Web Governance in Higher Education

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the state of higher education web sites. IMHO – we are approaching an important crossroad in the development of web communications and services on college campuses.  There are two converging trends that will require us to take our sites to the next level. First, the web has never been more important.  It has continued to mature and is now a strategic asset for the institution.  The web plays a mission-critical role in all campus activities.  Secondly, higher education is being flattened. By flattened I mean when the impact of the Internet and globalization render an industry unrecognizable, and in many cases, obsolete.  The Axe Man is coming, and in may cases, he is already here.

To move forward, we need change at the institutional level. It’s time the web is taken seriously on college campuses and give it the appropriate resources and structure.  I believe the way to achieve this is through web governance. During the course of my travels I have seen only a few colleges and universities that have a true web governance and management structure in place. The reality on most campuses is that senior administrators are disengaged from the web. It simply isn’t on their radar as they deal with other pressing issues.  And the lack of any formal operational model results in an inefficient use of resources and no real sense of the value and ROI the web provides.  Moving forward, this all needs to change.

It is time to bring formal web governance to the academy. For many, the idea of governing and managing a higher education web site seems counter-intuitive. When you combine the general freedom of the web with the academic freedom and decentralized organization of higher education, attempts at governing and managing this chaos seem fruitless. I expect considerable skepticism about the viability of all this but it can, and must, be done.

Allow me to introduce Lisa Welchman, a name I will be mentioning frequently as I discuss web governance.  I’ve gotten to know Lisa over the past few months and there are two important things I’ve learned about her. First, she has unmatched experience and expertise in web governance and management in large organizations. Secondly, her work is very applicable to higher education.

Earlier this week Lisa wrote a great blog post called 2011: The Year of Web Governance in which she made the case for making web governance a priority this year.  Like Lisa, I am determined to make 2011 the year that we start to focus on web governance in higher education.  To quote Lisa – “It is time to graduate from a production shop to a strategic shop.”  This won’t be easy.   It will involve considerable hard work, fortitude and leadership. It will require finding that elusive balance between authority and autonomy.  And it will involve more than the web team and traditional stakeholders. Senior administrators need to be around the table.

Web governance in higher education will be my primary focus in the coming months.  I am already booked at several conferences to talk about web governance and there are some great ideas in  the pipeline on how to move this conversation forward.  I look forward to your thoughts and ideas on the challenges and opportunities to make web governance a reality and help take our sites to the next level.

P.S. – As we discuss this topic on social media channels, please use the hashtag #hewebgov