Who’s in charge of your website?

Used to be that the IT guys ran the Web decisions at the company. They were the ones who could install and maintain the server and keep things running, changing DNS settings and ensuring things ran smoothly. Then around 1999, the marketing folks got a foot further in the door. By 2003, marketing was solidly entrenched. In online businesses, marketing had held sway for much longer. But the underlying technology has changed drastically in the past few years. Today, even a large enterprise can have non-technical people set-up, maintain and operate a complex website with many engagement tools and applications. So who should be setting Web policy for the company? Marketing? It? Finance? HR?

The answer might well be; all of the above. This might spark the thought “uh oh, death by committee.” But in this case, we don’t mean to suggest a Web Committee be struck. Our work has found that companies who mix online elements of their operations with real-world elements, develop better strategies and usage policies when there is a multi-disciplinary team involved. End decisions should not be based on committee voting. A business is about making a profit and that means autocracy. But today, such decisions can be better made when a team can build concensus and make a viable recommendation to the senior manager who must then make the final decision.

I usually recommend that a company establish a team that mixes departments and various levels of experience. While many senior managers over 50 may feel the Web is the domain of youth, nothing makes up for seasoned business experience. Some rules may be different on the Web, but the fundamentals of good financial and corporate governance remain the same. Our experience has been that the best teams usually comprise of Marketing, Finance, HR and Legal. Through marketing, finance and HR’s participation, you’re able to address the multiple key audiences and stakeholders that will be impacted by your online operations. And good fiscal judgement is more likely to exercised. Additionally, the involvement of Finance will help them to better understand the costs associated with the online elements of the business.

By engaging a senior management person with key strategic decisions around the Web, you also build awareness at the executive level, which helps in times of crisis or when conducting strategic planning. A good team will develop over time and guidelines for areas of responsibilities should be established and reviewed annually. The team should change from time to time as well to keep ideas and objectives fresh.

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