I’ve got something to admit.
I worked for the government. As an employee. For years.
Just over eight years to be exact and, while I’m not an employee now, I still have a keen interest in how governments manage online content.
So when I read Natalya Minkovsky’s excellent post Putting the “Gov” in Web Content Governance”, it made me think about the challenges I used to face as web manager, content producer, and project manager. We attempted to get a governance model documented and approved, and it turned into one of those projects handed down between burnt out web managers who tried but never succeeded.
Long discussions about ownership and responsibility
This was a big one. Who was actually responsible for the content in the first place? Who ‘owned’ the site? Who was the content champion who had the final yay or nay for massive home page changes? It’s pretty hard to stick to a strategy if you don’t have the power to implement it.
Complex approvals and bottlenecks
Natalya mentions in her post the issue of timeliness versus the multi-level approvals required to get something published. And this was true where I worked. Delays in getting a message out were potentially damaging. And ironically, when the order came from the top – often processes were circumvented, creating an expectation of rule breaking for the next ‘urgent’ change.
A focus on operations rather than strategy
This is more in relation to overall content strategy, but if you focus too much on operations you never really get the chance to make big improvements. It’s easy to get caught in a reactive maintenance loop. It’s hard to say we need to define our taxonomy, overhaul the information architecture, or conduct a usability review.
I think the past few years and the rise of ‘real time’ media (as David Meerman Scott calls social media) have placed pressure on some of these monoliths to be more on the ball. Policies have been developed, Facebook pages created, Twitter accounts activated. But still I don’t think there’s much strategic thought being placed around how content is managed and governed.
I don’t think government is alone here. Most large organisations face similar battles.
What do you think? What’s your experience? Have you worked in a place like this?