A common complaint among web managers is that senior leaders and business stakeholders in their organizations “just don’t get it.” They don’t understand the web, they don’t understand what characteristics define a good website, and they don’t understand the staff and resources needed to support it. If you find yourself in this situation there are a number of tactics that you can utilize to help decision makers understand the value of the web.
It all starts with building relationships. The dynamic between the web manager and senior leadership is always an interesting relationship to explore. In my travels I have worked with a number of organizations on their web governance and web management practices and I have found that the best predictor of web success is the web manager’s leadership skills. Web managers must continually build trust with the offices they support.
Communication is key. Web managers should avoid using technical jargon that can confuse and even intimidate non-technical people. Learn to explain the web in terms that everyone will understand. Speak the language of business, not the language of technology and the web. And don’t use your technical knowledge as power. Also think how you frame the relationship with the language you use. Replace the “us and them” mentality with “we”. You are all in this together.
Focus on Business Value
Many decision makers haven’t given much thought to the web from a business perspective. They know they need a website but haven’t thought about how the web can help them meet their goals and objectives. This is where strategic planning comes in. Thinking strategically involves how to best leverage the power of the web to solve business problems and how the web can be utilized to meet goals and objectives. A simple way to get the conversation started is asking the following questions:
- Why do we have a website?
- What business problem can it solve? (Acquire new customers, better support for existing customers, improved operational efficiencies to reduce costs, etc.)
- What do we want people doing on the site?
This value-based approach may be a completely new way for many decision makers to think about their site. It is a powerful paradigm shift. Instead of thinking about the web as a cost center it is now an important strategic asset that provides value and return on investment.
Measure What Matters
Web analytics used in isolation have little value. Yes, having a general sense of the number of visitors, how they got to the site and what they viewed is useful. But the real value of web analytics is when they are integrated with business metrics. Any conversation between web managers and decision makers about analytics should move beyond basic web metrics and focus on business metrics. Anytime you are presenting data, connect the dots back to how the web is helping meet the organizations goals and objectives.
People don’t go to a website to admire the aesthetics or marvel at the cool features. They come to complete tasks. They come to get things done. Think about what you want people doing on the site from a business perspective. This is what you have to measure.
Determining key performance indicators (KPIs) is a must. Many people struggle with KPIs but with some time and effort they can be identified. Work with stakeholders to identify what you want people doing on the site. And remember that all data must be actionable. Define your KPIs, measure and analyze, then take action to improve the results.
It All Starts with "Understanding"
The approach I take to my work can be summed up in nine words:
- Understand the business
- Understand the user
- Understand the medium
It all starts with understanding the business. The most successful web managers focus their interaction with decision makers on value and ROI. Everything is done from a business perspective. Design matters because it impacts the bottom line. Usability matters because it impacts the bottoms line. Quality control matters because it impacts the bottom line. Accessibility matters because it impacts the bottom line (and is the right thing to do in general).
Web managers need to work hard to understand the business, the challenges ahead, and continually think about how the web can meet these challenges. Talk with leadership with what keeps them up at night and then apply creative web based solutions to solve these problems. This approach will make you a trusted partner throughout the organization.
Want more tips on how to manage the ins and outs of being a web manager or editor? Download the Web Editor's Survival Guide.