Web Execution (Web Team): A Definition
One of the oldest Web management problems is determining the structure and make-up of the Web team. A well-formed Web team allows an organization to build its Web presence effectively and efficiently. Historically, the organizational Web team has evolved from a single individual who had the foresight to purchase a domain name and post the organization’s first Web pages. From the 1990s do-it-all Webmaster, this sole person eventually developed into today’s more sophisticated Web division, with organizationally distributed content publishing, application development and data management, and a gaggle of external support vendors.
In consulting practice, I use “Web Execution” instead of “Web team” to broaden the scope of what the latter typically brings to mind. More specifically, I transform that image from a group of folks off in a corner working on a Web site to the reality of what it takes for an organization to produce and manage a Web presence—that is, an execution strategy. Solid Web development requires a number of resources, both in and outside of the organization, solidly executing against the Web standards and towards performance indicators established by their organization.
Some of the questions addressed in the Web Execution realm include: When it is appropriate to hire new resources? When is it appropriate to outsource development? What should the senior roles be for the Web and where should they be seated in the organization? The specific answers to these questions will be unique for every organization. Every business will have to determine how to: 1) organize those functions; 2) optimize their interactions; and 3) specify what job roles will be derived from these functions. It’s an art, not a science. So there is no universally “correct” team structure for producing a Web presence. There are, however, some things to keep in mind when you are staffing for Web Execution. There are also some good practices for Web Execution and Web team formation.
The Business Case for Web Execution
Fifteen years ago, most organizations interacted with their constituents, customers, members, or citizens via print, the phone, or face-to-face communication channels. Today, many organizations find that their first, primary, or only point of contact with these same people happens on the World Wide Web. Despite this change, very little formal attention has been paid to the appropriate structure for getting Web work done. There are two main dynamics that contribute to this lack of attention:
- Organizations, led by senior management teams that grew their careers prior to the advent of the business Web, have frequently segregated their Web Execution efforts. Their experience (or lack thereof) of business success did not include the World Wide Web. So despite the Web’s operational primacy in communications and transactions, the Web team is frequently off in a corner, serving as an after-thought in business process. Subsequently, a lot of business opportunity is being missed.
- Conversely, Web management personnel, while forward-looking with respect to the use of technologies, are frequently weak in the area of business management. So although they understand that the Web Execution function is not being properly funded or managed, they lack the management skills to turn the situation around. In response, Web personnel thrash about, executing on project after project, in quest of the magic bullet that will solve the Web problem. Consequently, resources are wasted or misdirected given the strategic objectives of the business.
These two dynamics produce a Web Execution quagmire, from which most organizations have been unable to escape. The Web team is in an organizational blind spot. Consequently, the Web Execution function is compromised, and Web presence quality and effectiveness are generally low or otherwise off target.
While a low-quality Web presence can be a liability, the real inherent risk in a segregated and immature Web Execution function lies in an organization’s inability to proactively take full advantage of the Internet as a business platform. This oversight is illuminated not only with respect to e-commerce transactions, information, and data dissemination but also with regard to the invention of the 21st century integrated real-world/Web products and service that will be demanded by the maturing digital native population. An organization that refuses to take steps to improve its Web presence quality may ride rich and happy on legacy Web-disabled products and services. But in reality, there’s likely a slow leak in the business’s bottom line or ability to meet mission objectives.
A mature approach to Web Execution can help stop this leak and move the organization’s business practices into the 21st century.
What Is Web Execution?
Web Execution is the definition, coordination, and support of all the tactics required to produce and maintain a high-quality Web presence.
There are two core sub-functions of Web Execution:
- Product Management
- Program Management
Web Execution must be tuned to the objectives of the organization (ideally expressed as Web performance indicators) and must be supported by a mature approach to Web Governance. When executing within these considered and relevant constraints, the freedom and flexibility to break away from linear, slow, and traditional IT development processes increases. This flexible liberty allows the organization to react quickly to new possibilities in Web Execution while maintaining the quality and effectiveness of its Web presence. Standards will enable both collaboration and fast, quality development, not hinder them. Key performance indicators will provide a framework of organizational relevancy for the Web team so its members can make the right decisions about which content, data, and business processes should be enabled via the Web channel. Without standards and key performance indicators as a nucleus for orienting it, Web Execution will be chaotic.
Web Execution Atom
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What Web Execution Means for the Organization
When Web Execution is functioning properly, the old broken Web team function becomes an optimized and flexible Web production machine. As a result, the organization is able to react quickly to new requirements, technologies, and business goals. In this world, the organizational Web site contributes to the bottom line and/or mission of the business in a substantive and measurable way. Web personnel morale also improves, and, in the best cases, the entire organization becomes Web-enabled as the collaborative best practices of the Web team extend outward into the organization and interact with legacy informational and operational management arenas, such as records management, human resource management (Intranets), sales and marketing, or IT.
Web Program Management
Web program management has to do with the administrative and communications functions of the Web team. It entails getting the money and headcount for projects and evangelizing and communicating the value of the Web internally to help align non-Web personnel with the organizational changes that might need to happen because of the reality of the Web. Some of these changes might be tactical (e.g., learning to write for the Web); others might be strategic (e.g., helping the organization understand that a core operational function is obsolete or of minimized value as-is in the face of the Web.) A traditional support call center is an example of the latter.
There are several main areas to consider with respect to Web program management:
- Tending to the Web budget;
- Emplacing mechanisms to evaluate Web performance;
- Managing the Web portfolio;
- Supporting the Web stakeholder community; and
- Optimizing business process management as it relates to Web Execution.
What Web Program Management Means for the Organization
Web program management functions can be addressed by a Web team Program Manager. Alternatively, they can be outsourced or distributed across the organization. Completeness is more important than the organizational placement of these resources. In other words, a complete Web program management function that is ill-placed will outperform an incomplete Web program management function that is well placed. That said, don’t get hung up on where the Web team should “live.” Rather, when looking at Web resources in aggregate across the organization, get hung up on making sure the function exists and is complete and orchestrated.
Web program managers tend to spawn from both the traditional management arena and the Webmaster arena. But no matter where there initial experience is derived, Web program managers understand the value of the Web as a transformative tool for business. They are good managerial diplomats and can effectively navigate the sometime bureaucratic channels of management as an advocate for the Web program. As such, they send a message of value and opportunity upward and bring down guidance so that Web product management is relevant.
Web Product Management
Product management is the orchestration of the full arena of Web development, from editorial to technical. This is the area most think of as the Web team—where actual Web pages are designed, systems and applications developed, and Web sites are spawned and maintained. Ideally, Web product management has both operational and research and development aspects. While requiring strong elements of creativity and invention, Web product management must execute against a standards-based framework in order to scale. Therefore, product management should be guided by Web measurement tactics, both qualitative (in the form of user experience testing) and quantitative (by way of Web analytics). When consistency and horizontal alignment are not required, a more individualistic craft model of Web product management might be feasible.
What Web Product Management Means for the Organization
When managed as a product and not a series of individual projects, the Web becomes a sustained operational asset for the organization. Both the Web platform and the team that supports it are available to the entire organization. They can uphold initiatives and implement cutting-edge or practical solutions that contribute to the organizational mission and/or bottom line.
Finding the right blend of resources to keep the Web site’s quality high and expedient is a challenge, but when actively defined and formalized, Web Execution can be brought under control. It can then move Web development and the organization into an arena where business opportunity is high and the ability to actualize online functionality is greatly heightened.