Friday, May 02, 2008

How is front-end web work structured at your organization?

The young age of the Internet medium means that most companies have not necessarily found the ideal structure to place various responsibilities for their online properties. True, front-end web work has been moving out of IT departments where it was originally placed, with all the dubious websites that ensued as a result. Now it seems, web work is often structured in the Marketing department.

Recently, me and some people at my company have been thinking about alternative structures and wondered if there were some success stories of novel methods? I posted a question on LinkedIn and here were some of the best replies:

Ian Suttle wrote:

At [the company I work for] there are a couple of groups which deliver front-end services depending on the actual needs. There's a creative services group which does one-off promotional pages specifically tied to events and programs, which reports to the product group. The actual web site UI and graphic design is done through a team of producers, who work with the business group, but report through either a product management or engineering. In all cases, the team is able to handle graphic design, layout design, html, and basic javascript.

Vaishali Ahuja

The company I work for has a Marketing department which has Marketing Communications under it (has front-end work like web design, graphic design, literature, desktop-publishing, etc.). IT is a separate department (has the web development, IT, Operations, etc. under it). The major functional or service enhancements to our corporate website is basically driven by our Marketing Communications department, which uses the IT department for back-end support when needed.

Erin Smith wrote:

When I worked at a company that did everything in-house, we had an interesting arrangement... which I would not recommend. The creatives and development team were a part of the corporate design team in marketing communications department, while the producers & content coordinators rolled up to the web team. The marcom dept also consisted of in-house advertising, public relations, and other teams.

Major functional/service enhancements were driving by a team we referred to as web platforms. This was a bit out of whack, as web marketing was probably the biggest client of the technologies, but was a bit disjointed.

Because we were global, we had to get web content out early for translation, and I found that the web content team (who did web project management, information architecture, and content coordination for marketing initiatives) was also the first team to go through the marketing questions with the 'clients' - questions like "Who is our target?" etc.

This arrangement was not ideal.

I'd recommend a site management team as a single, non-IT entity, which could perhaps pitch enhancements and new technologies in a resource allocation meeting every so often. Designers, IAs, and content/copy people definitely need to be on the same team.

Brad Einarsen wrote:

There are as many ways to answer this question as there are organizations. Fundamentally, the control of the website should reside with those who know the user and the customer best. These are distinct groups... user implies ownership and current usage (support area of site) whereas customer implies selection of product from options (acquirer).

This *may* be the Marketing department, or it may not, depending on your organization. This *may* also be the technical documentation department (if your organization creates products for which documentation is necessary). In some rare organizations it may even be the IT department, however this is the exception rather than the rule.

Different groups need to "own" different pieces of the task and if you give the entire thing to one group you will always get a lopsided outcome (information heavy, graphics heavy, technology heavy, etc.).

Rather, I would have a representative from each group have a seat at the table and drive consensus rather than control. However, this can only work in organizations who understand team dynamics (not those who have slapped the word "team" over the structure of "department").

If you have a suggestion on how to structure web work, please let me know...

1 comment:

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