One Web site, hold the Web 2.0

I write about Web 2.0, and I understand the business sense behind it. But recently I’ve been putting my own site together, and it’s brought up a lot of issues that I’m sure many IT managers out there are facing.

In the past, the IT department was responsible for All Things Internet. But today, it’s more likely that someone in the marketing department is responsible for the company’s Web site and is probably contracting the design and hosting out to a third party – and these decisions may be out of the IT manager’s hands.

And, perhaps, into the hands of someone who doesn’t know a heck of a lot about IT. That VP of marketing or other line-of-business manager probably doesn’t have an IT background, and they may not know the right questions to ask when contracting a designer or hosting company.

It’s the IT manager’s job to keep the project on track and provide technical guidance, such as how to choose and register a domain name (and whether they should register different versions of that domain name). For example, I chose a domain name for my Web site, only to find out a similar domain name existed – for a porn site. So the IT manager should make sure the VP of marketing doesn’t get into the same pickle.

The IT manager should help design policies around blogging, podcasts and other Web 2.0 technologies to ensure an employee doesn’t inadvertently leak information or, say, post inappropriate photos (like drunken staff Christmas party shots). In fact, HR may have to sit in on this discussion.

The discussion should also include social networking, from Facebook to Second Life, as options for marketing or building a customer base – but only when (and if) it makes sense for the business. The IT manager should step in here to provide guidance on issues like privacy and measuring ROI. Also, if they have big plans for the site, how will that impact the corporate network? How fast will pages load? Security, of course, is also an issue, and the IT manager has to make sure the site won’t compromise the corporate network in any way.

But when it comes to content, don’t be surprised if the VP of marketing expects IT to butt out – and that’s perfectly okay, so long as the project isn’t spiraling out of control.

A friend of mine who designs Web sites told me about one client who spent two years trying to launch her business Web site. She had a raft of items she wanted to include that was as long as Santa’s wish list – and she just couldn’t seem to get it off the ground within her budget. He told her to take a big step back – and then to start small, to take baby steps.

How many times have you gone to a flashy Web site and couldn’t find the company’s phone number or location, and eventually gave up and went somewhere else? Only once the basics are covered (contact information, the products or services you offer, what sets you apart from the competition) should you look at Web 2.0. An IT manager should make sure that these basics haven’t been overlooked – even if that advice is unsolicited.

The IT manager’s role in Web strategy may be changing, but it’s critical to stay involved in the process to keep line-of-business managers in line.

Himmelsbach is a regular contributor to ComputerWorld Canada.

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