Ensure Web Content Management Success with Good Governance

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Web content governance is an integral aspect of the discipline of web content management (WCM), yet in actual practice, creating a governance policy isn’t automatically included in web content planning, nor is it always considered critical at the point of choosing and implementing a new WCM solution. All too often, busy and well-intentioned IT and marketing teams attempt to build and deliver quality content quickly and impose a wider set of standards on an ad-hoc basis later.

In fact, a well-delineated web content governance plan can make or break a WCM deployment. As CMS Outlook’s Matthew Johnson said, “Governance is the foundation of successful content management.” Before technical design and development have begun, a web content governance plan should be defined. In fact, creating one should be a best practice.

In order to be successful, a web content governance policy requires a sponsor – ideally, an executive – buy-in and involvement. The Gilbane Group’s Ian Truscott believes that the CIO, CMO, and IT stakeholders should all be involved in creating web content governance policy. Once created, such a policy can be more easily enforced through the implementation of a WCM system that builds certain guides or restrictions into the content creation interface as well as the administrative function.

What is Web Content Governance?

Definitions of web content governance can be hard to find, but when found, can also vary widely in the scope they describe. In addition, there are multiple, closely related terms in use, adding to the confusion.

CMSWire’s Ahava Leibtag defined content governance as, “The day-to-day detailed management of content delivery and style. The tools involved in content governance can and may include content workflows, editorial guidelines, style guides, editorial management boards, web content committees, publishing calendars, etc.”

This definition of content governance is complementary to what some practitioners call “web governance.” The web development firm Level Five Solutions, which includes web governance in its list of specialties, explained: “A proper web governance model outlines the roles and responsibilities that are needed to effectively manage content and functionality throughout the entire web lifecycle from concept to implementation.”

Each of the above definitions represents only a subset of Wikipedia’s definition of website governance: “Website governance may be defined as an organization’s structure of staff (each with well-defined roles, responsibilities, and authorities); technical systems; and the policies, procedures, and relationships such staff have in place to maintain and manage a website.”

Our Definition: Rules, Roles, Responsibilities, and Workflows

In its simplest possible form, a workable definition of web content governance could be stated as: “A set of standards and processes defining who does what, where, and how.” Far from being solely a visual or brand style guide, a comprehensive web content governance policy should ideally outline the rules, roles, responsibilities, and workflows established for all of aspects of creation, delivery, presentation, storage and retirement–the entire web content lifecycle.

Benefits of a Web Content Governance Policy

As stated earlier, the creation and implementation of a web content governance policy is in itself a best practice, but, once developed, it also encapsulates all of the best practices associated with each phase of the web content lifecycle. In addition, it provides tangible benefits to the organization at several levels.

Better Alignment with Business Goals: When department heads and even C-suite executives are involved, web content strategy will more naturally be aligned with the strategic goals of the business as a whole.

More Productive Collaboration: A web content governance policy can help prevent and shorten the life of any disputes between various web stakeholders within your company, helping them focus more fully on creating and managing content that meets agreed-upon standards.

Content Consistency for Greater Brand Impact: If your company is spending more on marketing in a more competitive market, the return on investment needs to be provable and significant. If it’s spending less due to global economic challenges, you need to maximize the effect and effectiveness of each dollar, yen, or Euro spent.

The first benefit that any marketing or communications professional would articulate is that a web content governance policy will help ensure more focused content with a consistent look, feel, and message. This is critical to companies today who are seeking to ensure the greatest impact for all communications programs and the greatest “bang for the buck” as online marketing budgets change.

Better Content Quality and User Experience: As WelchmanPierpoint noted in their Web Governance and Standards Compliance report, “Having a codified and enforceable set of Web Standards helps raise consistency and quality, both of which can contribute to a better user experience.” Particularly as the focus of online marketing and e-business shifts toward total web experience management (WEM), this is a key benefit and one worth ensuring as an organic part of ongoing web content creation and delivery.

First Steps to a Web Content Governance Plan

Determining and outlining specifically “who does what, and where” is the majority of the work involved in creating the plan itself. Your WCM or CMS should help support the plan, once it’s been created.

Who: Identify the key strategic players from executives, to marketing leads, to WCM or CMS managers, who are best suited to influence and regulate the direction of web content management strategy. At least one executive should be included on an initial consulting and oversight basis, ideally from IT or marketing.

Once you’ve created a governance committee, part of your plan will involve break down your day-to-day users and managers into types of roles with corresponding permissions for your access control lists (ACLs), from those with editorial power to those with technical authority to those who can only create and not edit content, etc. Content management professionals generally hold to the best practice of allocating permissions and workflows based on role, rather than on a user basis, to simplify system administration.

What: Identify your key areas of governance. Your list may include:
• Corporate, product, and service brands
• Navigation structure
• Templates
• Publishing rules
• Visual and interactivity (“look and feel”) standards
• Personalization
• Legacy content migration
• Programming protocols
• File and media types
• Access and authorization
• Content creation tools
• Workflows
• Taxonomy
• Tagging
• Scheduling
• Budgeting
• Localization
• Business rules
• Versioning and site rollback
• Content modification and reuse
• Content rotation and retirement
• Storage.

Who Does What: Assign specific roles to specific areas of content migration, creation, editing, publishing, and technical management. Having established who does what, the next step is detailing what those roles are allowed to do, and how, and from which areas and capabilities they’re restricted. Then the ACLs can be created. This is also the appropriate point for the creation or updating of style guides to cover language choices and content formatting, as one example.

How Your WCM Can Help with Governance

Once the time-consuming, but highly worthwhile work of creating a governance policy has been done, any mature WCM or CMS will offer features that help you enforce certain standards within your web content. Those that are geared toward the enterprise are most likely to offer three key ways to automate enforce aspects of your governance policy while team members work: 1) Templates, 2) Workflows, and 3) Modeling.

Codify the Overall Site Structure: Most mature WCM and CMS solutions have an approach to creating models that govern the site structure, delineate categories and related subcategories and their characteristics, and govern the relationships between templates for each of these site elements.

Build Standards into WCM Templates: Enterprise-grade WCM systems will enable you to automate the enforcement of certain aspects of your governance policy within the system’s templates, including features related to the site’s structure and to “look and feel” aspects of your content, including:
a. Taxonomy
b. Categorization
c. Tagging
d. Page title length
e. Header sizes and colors
f. Link format and placement on pages.

Create “Just Enough Governance” Workflows: People at every level need to be able to work freely—within limits—so it’s important to simplify workflows to just the essentials needed to maintain control of standards. At this point, you’ll need to determine how many workflows will be created, and whether or not they need to vary by content type, as well as who is responsible for approvals. Critical aspects of workflows include:
• The action to be taken when content is rejected
• Whether an editor can make revisions to content and then publish without “re-approval”
• Whether the Legal department needs to approve content prior to publication
• A method for dealing with approval delays, possibly including an escalation path
• Exception-handling for situations such as an approver going on vacation or unavailable due to emergency.

A Commitment to Governance Will Reap Long-term Rewards

It’s clear that a significant amount of time and effort will be put into a well-though-out and executable web content governance policy. Doing so is well worth the effort, however, to nearly automate the ongoing adherence to standards, and to enable more streamlined collaboration between the stakeholder groups in your organization.

Further Reading: Web Content Management Governance Even a Marketer Could Love

2 Responses to “Ensure Web Content Management Success with Good Governance”

  • ww says:


    • CynthiaS says:

      You’re quite welcome. Be sure to drop a line and tell me which topics you’re hoping we’ll cover. Your input counts.

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