Have you got the makeup of your web team all wrong?

Paul Boag

Most web teams have a huge bias toward technical staff, but is that actually sensible?

Take a moment to think about your web team. Who are they? What varying roles do they fulfil and do you have the right kind of people?

Too many of the web teams I work with are not just under resourced (an all too common problem) but made up of entirely the wrong kind of people.

The problem is that web teams are formed on the wrong premise.

Starting from the wrong premise

Most web teams are built on two false premises.

First, there is a presumption that the major work of managing a website is technical. This is not correct. The biggest challenge of any website is managing the content. Once the infrastructure is in place, the technical workload should be comparably low. Almost anybody can be taught to edit the copy on a webpage and anything more complex can be outsourced (at least to begin with).

However, writing, editing and removing copy is a much more substantial role, not to mention social media management.

Second, most web teams are built around simply maintaining the status quo. Sure they will occasionally update some copy or correct a few typos. However, there is no ongoing plan to evolve the site, so there are not the staff in place to do that. This means many sites stagnate because nobody is actively developing them and keeping up with the competition.

At the end of the day, like so many things, you get what you pay for.

You get what you pay for

If you only pay for a small team to maintain the website in its current state, then it is inevitable that it will quickly look out of date in the face of rapid online change.

But, it doesn’t stop there. You also get what you pay for in terms of the kind of work there is to do. Let me explain.

Let’s say you have a team of developers – not unusual considering the bias towards thinking of websites as technical. In such a setup the chances are you have a lot of technical work to do. Because of the bias of staff, the website will become very technically heavy and there will become an increasing amount of technical work to do. In the end your team will be moaning about the amount of work and you will end up hiring yet another developer.

In other words, if you want your website to be more content focused or have a more refined design then hire a content specialist or designer. It might not feel like there is enough work to keep her busy and the developers might complain that actually you need another developer, but you need to hire for the future, not current workloads.

So what roles make up a good web team?

Who should you hire?

We put the cart before the horse when we hire for web teams. Often organisations start by hiring implementors, the people who actually build and maintain a site. These are typically front-end coders or developers.

If you think about it that makes little sense. Without somebody to set the direction in which your website is going, its much like paying a taxi driver to drive you around aimlessly. Yes the taxi driver will be doing his job and keeping busy, but its a waste of time and money.

Of course most organisations don’t see it that way. They believe that somebody in marketing will set the direction and then the web team will implement their vision.

At first glance this might appear to make sense, but there are a couple of flaws in this logic. First, it immediately fragments the web team with some functions being driven from marketing. Second, marketing have their own job to do and they lack the time or knowledge to manage the web effectively. Finally, the web is more than a marketing tool and so putting it in the hands of a marketeer is to limit its potential.

With that in mind the first hire for most digital teams should be a digital lead. Somebody capable of setting a vision and direction for the site.

This person would manage outside contractors, liaise with internal stakeholders, monitor analytics, run split testing, update content and manage social media channels. There would certainly be no shortage of jobs to be done.

Overtime you could expand the team. At first this might be bringing in some of the outsourced roles in-house. This is where you may actually hire a front-end coder or developer. An alternative is that your social media responsibilities could be made a full time position. This would provide the Digital Lead time to be more strategic and seek out new opportunities for the company in its use of digital.

What’s my point?

I guess what I am driving at is that many organisations need to step back and review the web teams they have. I am not suggesting that they should fire their coders. I am saying that they need to look at maybe training and equipping some of them to be Digital Leads and hiring to fill in the gaps.

A secondary point here is that the digital team should include all of the roles to run digital rather than having some functions spread across the organisation. There needs to be a unified team under a strong lead.

What I am curious about is why all of this doesn’t happen. What is holding companies back from creating a strong, empowered and well rounded digital team? I would love to hear your perspective in the comments. What are things like in your company or with your clients? Please take a moment to post your point of view.

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