserving significant management time. Well, the Web has come of age. It is no longer the new kid on the block. The Web has become mainstream. It needs to be professionally managed. Otherwise it becomes a dumping ground.

There are two key characteristics of websites that fail: technology-centric and organization-centric. Belief that if you buy a “portal” or some other fancily-named software you will solve all your problems is unfortunately common and incredibly naive. Without professional management, content management software helps you build a bigger dump, faster.

The first design of practically all websites was organization-centric. The classification was based on the organization chart, and the content was an exercise in vanity publishing. The organization was constantly announcing this and that, the head honcho was constantly delighted about this or that. Some websites even allowed you view their television advertising, which, when you saw the same advertising on television you immediately reached for the remote.

Over time, the better websites realized that nobody cared when organizations did a dance of self-congratulation. Sensible communicators realized that publishing press releases on the homepage was about as effective as trying to sell meat to vegetarians. The picture of the head honcho was dropped from the homepage, and surprise, surprise, there wasn’t a deluge of email requesting that it be put back again.

The websites that have succeeded have had two key characteristics: customer-centric and task-centric. It is not natural for organizations to be customer-centric. Within an organization, there is a huge pull to be organization-centric. Tactical politics dictate that is not a good idea to tell your boss that the content he wants to publish is crap, and that no customer in their sane mind wants to read it. But these are hard truths that need to be told because otherwise your website will fail.

Great websites are task-focused. They help people quickly and simply complete boring tasks, such as booking a flight or renewing a driving license. People constantly tell me that they don’t have tasks on their website. They say that customers come “looking for information”. (This phrase should be banned.)

Let’s say there are changes to the pension plan of your organization. What is the task? Here’s an example: As a result of these changes, how many more years (if any) do I have to work before I can retire?

Changing an organization from being technology- and organization-centric, to being customer- and task-centric absolutely requires senior management commitment and engagement.

Is your website strategically important to the success of your organization? If so, it requires professional management, from the most senior level down.

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern

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