Governance where does the web sit at your school?

Over the last few years I have followed many higher ed blogs, attended many conferences, and made many professional connections. The question of

Where do you report?

always seems to come up. I have heard lots of different answers IT, Communications, Marketing, Admissions, Development, Advancement and on and on and on.

For the record my department (which is separate from Communications and Public Relations) reports to the same Vice President of Enrollment and Educational Services.

Does is really matter where you sit at the table or does your success really have a lot to do with how well you are able to collaborate? Lets face it the web touches everyone and every office. To be successful you have to please all of the people all of the time. Of course this topic could be a whole separate blog post.

What if people in web communications, web technology, web services or what ever it’s called at your school spent less time worrying and talking about where they report and more time on the key components that make a web person successful? Collaboration, innovation, strategic thinking. I have seen schools where the web reported to all the areas listed above and more and I have seen each of the scenarios successful and each of them not successful. It had little to do with where the web reported and more to do with how the job was done.

7 Responses to Governance where does the web sit at your school?

  1. Grammylelo says:

    Well stated. I, too, believe that the Web is used for it’s best purpose when the most gifted people are empowered to collaborate and bring their best ideas to the table. It’s amazing what happens when you strip away the politics, the reporting relationship and the titles and just challenge people to use the Web to advance the greatest things your University has to offer.

    Excellent post.

  2. Paul Redfern says:

    If you are interested in this topic you can also check out this post

  3. RobClock says:

    To answer you question, yes, collaboration and communication skills are extremely important and helpful, and it would be nice if it was this simple, and perhaps in some places, it is. But, the answer to your other question is also yes, it does matter where you sit at the table.

    The problem is that, with different reporting structures come different priorities, different styles, different responsibilities, and different philosophies, because everyone is accountable to their boss, all the way up the chain. A project that is a priority for marketing and communications may not be seen as a priority by IT and therefore IT resources are not made as readily available. A detail that is important to a designer or communications professional is not as important to a programmer and therefore they don’t pay it as much attention.

    The unfortunate reality is that different things are necessarily important to different departments and when the reporting lines for those departments sometimes don’t converge until the presidential level, then it can become a battle of who’s opinion/outlook/responsibility is more valid, and that is a battle nobody wins.

    No solution is right for every organization, but I advocate putting all of the people necessary to complete most Web development projects–designers, programmers, writers/editors, project managers, etc.–in one office, preferably beneath or beside the marketing and communications office (because, after all, the Web is a communications medium). That team then consults with, well, everyone, but the overall priorities, goals, philosophy, and strategy are all set in one place and everyone is on the same page.

  4. Ron says:

    I like this twist on it.

    I think I’ll say this: It really depends on the institution. I don’t think that you could take the same structure, port it everywhere for the web and have it work. It’s just too dependent on the institutional politics at each school, really.

    Heck, these days it’s not even clear where ADMISSION sits at the table at some schools. So really, it’s not too surprising that the web is all over the board in terms of where it may hide.

    For me, the web is more than just about “the web site” in that, if you don’t have a very good marketing strategy or are doing other things to counteract whatever innovations are being made or the web — or intentionally stifle it — it’s not going to work for you. I think the web is still viewed as a sandbox, rather than a communication’s medium.

    So that’s where having web leadership having access to the decisionmakers, to offer real perspective that would I think, help the web work better.

    But that said, it’s really a school by school thing in my mind because there are just too many variables otherwise.

  5. As a Web governance consultant, I see different reporting structures and whether you report to IT or communications, it can work. However, the most successful cases appear to be those where the Web team is an independent one, reporting directly into the C-suite level, or better yet, with its own C-level representative. This is because the Web is an communication vehicle, a marketing tool, usually has a transaction component conducive to IT, and often times services needs even beyond these group (ex. HR, student recruiting, finance, etc.)

    The biggest key to success is ensuring you have sound Web governance (defined as a framework with Web policies and standards for making and *enforcing* Web-related decisions) that can support Web priorities and align them with execution, as well as a sound Web team that can appropriately be managed, staffed, and measured related to the organization’s strategic goals and objectives.

    Note that in order to have a functioning Web Governance, you will need to have a Web Operations Management strategy, which has to come directly from the top. It also requires that someone like the president of the school delegate clear authority for the Web (i.e. specific team(s) or person(s) are responsible for aligning the Web to the organization’s business objectives. If you can also get together senior leadership to define guiding principles for you and then leave the Web team alone, they (together with the folks in the Web Governance framework) are on a strong path to success.

  6. isaacson says:

    Agree with Kristina that having the proper structure for decision making and clear priorities from the top make the web effective. I think its clear that ‘the web’ is too vague a term and that each school needs to define what the priorities are for the group that is responsible for the external facing portions of their website as well as utilizing any 3rd party sites to promote the school (ex. YouTube).

    To me those are all marketing functions and should at the very least be set up and governed by the ‘web team’ even if they don’t administrate the day to day.

    This may seem obvious, but the web is the virtual representation of your school or institution; so by necessity it touches on may areas, and those key stakeholders should have input but the driving vision must come from the very top and resonate the core or essence of the entire institution.

  7. It’s quite interesting at my college. I am the Web Services Manager and our department use to be a part of the Information Technology Services and I reported to the CIO. We have since be moved to the Office of Advancement and I now report to the Executive Director of Advancement. I agree that it shouldn’t matter where your web department is located in your college, but it does seem that depending on who’s hear the leadership has, that could adjust priorities. I think the move for us will prove to be a positive move as Web Services now has a closer connection to the president. Only time will tell if this is true.

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