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The six BIG challenges for web managers in 2011…

Author's avatar By Adam Cranfield 14 Sep, 2011
Essential Essential topic

and approaches to tackle them

Hi! I manage the LinkedIn Web Managers group of which Dave Chaffey is also a member. When Dave saw the recent thread we had running about the current challenges for web and digital marketing managers, he suggested I do a guest post on Smart Insights, so we can “share the pain” and help with planning issues that need prioritising.

So here we are. These are the main themes that we identified in our discussion. How do they compare to your challenges?

1 Managing the pace of change

The main theme is that everything is changing so fast. People who have worked in web for years and consider themselves pretty knowledgeable are having to think about their jobs in completely new ways. For some, it’s almost like last year they were a ‘web manager’ and this year they are a ‘social media and app manager’!

2 Social media marketing

Social media and the rise of mobile and tablets are obviously two of the big challenges that are on everyone’s mind. With social media, a lot of web managers are keen to do more, but are wary of spreading themselves too thin when their main websites probably require more resource than ever. Some web managers are in a Catch 22 situation trying to prove the value of social media – without the resource they can’t do it well enough, so they don’t get the results; but without the results they can’t prove the value to get the resource and budget.

3 Mobile marketing

Mobile has exploded so fast. We seem to have gone from a situation where even big companies and organisations hadn’t optimised their site for mobile viewing, to a situation where suddenly everyone is expected to have apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Mobile, etc. I think it’s both exciting and stressful for web managers. People are on a big learning curve. Is it best to take a step back, see what the market does, plan a development strategy and learn from your competitors, or should you just crack on with it, get that first-mover advantage and see it as a good thing to ‘fail fast’?

4. Targeting multiple platforms

Digital teams are having to work out the ongoing costs of developing sites and apps for all these platforms. If they thought it was difficult making sites work in IE6 before, this is much worse! Some of the savvier teams are getting to grips with HTML5 and creating more efficient frameworks for development. This year I think a lot of ‘traditional’ websites are being under-resourced because there is so much attention on apps and mobile sites. But overall the move to mobile and tablet is incredibly refreshing for everyone, because it makes businesses think about digital in a new, simpler, more user-centric way. I think usability and content are now higher priorities than ‘brand’ and fancy graphics. Designing a mobile-optimised site really forces a web manager to think simple and usable.

5. Getting the most from data and analytics

Then of course there is the ongoing challenge of data and analytics – the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know! The level of maturity varies a lot – some businesses dream of having data more advanced than basic Google Analytics, while others are working on advanced attribution models, using A/B testing on everything and trying to get to grips with social media analytics.

6. Governance

For a lot of web managers, governance is the biggest ongoing challenge. If you have a lot of parts of the business contributing content, each with their own priorities, it can be difficult to strike a balance between rules or processes and being agile enough. Having a good CMS helps, but a big part of success is the web manager’s ability to set a clear vision and get everyone’s buy in. Presenting to the business and running training are two more things that web managers need to try to make time for, along with everything else!

How to best manage these challenges?

I think more than ever there is a need to have a good strategic plan. If people thought it was hard to do everything before, it’s certainly impossible now, so there needs to be a process by which a business agrees the priorities and aligns resources. Deciding what you’re not going to do is as important as deciding what you will do. Clearly the pace of change in the market means that if you try to map out your mobile platform release plan over the next two years it is likely to be subject to change, but that doesn’t mean all planning should go out the window.

Stakeholders need to be bought into both an inspiring vision for your business online and a clear roadmap for implementation and evolution. A good strategic process will also identify important issues that could be missed if everyone is just going full steam ahead. For example, if mobile apps are going to be a large part of your strategy, what are you going to do about managing the content? You now need to be developing a CMS that works across multiple platforms and devices.

A big part of a strategy is who will deliver it. Staff roles may need to be redefined, to reflect a new emphasis on social media, or mobile, or video, or something else. Getting the balance of skills right in the team, together with any external agencies, and keeping everyone motivated are vital success factors.

There are more technical considerations than ever, and a big key to success is having the right technical people to steer a sensible path through all these challenges, whether that is in house, or a trusted agency, or a combination of the two. ‘Non-technical’ senior executives need to quiz their technical people regularly and thoroughly to ensure business objectives are reflected in technical decisions. And at a critical juncture, like selecting a new digital agency or rebuilding the website, the process needs to be particularly thorough and considered.

There is no single best approach for taking advantage of trends like social media, mobile, apps, personalisation, video or anything else. The important thing is that the opportunities and threats are thoroughly discussed and explored in your business, and you come to a view that makes sense for your unique business objectives and resources. Once you have a clear strategy, this becomes the ‘story’ that your team is involved in and which you can report back on to your bosses. You need to find the most meaningful measures to help you ‘tell this story’, because if you can’t quantify it you can’t demonstrate the progression that will keep people on your side, and you won’t get the backing, financial or otherwise.

Author's avatar

By Adam Cranfield

Adam is Director of Form Digital Consulting, with over 11 years' experience helping companies and organisations form and deliver digital strategies and improve their online customer experience. His work covers strategy, content, brand, marketing, user experience, social media, analytics and project management, across B2B and B2C. Adam is also the founder of the Web Managers Group, the world's largest (and, some would say, best) group for web managers and heads of digital.

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