More and more, I can see a definite need for institutions to position the web as an institution resource poised for success. No different than say, public relations and its place serving the entire message control for the college or university, is the web and experts devoted to it within an institution’s organization.
Every school is different. Organizational charts are something that each institution has to work out on their own. But I can look at the “job” of the web, from an authoritative perspective and point to several scenarios, depending on the place.
First, is the institution who vests the trust of the web in the hands of a single “webmaster”. This old model worked great when web pages were static and required the knowledge of an “all-knowing seer and wise woman among the masses” who knew HTML better than everyone else. In this declining model, your situation gets thrown into the whims of a single person and when s(he) leaves, you almost have to start over.
Next, is the web by committee. You might have a person in charge of this nebulous force in decentralization, but ultimately, each area is responsible for their part of the web. In theory? Sounds great. No one area has to be in charge of the massive site as a whole, you cobble together a committee of folks to make “web decisions” and everyone is happy, right? Uh, no. Because you need authority. You need someone in charge who has the expertise, the experience and the vision to call the shots and to plot a course. Would you do this for admission? Marketing? Of course not. But for the web, it constantly gets relegated to the backseat or into the corner like a stepchild. Or worse, someone’s pet project.
In the end, it’s all about the quirks of the place and trying to cultivate a structure that works best. And being flexible about that, because not every institution needs more layers of red tape that prevent things from getting done. But there needs to be a web strategy that delineates what decisions are made by who, how and when. As well as who controls the purse strings, no matter how few pennies they may be. When I refer to the web here, I’m talking almost entirely about the web as a marketing and communication tool, rather than the IT parts of things.