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University Web Developers

The Department of Communications and the emergence of the Department of Web Services

Legacy web sites have often evolved from tech-savvy Communications personnel. As the WWW grew in popularity, with Carpe Diem like enthusiasm, they developed HTML expertise to leverage the new medium. Web Services departments are now (have been) emerging and there is a struggle to define the definitions and responsibilities of the two departments. Should development of any kind continue in Communications? Should morphed Communications positions migrate to Web Services? What have your experiences been?

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I worked under IT with web for many years and I am now on the other side in Marketing & Communications. I am a firm believer that web should be considered a seperate department, budget, and priorities. It is the most important communication tool internally and externally and the priorities for the web can be downplayed by having it in either Technology or Marketing as each have their own priorities.

I have seen many web priorities be sidelined for ad campaigns, new servers, and new staff in networking and/or marketing.

That being said, the senior administrators need to realize how important the web is, while at the same time realizing that it is not as easy as cut and paste and quickly updating content--it's a beast of it's own that needs strategic thinking behind it---that includes the servers that host the site to the writing that goes into the various pages.

Great thread!
I think the Web Services department needs to be able to develop and style its deliverables. To try and manage this cross-departmentally will just slow the workflow; different budgets and priority schedules will clog the works. I don't think it works well for one group to build and another to style...if they are under different management. Whether the department exists within IT, Communications, or is at a peer level with the former matters less. I do think that Susan has a point. If Web Services is not at a peer level with IT and Communications, opportunities are likely to get sidelined. Yet even if you elevate Web Services to this level, it will still have dependencies on IT and Communications (Marketing).
The ideal answer to me is that the web services team resides in marketing, but that is based on the premise that your marketing team is not just a marketing communications team, but has responsibility and strategy delivery for communications plus relevant student experience, research, product development and student income/revenue management responsibilities. All of these factors (plus more) contribute to the needs of a web services team, but also to a true marketing department.

Back to real life - now thats another story...
I manage the Web Services department that resides in Information Technology Services and fortunately we have a very good collaborative relationship with our Communications/ Marketing and our Public Affairs departments. We all respect the web and tout it as the primary channel for communicating the University's mission.

We have a collaborative publishing process that includes Content, Design and Web Technology and have successfully managed to put departments into the process to deliver high impact products. I firmly believe that we can all coexist in our areas of specialization as long as we (Marketing, Public Affairs and IT) maintain that we are all strategic services whose mission is to help departments achieve the university's mission. I am known for comparing the web development process to a three-legged pedestal, A project is not going to stay on the pedestal without all the legs doing their part.

Too often I see attempts to cram all of the specialized fields necessary for producing websites into a one-size-fits-all model with little success.
We have a blended web team that includes both IT people and Marketing people (though at Carleton it's called "College Relations" because everyone is allergic to the word "marketing".)

It required a lot of arm-twisting (and the director of web communications leaving) to get this plan to work. There are 4 people who report up the communications side and 2 people who report up the IT side. We have a shared project list and are all located together (jn the library, which is equidistant from IT and College Relations). Our productivity has soared since the change, so I think it has gone pretty well. It does require a lot of trust in the part of higherups that we can manage our project list and that we will pull in the heads of IT and Communications if we hit logjams.
Tell us more about the org chart of the 6 of you within the Library. Who prioritizes? Art the two from IT dedicated web developers?
I am interested to know what other institutions' personnel structure is for their Web Communications department. For instance, my university has 2,300 students in attendance. I am the Web Communications Manager, working within the University Communications department. I have some support from IT (a Web App. Developer), but I am the only front-end Web person. I do, however have approx. 8-10 content contributors who submit text content via a CMS, but I manage them. Can anyone tell me what personnel org they have working at a similar institution? I feel like we're running a skeleton operation, and would like input to support my argument for growing out Web Services. (Since the Web IS the most important face to the world!). Thanks for your help.
Wow. The world really is small. I was surfing the forums trying to find some information about this same problem, not expecting to find so many universities are living under the same dilemma.

Our group has been needing a re-structure for a long time now. We work under the Office of Strategic Communications and under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for University Advancement.

Within our office we have five groups: Marketing, Media Relations, Creative Design Services, Video Production and Digital Communications a.k.a. Web development. The upper management has failed to define goals, functions and responsibilities, and we are really lost doing things here and there without a clear direction and minimal integration between the different groups.

For lack of a Director in our group, I was planning on writing some kind of report, suggesting a new direction and vision, trying to find the best solution to structure this group. Sadly, even inside our own Web Development group we have different views of were we stand, who should we report to and what are our main functions and responsibilities.

While some point towards a totally independent web development group, others feel that integration is the best way to survive and find a consistent direction (with new budget cuts coming soon). In any case, a re-thinking and re-training of the personnel from the other groups would be necessary to maximize that integration. They still work under old communication systems, but the good news is that they seem very open to embrace new technology and what the web can bring fro them.

I would love to hear from anyone who has similar experiences and how they are dealing with them. I will try to keep posting as I advance on my research too.

It is great to feel you are not alone :)
I've been a web director on both sides of the house, first in IT, then in University Relations. My stance back then was the technical and communicative aspects of the web should remain separate on the org chart, but share the same work area. The reasoning was because of leadership. IT leaders better understood the needs and challenges of web development, while UR leaders could articulate how to incorporate the web into branding and marketing campaigns. Separated, there would be a kind of "checks and balances" so team members on both sides were equally supported.

Today, I'm leaning toward a unified web team. The reason...because of the paradigm shift in marketing/communications caused by Web 2.0. Management of our institution's web presence isn't limited to our own domains anymore, which will require more management and development expertise. I blogged about this in the context of content management.

If the objective is engaging our audiences online, the most powerful strategies will combine both functions equally well. Having web developers and web communicators remain separate will be less effective in the long run.

I agree with earlier comments that the quality of leadership plays an important factor. Team leaders who can speak both languages (IT & UR) will be better positioned to manage web talent and help senior leadership use the web effectively.



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