Governance where does the web sit at your school?

February 25, 2009

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.

You don’t need a redesign you need a web strategy (Part two)

October 23, 2008

What does a web strategy entail? A few items are essential. Identifying target and secondary audiences will be a key component. Once a strategy identifies these audiences decisions can be based on what the needs are of those specific audiences. Of course the easy answer here is that the web needs to speak to all audiences. While this is a nice, politically correct answer it will make your web manager’s job more difficult in the future. Part of developing a strategy is making tough choices.  By identifying who your website is designed for you are then able to address other audiences with strategies designed to give them the information they need.

A strategy should not just involve your public website in order for it to be successful. A careful calculation of all web tools should be done to create a comprehensive plan. A strategy needs to include e-communication tools, the college portal, e-commerce, and college related mini sites. It also needs to be developed within a collaborative environment.

Most institutions have some kind of overarching web group that “manages” or “oversees” the web.  A strategy should be developed and then implemented by a strategic team. Key players from around the institution should be included on the team and it should be led by the person with operational responsibility. The team will need to work collaboratively to meet development, enrollment, and retention needs. This strategic web group also needs to take responsibility for assessment, developing and tracking metrics, and benchmarking strategies. Assessing marketing efforts is an area where higher ed really falls down.

to be continued…

Back and ready to rock and roll

August 22, 2008

2 weeks of vacation – everyone should take it over the summer.

  • It was relaxing
  • I had real quality time with my family
  • Gives you a chance to “think”
  • Did I mention it was relaxing

So I returned on Monday to lots of email (nothing new) and over 100 requests for help. What a way to start Monday morning. But more important than that I returned with a new attitude. I am tired of bureaucracy, red tape, and committee work. (Do I sound like McCain and Obama?) I am tried of taking months to get the smallest of projects done waiting on approval for a group to make a decision. I am tired of the “norm” for higher ed.

And I am going to do something about it.

I am going to be positive this year.

I am going to be work towards direct solutions that make sense.

I am going to be direct and efficient with my work, time, and energies.

I am going to push the envelope with new and innovative ideas. Some of them may work some may not but we are going to try them.

Does this sound idealistic. Sure it does – but hey it is the beginning of the semester…

Welcome Class of 2012!

No staff – need to find ways to say yes!

July 31, 2008

A complaint I hear over and over again on the blogs as well as live at conferences is I am only a one person shop or my office only has so much time and we are overworked. I can understand up until June 1, 2008 Gettysburg had a one person web communications shop. I have used the line myself from time to time to explain why I wasn’t able to get back to people or accomplish a task on time. However if we are to make an impact at our institutions I think we need to keep 2 things in mind:

  • Create a customer service mentality
  • Find ways to say “yes”

There is nothing worse for your “on-campus” reputation than to be considered an office or person who constantly says no or we can’t or don’t want to do projects. I think by taking a customer service approach and finding a way to have success and help departments accomplish their goals (finding a way to say yes) you gain lots of respect and have a positive impact on your campus.

Of course this is easier said then done and sometimes you just can’t do it all but by finding ways to make projects happen you will gain lots of friends, find partnerships, and create opportunities for future collaborations. I have always found that the projects that I collaborate with other departments are the projects that have the most impact for Gettysburg.

Governance – some thoughts part II

July 29, 2008

What does it mean to be “nimble”?

How do we as web professionals respond quickly to a changing dynamic environment?

How do we stay on top of the technology when we are often “understaffed” to start with?

Our sites are not just competing with each other but with all other sites on the web as well. Students could be visiting,, and then How do we stack up and continue to meet expectations?

Here are a few thoughts that I’ll offer:

  • Concentrate on not just good or adequate content but GREAT content. Post the best stories, pictures, videos that you can find.
  • Look for ways you can capitalize on “free” or close to free tools that help you communicate your “great” content
  • DON’T implement the gimmicks or quick fixes that seem too good to be true – they probably are
  • Spend your time, money, and resources on the things that push your institution the farthest – these will be worth what you put in.
  • Collaborate – you can always do more when you work with other offices and departments

Governance – some thoughts part 1.

July 22, 2008

I saw today that William & Mary was soft launching their new web redesign and I began thinking more about governance of the web.

How do web decisions get made at institutions. Is it the job of:

  • senior leadership team
  • IT
  • Communications
  • Web Office
  • Individual departments
  • Web committee

I have seen and heard of models that look like all of these. But I would argue that the most effective way to manage or govern the web is to have some central forum, committee, task force, group that helps to set the vision. But with this model you also need a strong web office that is able to implement changes quickly as the market demands change.

If left to the senior leadership team web decisions might not be made since they are concentrating on other issues of the institution. When decision making is isolated in one office IT or communications decision might be one sided or be made with a bias and one office is easily blamed when things appear to go wrong. If decision making is up to individual departments good luck with strategy or strategic thinking.

When you have a group that is made up of Directors and Associate VPs on a committee that works with setting a web strategy and vision you have a really powerful group. When that group represents each division of your college you have an even more powerful group. It’s been my experience that I can accomplish more with collaboration than on my own.

But along with this committee you also need to be able to be “nimble” as a web office. That sounds like a whole different blog post so I am going to save that for Governance – some thoughts part 2.

Web Redesign to Web Governance

May 7, 2008

Susan Evans my colleague from William & Mary prompted this post by asking about Web Governance. During the web redesign process the president will appoint some sort of “oversight” committee, work group, or task force. Eventually the redesign process will come to an end and the question will arise what happens to that group and how do we continue to make decisions about the web?

At Gettysburg we used our “Web Task Force” originally tasked by the President to oversee the redesign as an ongoing group to develop and implement the strategic web vision of the College. After we launched we expanded the group to represent all divisions of the college. In terms of governance I think this is one of the keys. If everyone is not at the table your group won’t be as strong.

One of the first things I did with the group was develop a document about who was on the task force and what we were supposed to do. Without a document like this the group has very little chance of being effective. I decided early on that I did not need an operational group but instead needed this group to focus on strategic items.

Some of the early lessons learned for me was to make sure everyone clearly understood how decisions/recommendations are made, what issues the task force would tackle, and how our meetings would be structured. To get out from under the operational focus I moved our meetings to discussion based and instead of an update that I would normally give at the meeting I started to provide it in writing and just open the floor for questions about the update. This strategy helped move the group from operational to strategic.

We also moved from weekly hour long meetings to monthly two hour meetings which allowed us to tackle the larger strategic issues and provided enough discussion time. This was not the most popular decision but when people feel their time is used well they don’t mind slightly longer meetings.

There are lots of ways to organize and govern the web after redesign but here are a few critical things to keep in mind no matter what your structure:

· Representation – make sure every division of your institution has someone on your team

· Educate – this group can help you so educate them on current trends

· Definition – define what the group does and how it does it