Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Today’s Government Web Team Needs to Cover the Bases

Government websites are evolving into service stations where the public can drive up, find and use the service they want, and drive away quickly. Government agencies are starting to use the power of “social networking” sites to deliver information and advertise services. Government web managers are paying more attention to what the public wants and are using sophisticated metrics and usability tests to make sure they get it right. And – more than ever – the public is clamoring for websites that talk their talk…that communicate. So what kind of web team do you need to handle this big job? You need one that has all the knowledge, skills, and abilities to cover the bases.

If I were creating my “dream team” today, here’s what I’d want (and let’s just pretend money is no object):

1 Content Manager (note: I did not say “Web Content Manager” – more on that later). GS 15.

  • Major functions: Overall leadership and strategy for content management operations. Representative to agency executives and interagency efforts. Overall editor-in-chief.
  • Why? There’s got to be one leader at the top.

1 Deputy Content Manager GS 15.

  • Major functions: chief problem solver; chief surrogate for the Content Manager.
  • Why? You’ve got to have a trained and knowledgeable surrogate. You’ve got to build redundancies. And you’ve got to create a training ladder so that, by the time you need a new Content Manager, you’ve got one ready. Oh – and you’ve got to have a chief problem-solver…someone who can really dig in on those complex problems, sort them out, and come up with the right answers.

1 Technology Analyst (OK – you could call this person “Webmaster”) GS 13/14

  • Major functions: look for new technologies to carry out content goals; analyze how new technologies could be used to improve content; oversee technology contractors; liaison to CIO.
  • Why? You no longer can dump all that tech responsibility on the CIO. You need to have someone on your own team who can be looking down the road, who understands the content goals and can bridge the gap between communicators and the CIO staff. Whether the next President has an E-Gov Director or a Chief Technology Officer or some other IT lead at OMB, you need to have someone on your team paying attention to that side of the house.

1 Audience Analyst GS 13/14

  • Major functions: develop and analyze metrics; do usability testing; analyze email, correspondence, call-ins to determine what the public wants and what the agency is telling them; recommend new/revised content to meet audience needs.
  • Why? No more guessing allowed. The public expects us to know what they want and give it to them efficiently and effectively. You need an expert analyst who can make sure your content does just that.

1 Director of Local Content GS 13/14

  • Major functions: lead Regional Content Managers; develop local content; coordinate with agency program office outreach operations; direct marketing and outreach.
  • Why? The public wants that local touch. Sure, they want to know how to buy a home. But what they really want to know is how to buy a home in where they live (or want to live). Most agencies have field operations – you’ve got the people out there who have that local expertise. Use it.

1 Intranet Manager GS 13/14

  • Major function: manage the intranet.
  • Why? Employees deserve to have someone paying attention to their wants and needs, someone who will make sure content up-to-date and served in ways that make sense to them. No more making this one of many tasks assigned to one of your team members. Give it the resources it deserves.

2-3 Project Managers GS 11/12

  • Major functions: plan, coordinate, implement, evaluate specific projects such as training, management controls, quality control, documentation, quarterly certifications, foreign language pages, developing new content, editing, etc.
  • Why? So many projects – so little time! You need skilled project managers to make sure none of those balls drop. And this is a great training opportunity for aspiring content managers.

5-7 Regional Content Managers GS 13/14 located in agency offices outside of Washington DC.

  • Major functions: Lead content operations for an assigned geographic area; develop content by state (or city); direct marketing and outreach at the local level; editors-in-chief for local content.
  • Why? Folks in the field know this stuff. And you’ve got to have someone on site who can lead the effort, who have personal touch with the public

5-7 Deputy Regional Content Managers GS 11/12

  • Major functions: assist Regional Content Managers and act as surrogates
  • Why? Redundancy and assistance

1-2 Staff Assistants GS 7/9

  • Major functions: Assist in day-to-day operations of the content team, assist in project management
  • Why? Someone’s got to keep you going…cross those ‘t’s,” dot those “i’s.” And it’s a great way to pull entry-level employees into your career ladder, train them for bigger jobs.

OK – so why “content” and not “web content”? Well, for a couple of reasons. First, I believe that “web” limits the thinking of agency executives. When they hear or read “web,” they think of a website and computers – not about the tasks being served or the words on the page. They pigeonhole the content manager into a “techie” slot, rather than in the more appropriate “communicator” slot.

More important, I think it’s inevitable – and right – that, one day, all communications operations will be put under one organizational umbrella…websites, publications, call centers, and any other methods of content delivery. Someday (hopefully soon), government leaders will realize that we need to create content once and deliver it many ways. So let’s get those leaders thinking of us in terms of “content” management – not just “web” management. And when they staff those umbrella organization jobs...well, there we’ll be.

It’s transition time – use it. Get your staffing plan ready. Let your new bosses know what you need to run a successful contemporary government web team. The next President is sure to know the power of government websites. He is sure to make new demands that will affect you. This is a great time to take a hard look at your web team and make sure you’ve got what you need to cover the bases.

Related links:

5 Things Government Web Managers Should Do Before Transition