Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reach Out to Web Managers in the Field

In the past month, I’ve taught two courses for government web managers. I learned something important from those courses: there are still government web managers working around the country who are operating in a vacuum. They don’t know about webcontent.gov or the government Web Managers Forum or all the requirements and best practices for government websites.

One class participant told me she doesn’t even know who else in her federal agency works on websites. Another one told me he gets no encouragement from his higher-ups to get together with other web managers and web contributors – even just in his own federal agency – to compare notes and collaborate. Web Managers Forum: you’ve got some outreach to do.

The Web Managers Forum has grown to more than 1,500 federal, state, and local government web managers from across the country. It truly is a community of practice success story and a tribute to the power of grassroots organization. This group, which is led by the Federal Web Managers Council, “meets” monthly on conference calls that often exceed 100 phone lines (with many people sitting in a room listening on one line) to discuss hot topics and best practices. They also communicate through a listserv and are moving to an online social networking site. This is all great news.

But think about it. If there are 24,000+ federal government websites out there, then there also must be a whole lot of people running those websites; and they’re not all sitting in Washington DC. There are many government “web managers” (including employees who may not have the title but still do that job) out in “the field" (the term used in Washington to describe everyone working for the government who is NOT in Washington). There are field web managers out there operating on their own, reinventing the wheel. You need to find a way to bring those web managers into your circle.

You need to get them up to speed with best practices and strategic plans and social media and other initiatives. You need to make sure their local perspective is integrated in the information and services you deliver to citizens. But most of all, you need to collaborate across government - and up and down, through the ranks - to improve the quality of all government websites and service to the public.

You need to advertise the Forum and webcontent.gov, through every federal agency, regularly. You need to get out of DC and organize training sessions and meetings in major cities across the country. It’s much cheaper to take a small training team out to local venues – places where field web managers can drive in for the day at almost no cost – than to bring them into DC.

You need to organize and nurture local and regional cross-agency web manager forums and groups, encouraging them to meet and compare notes regularly, in addition to becoming members of the larger Web Managers Forum. You need to identify and cultivate regional web leaders who can serve as conduits and local organizers. And – most of all – we need those at the highest levels (OMB, agency heads) to recognize and ensure that all government web managers (including those who work under other titles but who perform web manager functions) – at all locations – are properly trained and are encouraged to collaborate, both throughout their agencies and across government.

Reach out. Seek out your peers in the field. Bring them into the community. Government web managers serve the public best when they serve together. Inside and outside of Washington DC.

Related posts

When Web Managers Gather…
Bring Government Home

1 comment:

Lighthouse Baptist Church Indianapolis said...

Candi - I agree about getting out of Washington and reaching web managers across the heartland. One way that goal can be achieved is by making those DC training sessions available to the heartland through streaming access. Many of us are willing to pay.