Web managers play crucial roles in agency management

In a World Wide Web-enabled world, Webmasters have been increasingly moving into Web management positions as the size and complexity of their responsibilities grows. Federal Webmasters must be able to play several management roles to fulfill those responsibilities.

Managers tend to be "communication hubs" for receiving information, adding value to information through synthesis or analysis, and then disseminating information up, down and horizontally in their organizations. In the federal government, environment managers are also often the links to other federal agencies and the public.

Web managers take the function of communication hub to a much higher degree. They use mailing lists, online forums, Web sites and other communication tools to interact in communities of at least hundreds and often thousands of people within government. In certain high-profile sites, Web managers interact with millions of individuals in the public and government domains.

In addition, Web managers often find themselves acting as the "technology consultant" for their organizations. The skills and expertise in how to use information technology, particularly Web technology, has enhanced the Web manager's value to the organization. As a technology consultant, the Web manager is uniquely positioned to guide the use of IT to more directly support the mission of the agency. Most significantly, Web managers provide the essential function of leveraging the ability of the organization to reach and grow the supporting base of customers and affinity groups.

Web managers also play a subtle role. Because the Web is a marketing tool first and a technology infrastructure second, Web managers often market the organization in the virtual environment. A Web manager's success in playing technology consultant is more often based on the manager's ability to combine that role with the business issues involved in using the Web site to interact with the organization's customers and affinity groups, specifically marketing. The role of marketing moves the Web manager directly into the execution of agency programs.

For the federal government, informal analysis shows that about 50 percent of Web managers are in program offices and not the organization's IT organization. Whatever organization the Web manager is part of, but especially in the program offices, the Web manager is taking on more business manager responsibilities. The Web manager is increasingly responsible for developing business cases or business plans to justify funding or to initiate the development of new projects. Such projects are moving beyond just providing information content on sites to focusing on execution of the agency's business processes via the Web.

But the new role brings with it potential conflict. Web business managers act more like fighter pilots in combat, reacting at a much faster pace than traditional government managers. They must kick the tires, light the fire and brief the mission in the air.

Conducting business on the Web is a fast-paced environment and could cause friction between Web business managers, who must react in real time, and traditional managers, who are more deliberate. Real-time government creates its own set of cultural changes within government and requires Web business managers to be sensitive to the problems those changes could bring.

The opportunities for long-term career growth for the Web manager are significant. The greatest opportunities will arise by directly embracing and combining the roles of manager, communication hub, technology consultant and marketing and business manager into the same position. By combining those roles, the Web manager has a better opportunity to expand the organization and provide the highest potential for career growth.

— Kellett, founder of the Federal Web Business Council and co-chairman of the Federal Webmaster Forum, is director of the Emerging IT Policies Division at the General Services Administration.


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