October 7-10, 2012, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Session Details

Govern or be Governed! or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mob with Pitchforks

#MPD10 Management and Professional Development Track

103 A & B, Frontier Airlines Center


When the institution's leadership is absent, divided, or distracted, the management of web priorities often falls to the web professionals who perform the work. The web team becomes responsible for managing most aspects of the institution's digital presence. The planning and execution of user experience, design, development, content creation and management, contributor training and support, hosting, security and policy compliance, self-development and adoption of standards and best practices, developing effective social channels, measuring success, etc., all fall upon the web team, and if that team is perceived to be performing acceptably, things can continue this way for years with little participation or direction from leadership. Such teams are often so over worked that they may neglect the documentation of their guiding policies, standards and strategies and may be seen as inflexible as they adopt a habit of resisting new ideas or technologies suggested by their clients - sticking to known solutions to protect their own time. But as web requirements diversify and grow more mission-critical, and as stakeholders dissatisfied with the web team look for other options, this situation will break down and the organization will reach a crisis where leaders and dissatisfied clients force the question, "Are we managing our web presence the way we should?" This presentation will focus on what a team in this situation can do to prevent that break down in confidence and its inevitable consequences of intrusive reviews, demoralizing accusations, and rushed corrective measures. I will focus on the importance of documenting current policies, standards, and strategies to use as tools to better manage relationships with and expectations of leadership and clients. I will also discuss outreach to key stakeholders and power users to build community and a sense of ownership and to communicate the web development road map. This is a governance issue, and my goal is to give insight and suggestions on how to preserve an active role for the web team in its own government, avoiding potentially damaging scenarios where that authority is undermined and the team's knowledge devalued. Having just gone though this process in my own organization as the head of a small web team, and having heard several similar stories from colleagues, I am convinced that this is a phenomenon that more and more of us will face in our organizations in the near future if we haven't already.


David DeMello
Director of Web and Digital Strategy, Cornell University - ILR School

David DeMello has worked on the web in Higher Education for 15 years. He has worn many hats and has worked as a programmer, database and systems administrator, web master, designer, user researcher, information architect, writer, strategic director, evangelist, educator and fixer. By day, almost all of that work has been for the ILR School at Cornell University. In 2003, he oversaw the development of an in-house CMS that, among other things, implemented an early form of Ajax two years before JJG gave it a name. He knows the value of giving things names. He is interested in progressive/adaptive/responsive design, alternate interfaces (a.k.a., assistive technologies), bending CMSs to our will, learning new languages, re-learning old languages (e.g., Javascript), web typography, the future of the book, coaching and, lately, governance models. His BA from Cornell University is in English/American Lit.