Dealing with management

Paul Boag

How do we get senior management to recognise the problem with how their website is being managed?

Yesterday I wrote a post complaining about the fact that most internal web teams don’t have the authority to do their job properly; how they are subject to the whims of more powerful departments.

In a matter of hours this became the most retweeted post I have ever had and got picked up by .net Magazine. However, despite the general sense of agreement one response came through again and again:

How do we fix this, when senior management don’t see that there is a problem?

This is a perfectly reasonable question and although I have no silver bullets, the answer is simple: we must make them see the problem.

As Jonathan Kahn says in his post for A List Apart on Web Governance:

It’s about pointing out risks, shining a light on organizational denial, overcoming resistance, and facilitating constructive discussions about change.

But, where to start?

Ask the difficult questions

My suggestion is to start by asking those difficult questions that nobody wants to face. Questions such as:

  • Who is measuring whether the website is achieving its business aims?
  • Where is there a document outlining the objectives for the website?
  • Do we know how much the website costs the organisation?
  • If there is a disagreement about the website, who makes the final decision?
  • If a user has a problem with accessibility, who is responsible for fixing it?
  • Who is qualified to make decisions about the technical aspects of our web presence?
  • Who is responsible for removing content from the site?
  • Who is responsible for ensuring all content is correct and projects the correct image of the company?
  • What is our policy on using external agencies?
  • Do we know what our legal obligations are regarding the website?
  • Who is on the web team and how much of their time is dedicated to the role?

The list could easily go on.

Highlighting the risks

In addition to this we need to identify the risks that arise if the website is not managed and resourced correctly. These include:

  • The legal ramifications.
  • The risk of the website being loss making.
  • That the website may damage the companies reputation.
  • That the competition will out perform us online.

As Jonathan says in his post:

In short, sell to their pain.

As I said, this is not a silver bullet. However, it might at least raise enough doubt to encourage management to engage an external agency to do a thorough SWAT analysis and suggest some solutions; like giving the web team more authority over the site.