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Website “Governance” or “Management”? Why a Word Matters

by Robert Jacoby (November 11, 2012)


It's easy to confuse the terms "website governance" and "website management." And what they mean. Or what they should mean. But defining what we do as Web managers is important. Explaining what we do to others helps us better understand what we do ourselves, and it helps us plan and do our work.

Wikipedia defines "website governance" as "an organization's structure of staff and the technical systems, policies and procedures to maintain and manage a website." This is good; but what's missing is a broader component of "supervision" (literally, eyes scanning the horizon for "what’s next").

And I could find no definition for "website management," maybe because we’re still feeling our way through the field. Or is what we do so obvious that we don’t need to define it, to others or for ourselves?

Talk about your website governance issues with people on your team (or your boss), and listen for the word "management" slipping into the conversation. Listen for "governance" and "management" being used interchangeably. It happens more often than you think (probably), and can be an indicator of deeper problems on your team (likely).

Let's take a look at business and see what we can learn about defining terms and managing work.


How Business Views "Governance" and "Management"


Business recognizes that governance is different from management. They divide it between the outwardly focused (governance) and the inwardly focused (management). In other words: management is responsible for running things, and governance is responsible for running in the right direction.[PDF]

Ported to the digital world: website governance is different from website management. Website management runs things; website governance keeps it running in the right direction. Small Web teams can be challenged with both governance and management. It might even be that both are responsibilities of one person. If your head is down looking at what's in front of you, that's website management. But when you're "heads up" and scanning the horizon for possibilities in social media, responsive design, cloud computing, APIs, analytics tools, strategies for business, mobile, or content, [next big thing]—and exploring how you might bring those new ideas into the fold— that's website governance.




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