How WebOps Moves Your Mission Forward
May 9th, 2022
Every Web team knows the frustrating feeling of being held back by technology that doesn’t meet their needs. Many find themselves under-resourced, with an overwhelmed staff and outdated technology. And while it was always rare to find a team with a fully resourced and fully functional digital presence, the past few years have only amplified the challenges. The sudden need to support remote learning, provide instant updates about what’s happening on campus, and support previously unseen traffic volumes have clearly exposed that many Web teams are not equipped to manage crises.
Crisis aside, the world was already shifting towards digital, and we’ve now all come to expect the convenience of meeting online versus in-person when it suits our needs. With this hybrid model here to stay, there's increased pressure on your website to deliver on your organization’s mission. But how do you deliver on mission-critical goals when most of your time is spent worrying about content updates, replacing old technology, or simply ensuring site stability?
In a recent presentation, John Richards II, Developer Advocate at Pantheon, and Chaney Kourouniotis, Senior Solutions Consultant at FFW, framed the solution to this dilemma in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of (Website) Needs, with WebOps serving as your compass to help you move through each stage in the pyramid:
How WebOps Helps You Move Your Mission Forward
Below is an article summarizing many of their key insights from this very popular presentation, provided by our Pantheon partner teammates, Stuart Gottesman and Jodi Koskella.
Here is a preview of the full-length video of the presentation:
To view the full 28-minute presentation video, CLICK HERE.
What We Talk About When We Talk About WebOps
WebOps is a set of practices that facilitates collaboration and automates processes to improve the productivity of your whole web team, from developers and designers to content editors and key stakeholders.
Step “Zero,” if you want to drive impact, is to determine the primary goal of your website, a step that is often taken for granted. Why does this website exist and what is the most important thing it needs to achieve? If you say, “Because you have to have one,” or “because you already have one,” those are wrong answers. Too many organizations feel like they’re obliged to have a website without actually knowing what it needs to achieve. Determine the primary goal by asking: What does the website need to do? Drive donations? Connect students or faculty? Raise awareness? Before you make any changes to your site, get clear on its purpose, and use that as your North Star for the project. Some great examples of other institutions with focused website goals include:
- Harvard which has embraced the view that their site is primarily a device for delivering media
- Stanford empowers their researchers with a flexible, giant network of microsites
- Georgia Tech Library embraced an award-winning students-first approach
Once you know the results you want your website to deliver, you can move on to the state of the site itself.
Functionality = Credibility
If you want to impact your organization’s mission, it is vital that you achieve credibility with stakeholders. Functionality IS credibility. How do you gain credibility? First, make sure the team isn’t working on a fragile website, by asking the following questions:
- Version control: can you get back to a previous version if you mess something up?
- Automated backups: can you restore things if faced with a disaster?
- Multiple environments: can you make changes without breaking the live site?
- Security updates: is your site safe from malicious actors?
Next, get even clearer on your goals. Do you have a performance target? Do you have an accessibility target? Having trackable performance targets and benchmarks will increase your credibility and allow you to measure functionality, beyond table stakes as you move up the hierarchy of needs.
Productivity: Collaboration, Development Tools and Automation
WebOps facilitates collaboration, but for it to be effective you need to start with a shared vision that motivates collaboration across marketing, design, development, IT, content publishers, and any other number of stakeholders. Listen and value the input from all stakeholders. Make sure you are aligned and taking input across teams, or you will end up building a site that doesn’t meet anyone’s needs. Look at processes across the organization. Have you integrated your deployment process with your project management/communications software? How does your web team plan upcoming work? Do you use sprints?
Make sure your development has the tooling and environments they need to focus on your organization’s mission, instead of the site’s infrastructure. As the team becomes more familiar with the site’s tooling, they’ll become more confident and their productivity will soar. Take the time to automate mundane and error-prone tasks, such as site updates and QA testing. Make sure that a high percentage of developer time is spent on driving business value, not site maintenance. Ultimately, automation creates a virtuous cycle where developers have more time to focus on more meaningful, customer-facing work, which in turn drives both employee and customer satisfaction.
Driving and Measuring Impact
Finally, to ensure your site is truly having a positive impact, always go back to the original question: what is the primary goal of the website? How do you measure success, and how often is success measured? Does the measurement reflect the most important thing your site does?
Measurement and iterations go hand in hand. How frequently are you making changes that can improve your metrics? Regularly making site improvements through iterations (daily, weekly, or at least monthly) on content, functionality, and user experience can maintain your site’s effectiveness and avoid an endless cycle of redesigns.
Ongoing measurement is vital not only to ensuring you’re reaching your targets, but also to demonstrate how your site is contributing to your mission. Make sure your WebOps team is able to meet the requests of leadership, and maintain a groomed backlog of projects and ideas for your website.
While we can’t know what the future will bring, WebOps can provide a foundation to help you navigate our continually changing world in a way that allows your teams to have participatory, instead of reactionary roles in your digital strategy.
Check out the full video recording for more great advice on how WebOps can help you move your mission forward.
John Richards II is a Developer Advocate at Pantheon and lives in St. Louis with his wife and a clowder of cats. His love for coding stems from his enjoyment developing simple solutions for complex challenges. John has been a web developer since 2007 and fell in love with open source when he began developing for WordPress in 2013, when working at Washington University in St. Louis.
Chaney Kourouniotis is a Senior Solutions Consultant at FFW. Before becoming a consultant, she served as a communications lead at UC Berkeley School of Law, Assistant Director of Communications at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International studies, and Director of Marketing and Customer Experience at Rick Steves’ Europe.
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