Website Ownership Tug of War

Mar 13 -

Time after time, I speak with prospects and customers trying to work out the fundamental details of how to best get their content on the Web.  For most, it's solved by using a solid content and experience management system.  But even with the best system in place, some organizations can't get out of their own way.  That is because the management of the user experience is a complex science.  It takes the creative and strategic mind of the marketer, combined with the cutting edge technical skills of developers and IT departments.  And that is where most power struggles begin.

The first websites were created by the people who knew how to build them--IT.  And for many years, updating of Web pages had to be carried out by those same people, even if the content was created by a marketing team.  But those days are way behind us.   

Increasingly, I'm seeing more technically skilled members of marketing teams take over minor customizations.  However, those teams without technical skill sets are often controlled by the schedule of an IT department who supports several other disparate systems at the same time creating an internal power struggle that can manifest in many ways.  

In one rather large organization, for example, the marketing team knew they needed more control over the CMS, but felt powerless to make it happen. IT had exerted its influence for so long that changing the status quo proved difficult.  In one instance, marketing was told they flat out could not do something in the CMS, despite it being fully capable.  The truth was that IT either a) didn't have time to configure it, or b) didn't see the value and therefore discounted the importance.  The result was toxic.  Marketing was unhappy with what they perceived was a limitation with the CMS, and was resentful of the IT team after discovering otherwise.  The more this type of thing happens, the less marketers think of their CMS which can lead to unnecessary and expensive technology turnover.  The good news here is that marketing became aware of the disconnect and is starting to gain more control over what they can do with the CMS.  Solving this internal struggle will help marketing organizations do more, and do it on their own schedule.

In another more tragic example I encountered with an organization that was selecting a new CMS, the IT department hadn't been responsive to the website needs of the marketing department for quite some time, instead placing its own needs first. This went on for so long that marketing had lost all trust in IT.  So much so that the teams couldn't come to an agreement as to which CMS type, features, etc were right for the organization. This polarization hampered all progress.

The last example I observed is of a marketing team that for years had been forced to use an IT-selected and non-marketing-friendly CMS.  Originally, they played along.  But as time went by, marketing found they were increasingly unable to do the things they needed and on their own schedule.  Both teams felt they controlled the CMS, but there really was no clear owner.  There was a real power struggle wanted a new CMS with more features, and IT felt the existing CMS was sufficient to the task and resisted any change.  Neither team was in the drivers seat, and this prevented progress.

Can you imagine?  How many of those IT departments have "marketing" in their mission statement?  Zero.  Yet today, long after the advent of WYSIWYG and dynamic content tools, many IT departments lie in the critical path of day-to-day marketing tasks.

Don't get me wrong.  The website needs both teams, no doubt.  But the ongoing day to day ownership of the content and user experience belongs to marketing.  You don't fight with your mechanic about who owns your car.  You can't get by without a mechanic, but he knows who it belongs to.  And the website is the same.  

To learn more, watch these two short, five-minute videos in a three-part video series titled 'Who Owns the Website' and 'Which CMS Type Best Serves Marketers'.


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