What Are the Biggest Challenges Facing Higher Ed Web Professionals?

The inaugural HighEdWed Leadership Academy starts next Sunday in Milwaukee in conjunction with the 2012 HighEdWeb Annual Conference.  One the main goals of the Leadership Academy is to demonstrate how developing leadership skills can help web professionals deal with the many challenges inherent in the position.

As I’ve talked with my colleagues across the globe about these challenge the following themes emerge:

  • Articulating the need for sufficient resources
  • Dealing with university politics
  • Enabling collaboration between IT and Marketing
  • Prioritizing projects when you can’t do them all (learning to say no)
  • Getting optimal performance out of staff who are not direct reports
  • Dealing with faculty who think they know everything
  • Retaining talent
  • Creating a unified web presence in a decentralized, silo-ed university setting
  • Dealing with HIPPOS (Highest Paid Persons Opinion)
  • Enforcing web policies and web standards.

So let’s open up this discussion. What’s missing from this list? What do you see as the main challenges for higher ed web professionals?



  1. Mark, I love that you have getting optimal performance out of staff who are not direct reports on the list. Though it is somewhat implied in your other bullet points, I would also suggest a specific bullet on managing up – managing your manager or your executive team. That can be just as important!

    • Karlyn, I’d include peer management here. So many of us are leading projects with a team of peers. We don’t supervise these team members directly, but we do need to motivate and manage them to complete project milestones.

  2. Great points. I’d also like to see some highlights specifically about outsourcing certain services — most notably, web hosting.

  3. One of the most important realizations I had at some point during my first big web strategy consulting project (in 1995!) was that the challenges related to people, politics, and organizational change. They weren’t really about technology, design, or any of the other presenting issues that everyone was focused on. Little has really changed since then, as your list of themes suggests.

  4. When I moved from business (digital project management) to higher ed (grad student, consultant) in 2004, what surprised me most was the disconnect between student and school needs. Where I’ve seen the gap closed it’s been the result of student interns successfully pitching ideas to unit managers, who have the experience to test and implement a project. In a bullet point:

    – Address student needs before they become alumni complaints.

  5. What about communication challenges? We hear a lot about staff who are inundated with email overload and so they ignore everything and then complain about missing important information.