Herding Cats: Web Governance in Higher Education #heweb11

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Higher Ed presents unique challenges for web professionals — challenges which can prevent us from doing our jobs to the best of our abilities. If you’ve dealt with entrenched silos, information architecture issues, rolls and rolls of red tape, and campus politics, Mark Greenfield knows how you feel. And he has a plan to help set things right: web governance.

What IS Web Governance?

According to Greenfield, web governance is “deciding who gets to decide.”  It’s not about the highest paid person’s opinion (HiPPO), it’s about making decisions based on expertise. As a HighEdWeb professional, you must make sure you’re seen as the go-to person/ web evangelist as you go forward.

Web Without Governance

Without web governance, an institution’s website isn’t a cohesive, single entitity, but is created and seen as collection of micro sites.  Departments, divisions and units see “their” sites as “their own” rather as part of the larger institution.

This is problematic because the entire site matters – not just the homepage or top-level pages.  The site’s usability suffers; there aren’t articulated, measurable goals, so measuring web ROI is difficult; and the resource inefficiencies, with everyone doing their own thing, results in wasted time and money.

Get the HiPPOs’ Attention

Make the case for implementing web governance at an institution relies on two, key points:

Show the highers-up how doing the web affects the institution financially. Show them how a well-designed Admissions site can help boost enrollment; show them how thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of dollars can be saved by placing all class schedules and course catalogs online with a well-designed UI.

Illustrate the consequences of having  bad websites.  For example, search your site for “tuition” and see if you find conflicting numbers. How will students and their parents react if they get a tuition bill higher than is stated on your site? Or, consider the Greenfield’s story about the international student who travelled from China to the US to begin a Masters’ program, which was advertised on a University’s website – only to discover that, once arriving at the institution, the program had been discontinued two years earlier.
In the age of social media, these kinds of mistakes get a lot of attention and will ruin a campus’ reputation.
One other risk factor to consider: if you’re an army-of-one, what happens to your institutions’’ digital presence and strategy if you leave for a job somewhere else?
“This is really great to get someone’s attention,” says Greenfield.

True Web Governance Includes

  • Established authority and accountability
  • Defines the roll of all campus units as it relates to the web and establishes how they will support web efforts
  • Involves senior leadership — cabinet level investment
  • Involves line management (people who make decision on how money gets spent)
  • Is not a one-off process, but ongoing


What Web Governance Implementation Requires

  • Formalization of Authority
  • Web strategy tied to institutional goals
  • Web standards, including coding, editorial content, design, etc.
  • Resource allocation
  • Project Prioritization (which comes first, which projects get done at all)
  • Web Metrics tied to the business objectives of the institution


Learn More

Mark Greenfield’s blog
Mark Greenfield on Twitter
Digital Governance