How green is the grass?
According to the people who run big web estates, the past year has had a mixed effect on the resources available to them, reports David Bowen.
|Bowen Craggs network group|
One of the things Bowen Craggs is really good at is finding out how large companies and other organisations do things online: our Web Effectiveness Network has a lot of members, many of whom get together in meetings through the year.
Part of what we do is to survey the members on various issues, and we have just completed a second one to find out how they run their web estates and how much they spend on them. We had replies from 115 organisations, from all over the place but with a concentration in Europe. So this survey sheds a good deal of statistically-valid light on governance.
The full results are only available to members but I can give you headlines and some accompanying thoughts.
Only half as bad as expected
One piece of news that is not as bad as it could be is that while almost half the respondents had their online budgets cut in the past year, a quarter had steady budgets and the same number saw increases. More than half said that the online share of the total communications budget increased, though that share generally remains very small: in only a quarter of the organisations we talked to is it more than 10 per cent.
There is, however, plenty of online activity: almost 40 per cent of websites covered were rebuilt in the past 12 months.
The roadblocks that make life difficult for web people are only slowly being shifted out of the way. We asked respondents to say in their own words why they weren’t getting more resources. The answers can be summed up as ‘cultural/political reasons, preference for traditional media and lack of board level support’.
This is not at all surprising, but it does make me ask two questions.
First, will those reasons ever change? We assume that more web-savvy people are rising to the top, but it’s going to be a long time before people who think more in terms of the web than print get there. In fact, if we take ‘digital natives’ – people brought up with the internet – as being born after 1985, we can expect them to be moving into boardrooms around 2030.…
There are, of course, plenty of enthusiastic ‘digital migrants’ – old but keen – but I suspect that many managers will see print as fundamentally more significant than web for a good many years yet. Not that one is ‘better’ than the other: they should be considered as different but (and this is the point) equal.
Second, from the other extreme, do people who call themselves ‘social media consultants’ have any idea of the realities of large organisations? I am getting a wee bit fed up with blogs, tweets etc from people saying that companies must start using social media or they will surely die. Managers struggling to get the resources they need to run a half-decent website can be forgiven a little moan.
Enough for a team
Actually, though, our survey does give them some useful ammunition. I was surprised to see that the average headcount of a corporate web team is 11 people. That doesn’t mean there are 11 people sitting together, but there are lots of bits of people – IT, creative, editors, analysts and managers – who make up 11 ‘full time equivalents’. It is a higher number than I had expected and could be a handy benchmark for managers needing to justify their resources (or even ask for more).
The other number they may find useful is the budget: the average annual budget for a public corporation’s external online communications is about $560,000 (£380,000, or €350,000); public organisations and NGOs spend rather less. An interesting point here is that the numbers vary greatly by sector, with a good many companies spending more than $1 million a year.
Runners and returns
Who runs the site? Overwhelmingly, corporate communications. At 78 per cent, the proportion has risen since our previous survey (in 2006) at the expense of marketing, which runs just 16 per cent of sites. None of the companies we surveyed had the IT department in charge – though I know that there are plenty of organisations out there that do.
One area where there hasn’t been much progress yet is in putting a credible return-on-investment (ROI) figure on their online communications – only 8 per cent of respondents say they do. That must change – not least because it is by far the best way of getting digital-ostrich finance directors on their side.
First published on 07 October, 2009