Now available: Design for Impact by Erin Weigel

Expert Interview: Lisa Welchman


Lisa is one of the planet’s go-to people for web governance, so we’re quite relieved that we snagged her to write our forthcoming book on the very same topic. She’s also available through our experts program for both consulting and teaching a course on web governance; check out her profile and let us know if you’d like us to connect you with Lisa.

RM: Why is website development such a common source of conflict within organizations?

LW: Because usually no one has outlined roles and responsibilities, or emplaced authority and budget, for website development. So managing the enterprise web is a battle of power and budget. Since no one knows who is “supposed” to make decisions about the web, organizations find that they can’t get the simplest of things done online because everyone’s arguing about font colors, technologies, information architecture, you name it.

After a certain amount of time working without an operational blueprint, an enterprise reaches a sort of critical mass of confusion. Managing the enterprise web without a plan or governance is like getting a couple of hundred people together on a sports field and saying, “Let’s play a game.” “What game?” “Just a game. OK. Go!” You’ll have chaos for a while, but eventually there have to be rules or else it’s senseless and non-productive (and maybe not fun). That might be OK if you’re making art or doing an experiment (like the early days of web development), but organizational web sites aren’t art. They are craft. And for most businesses, web sites are no longer an experiment. They serve a business purpose. Web site development has to be supported by an operational model that supports that purpose.

So much of business has shifted towards digital, yet the enterprise (people and processes, budgeting) is still engineered for 1990. By now, most organizations have had a website for fifteen or twenty years. That’s fifteen or twenty years of just making stuff up as you go along—playing a game with no rules. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but not by much. There have been efforts made to gain control through adding a headcount here or there to the “web team” (usually an understaffed, underfunded team with no real authority). But the management response to the web has been largely inadequate.

There are billion dollar, publicly traded, “brand name” businesses that don’t know how many websites or social media accounts they have, or who is managing them. They don’t know how much they spend on the web. Or they can’t do something simple like change the copyright date on all their websites, or find and change the name of the CEO. That’s crazy, and an exposure for the business and the brand. Senior management and executives need to understand that websites aren’t all design and technology “stuff”. They are business tools and they need to be taken seriously.

RM: So what’s the one thing you wish everyone knew about web governance?

LW: That, properly formed, web governance is an enabler, not straitjacket.

RM: Thanks Lisa!