Friday, April 04, 2008

5 Things Government Web Managers Should Do Before Transition

A couple of weeks ago, I taught a Web Governance course for Web Manager University. To get ready for that class, I polled some of my former colleagues to see where web governance stands, across government. After all, we’ve been running government websites for 13 years now; so I expected that most agencies would have most pieces (roles, responsibilities, relationships, rules, and review) in place. Wrong! I was surprised to see how many lacked some of the basics.

With transition coming, web managers need to pin down their governance structures. Even if it’s not perfect, document what you’ve got – if only to show where there are holes. Find out what you're spending to run your website(s) and be ready to talk about return on investment.

Imagine a new boss walking in and asking you for your policies or procedures or management controls or strategic plan; and you reply, “I don’t have them.” What if your new boss asks what you're spending on the website and you say, "I don't know?" What if those new bosses walk in with a long list of ideas for using the web, and you don’t have a strategic plan and firm knowledge of your budget and resources so you can point out what trade-offs will have to be made to accommodate those new initiatives? You’d be putting your new bosses in the position of making a bad decision because you didn’t have the facts to help them make a good one. Not a great way to start.

Here’s my advice to government web managers. If you do nothing else, do these 5 things before the November election (and the arrival of those transition teams):

  1. Document everything NOW! Write down your existing governance structure, policies, publication procedures/standards, and operating procedures. Have them ready for the new team. Identify deficiencies and plans to correct them.
  2. Identify and document management controls (procedures) to prevent fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement of web content. Make sure you’re using them.
  3. Find out how much you’re spending to run the website(s)! Include FTE (staff) – both full-time and part-time – and contract dollars spent on content support. If you can find out technology costs, that’s good, too. Know your budget. Be ready to discuss return on investment and justify costs.
  4. Come up with at least one or two performance measures tied to mission achievement and/or public service. Traffic and customer satisfaction measures are not enough to justify a website.
  5. Develop/document a strategic plan. Be able to show your new bosses where you’re going and explain why, in terms of impact on mission/public service. Incorporate governmentwide goals. Include goals to correct deficiencies in governance structures, policies, procedures, and management controls, as well as goals for progress. Be ready to discuss all your initiatives (including web 2.0 initiatives) in terms of the strategic goals they help achieve.

Do yourself a favor. Get these ducks lined up. You’ll look like an effective manager and be on much better footing when you talk to your new bosses. Tick, tick, tick.