Saturday, January 8, 2011

Web Governance, Crucial to the Success of a Website

I read in the papers about the “Quebec Electronic Health Record” (EHR) project and I just cannot believe the cost and the time it takes to implement. In 2007, the Quebec provincial government spoke of an initial investment of 547 million dollars to computerize, by 2010, the entire Quebec health care network. I do not know how much has been invested so far but we're not even close to implementing this system.

The problem is surely not the technology which is well understood. The database required for the main functions is not particularly complex. The features are simple (input or data import and display). So why is it not already in place? I spoke with a former colleague who worked on the project and he told me that the problem is mostly in leadership. The project governance is simply unable to impose the changes required to implement the system.

This example made me think about the importance of governance in web investments.

It seems to me that IT and web projects share the same key elements for success:

  1. Mastery of technology;
  2. Good project management;
  3. Proven development methodology;
  4. Strong governance.
For Web projects, the first two points do not usually cause problems. Skills in web technologies and project management are readily available.

As far as development methodologies are concerned, IT teams have realized the importance of this and have been using them for over 25 years to reduce the risk and cost of projects. In the province of Quebec, the DMR's Productivity+ methodology has been used with success since the 1980s. In the web world, development methodologies are not yet well known. The industry is still young. To overcome this weakness, the Alliance Numérique recently released its Guide to Best Practices in Web Project Management. It may take several years before mastery of web development methodologies become widespread.

Even if the first three elements are executed perfectly, the project's success will also depend on the web governance in place. Indeed, it is useless to execute a perfect web strategy that is not supported by the rest of the organization.

The winning conditions for strong web governance are:
  • It must take into consideration the objectives of the organization as a whole. I worked in 2000 on an e-commerce website that was so successful that major distributors threatened to stop purchasing from the company. Had the objectives of the entire organization been taken into consideration, I would have designed the website in synergy with the other distribution channels, not in competition.

  • It must be convinced that the Web helps achieve the goals of the organization. Otherwise, resources will not be allocated and the necessary changes to the processes will not take place.

  • It must be able to rally the organization behind the mission and goals of the website.

  • It must be able to change the processes in the organisation, if necessary.

  • It must be able to adjust operational budgets to support the Web assets. What is the use of a blog if there is no budget for the blogger?

Do you have additional winning conditions for strong web governance? Please share.

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