The goal is sustainability.
Too often, we find ourselves approaching a website like a project, never turning the corner after a redesign. Never putting in place a structure that will ensure individual web pages on your site are current and accurate next week, next month, and two years from whenever. If you are still approaching your website like an every-five-years project, use a governance plan to make this your last slash-and-burn website redesign.
There is no one-size-fits all for governance — website management varies from campus to campus. That said, the best governance models offer the right balance of oversight and support.
How do you set the stage for web governance?
Make the switch to internal communications mode.
Higher ed websites rightfully prioritize external audiences, making sure content is optimized for prospective students, parents and alumni. If your team is responsible for the university website, you are likely comfortable with external communication. Governance of the website, however, is about internal communication — it’s about offering support to many (often hundreds!) of internal web editors who are regularly using a CMS to edit and add content. You will need to switch to internal communications mode when gearing up for a best-practice governance plan.
Effective communication with internal stakeholders requires two things:
An important first step for setting the stage for governance is listening. Campuses are chock-full of opinions, perspectives and suggestions. The higher ed culture of let a thousand flowers bloom means individuals will expect to have their say. Until they do, they aren’t likely to support your governance plan. Members of a central web team need to be on the ground listening to everyday web editors. Believe me, they will talk about their concerns. (You might just hear something useful for your planning.) If your future governance model offers solutions to at least some of the web editors’ specific concerns, they are much more likely to buy in. After all, internal communications is also about personal benefit…
People pay attention when what you have to say affects them directly. They almost immediately want to know what’s in it for them. Your governance plan must offer benefits. By the way, I mean benefits to the web editors, not to you. Make the advantages clear. Web editors “in the field” should be able to rely on a governance plan that includes a pre-defined set of services from the central web team. Without concrete benefits for web editors, adoption of a web governance plan will be an uphill battle.