Why collaboration is key to improving website operations

By Scott Massey, Managing Director International Markets, Pantheon.

  • 1 year ago Posted in

It seems pretty straight forward: making website operations an organisational priority should result in delivering faster and more impressive websites. Better websites should, in turn, lead to better customer experiences and more business. The reality is that achieving this is hard, for reasons we shall delve into.

Before we do so, how did we get here? It’s simple: despite websites today playing a crucial role in how companies present their brand to the market and engage with customers, many companies struggle to just keep the website running, never mind getting to a point where they can optimise for impact. To solve this problem, we have to look at the wider approach to website operations, or WebOps, and how we can collectively improve the results we deliver.

The website ownership struggle

One reason things get complicated is the dilemma of ownership. Various team teams across the business will feel responsible for how websites are managed. In a survey of more than 400 marketing and IT leaders in North America and the UK, Pantheon and Hanover Research found that 84 percent of Marketers think they have the ultimate decision-making authority over websites, while 87 percent of IT professionals believe this role lies with them. Who makes the calls around an organisation’s web portfolio, and who is accountable for results when responsibility is shared?

This dynamic can create an internal tug-of-war, with project prioritisation and resource allocation at its core. These teams have unique accountability to the business, so differing priorities are expected. The research shows that marketers are focused on things like SEO, demand generation, and nurture campaigns. IT teams’ list of top priorities are security and governance. The only area that both groups agreed on as a priority is better performance analytics.

This minimal overlap isn’t enough to bring these two parts of the organisation together, though. In fact, 42 percent of respondents said collaboration between departments is the biggest issue their team faces in relation to the website. And this issue comes at a cost. For 59 percent, it means making a simple change can take more than one month to implement.

Improving collaboration with WebOps

The good news is that these teams are motivated to improve this relationship: 86% say they want to improve site agility. They understand the role the website plays in the business’ success, and there’s an effective way forward. Nearly all respondents (98%) agreed that adopting WebOps practices would improve the productivity of their web teams, foster better collaboration and align the website toward shared goals.

WebOps can be defined as a set of practices and related workflows that facilitate collaboration and encourage automation to improve the productivity of web teams. WebOps brings together developers, designers, marketing systems engineers, content editors, and other marketing

roles. This results in cross-functional web teams that are empowered to iteratively develop, test, and release website changes with agility.

For instance, let’s consider a new marketing project is underway, and there is a web update needed. The aim for the site might be to acquire new leads or support customers more efficiently. For the marketing team, the priority is to launch the campaign on time and have the flexibility to iterate content and structure based on what’s delivering early results. For the IT team, its focus for this project would be to support the new website infrastructure and make sure it is available, no matter the level of traffic coming through. For developers, this might look like a new site build, additional software code created and any integration with existing marketing tools or content management systems.

In practice, when these teams work in silos toward their own goals, the project will move more slowly. A WebOps approach takes each team’s goals and obligations into account. Workflows can be implemented and automated to help roll changes out faster, while decoupling the front-end and back-end site management website helps each team own their responsibilities.

The need to improve

Delivering on these improvements involves understanding the goals that other teams have, and knowing where your own objectives are part of those deliverables. By providing this insight - and making it clear across teams that everyone has their own role to play; WebOps improves the process around supporting better website performance and project delivery.

The main objective here should be to get all teams working together. Rather than allowing bottlenecks, WebOps empowers teams to work differently, in a true agile fashion. For instance, the developer team should be able to work on versions of the site that represent the latest build without affecting the production systems. This ‘test - dev - live’ approach is standard practice across software development, but it is not always applied to web development as version control is harder. By allowing developers to manage their side in the way that suits them, using more version control, they can be more effective.

This process continues to evolve as content management systems (CMS) frequently are implementing decoupled technology. This separates the administration and content approval process from the front-end technologies that deliver newer, richer experiences to the user. This approach helps marketers and content teams to maintain rapid content production, while developers keep the display layer modern and relevant.

WebOps has the most impact where there are crossover points. For example, a brand refresh project may not need any change to the infrastructure of the site, just the content. However, making sure that this change is then reflected across other sites and micro-sites is a bigger task. By standardising on builds and making it easier to update images centrally, both the marketing team members and the software developers can meet their own goals.

The goal of WebOps is to increase the value of websites by maximising their capacity to change—that means improving both the quality and quantity of releases by shortening feedback loops, automating work, and reducing friction and risk. It allows individuals from across the organisation to own and drive a web strategy that can make a material business difference, and it instils a deeper sense of teamwork for an ever-growing number of website stakeholders. But the real benefit is in the change it makes to the way teams work together to launch more creative ideas.

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